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4 min read

AMA: Omid Moallemi, co-founder of Prsnt

AMA: Omid Moallemi, co-founder of Prsnt

Table of Contents

Prsnt is a digital gift-giving site and app that allows people to send presents to anyone, at any time. We sat down with Omid Moallemi, co-founder and designer, to talk about the company’s humble beginnings and present success (get it?).

Prsnt: a gift-giving service

Hi Omid! Could you share the story behind your startup, including the problem you set out to solve and the inspiration that led to its creation?

As a designer, I can see solutions through innovation and how these solutions will enhance our day-to-day lives.

Gifting was one of those recurring problems I faced, as I am sure we all do. I would get notified of a friend's birthday on Facebook, jump on Google to find a gift, but not knowing what they wanted, then have it delivered but didn’t have their address.

Then you have to wrap it and get a card before having it couriered to them. For me, that was far too many steps, and as a society, we all just revert to sending them a generic "Happy Birthday" on WhatsApp.

So, myself and co-founder David Parr set about building the perfect digital solution that is user-centric, removing challenges for the user, and making it easy to be consumed by the recipient.

Prsnt has a built-in calendar letting you know about people's special days, it suggests gifts they actually want (from a £3 Starbucks voucher to £2000 Harvey Nichols shoes), you then add a video message, and use Apple or Google Pay.

It is all sent and received by their phone number; they have a delightful unwrapping experience on their phone, and view your message and gift. They can then collect the gift online or in-store by simply scanning the code before sending you a nice thank you back! 

Did you hit any roadblocks along the way?

Plenty! But I think most entrepreneurs would say the same. From the tech not working to creating brand-new technology to power Prsnt, fundraising issues, and competitors in the space potentially entering the market.

I mix with a lot of startup founders, and the common element we all seem to share is resilience and the ability to overcome these roadblocks and challenges in a strategic way that aligns with our vision. It's about sticking to the journey and good old hard work. 

Do you think much of a startup’s success is down to the team they build and the culture they create?

Absolutely, surrounding yourself with people who not only have the capabilities to do what is required of them but share the visions of the company is an absolute must for us, and you have to share the same aspirations as the entire team. 

How did you assemble your team? And how do you keep them motivated?

I try to convey that working for Prsnt isn't just a job. I want them to join my vision of the importance of this tool for civilization. We are creating a product that allows communication through altruistic actions, and one that has huge global potential because we, as a species, give gifts throughout our lives.

Prsnt has sent thousands of gifts, connecting people with small mini gifts in those 'just because' moments. 

When we see people's messages to each other, we take a step back and feel immensely proud.

We helped people connect in a way that other means of communication cannot do.

This core vision of Prsnt is within all of our team, and we fully support any member of the team who will help the company grow and actively encourage innovation and the failure of ideas as this allows us to progress, and they will be rewarded for that as we grow. 

Startups often pivot or adapt their business model. Have there been any significant changes or evolutions in your business strategy?

Yes, we started to look into physical gifts, but the logistics were difficult, and it was difficult to scale, so we decided to remain digital. Another area we wanted to focus on was working with small independent brands, but it was too difficult to get them signed up, and we couldn't see it working on a scale.

For example, if you send someone a coffee from Brighton Bond Street Roasters to a friend in Scotland, they are never going to grab that coffee unless they are in town. So, we switched to high street brands, which means anyone is within reach either online or offline and will always get their gift easily. 

How have mentors helped your business, and what advice would you offer to others seeking mentorship? 

This is one thing I truly believe in, finding someone who has been there and done it who can help guide you and isn't in the trenches every day with you and can offer a different strategy or path.

Find a mentor who has been there, done that.

We actively went out to find three huge mentors who can help us in three areas: marketing, design, and corporate, and they have been instrumental in helping Prsnt scale and open doors to connections we would never have access to. 

What are the most critical pieces of advice you would give to an aspiring entrepreneur to help them on their way, based on your own experiences?

I would say do not rush your first product to market; do the basics first and incrementally add features/services as time goes by. Believe in yourself; you will hear plenty of nos or, "It can't be done", or, "You're wasting your time".

Believe in yourself.

You know your business and market better than they do, and they may not be your customer, unable to see your idea for what it will be. Remember, The Beatles didn't get anyone's approval when they made Sgt. Pepper... they created it and gave it to the world. 

What gives your business a competitive edge?

There are plenty of gifting companies in the world, but we are the leading instant digital gifting solution. The key thing I believe makes us different is our ability to innovate.

Being a user-focused company, constantly listening to the consumers' wants and needs, along with our ability to innovate quickly and nimbly, sets us far ahead of the competition. 

Do you have a share scheme in place?

We do have a share scheme. At the start of the company and rounds of funding, we created an option pool set aside to allow people's options to vest as their role grows within the company. 

Excellent! If you could time travel to any point in history to learn from or meet an iconic entrepreneur or innovator, who would it be, and what questions would you ask them?

I could talk about innovation all day! For me, these are the people who we as a species remember. No one really knows who the Prime Minister or Royal Family were 170 years ago, but we still use designs, science, and engineering in our lives today, created by people 170 years ago. 

There have been so many people I admire, but the one that stands out for me personally would be Nikola Tesla. Having that thought process across so many fields of expertise is mind-blowing. Just pushing boundaries constantly and trying to solve so many problems for the good of civilization is unprecedented.

If I were to go back in time and have a conversation with Mr. Tesla, I think I would just ask him how and where his creativity comes from, then try to keep up with his thought process!

It would certainly be a fascinating conversation! Thanks so much for sharing your story and wisdom with us, Omid.
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