How tech entrepreneur, Tomas Halgas built and sold his company to Twitter in just 6 years
“What if we could index the human brain?”
This month in our Maverick Masterclass Series, our members settle into Home Grown’s cosy upstairs lounge to hear from Tomas Halgas, whose story is pretty much the template for entrepreneurial success. The tech entrepreneur takes us through his 6-year journey from creating his first-ever company to acquiring $30m in investment, and eventually selling to Twitter.
As our host, Rick Lowe kicks off the session, it becomes clear that our guest, an unassuming guy born and raised in Slovakia with a new baby at home, is the perfect combination of discipline, rigour and natural ability.
What brought you to the world of business?
Tomas Halgas takes us through his journey from Oxford University to landing his dream job at Facebook, only to leave just 2 months later when the opportunity to join the entrepreneurial fold came along.
“What if you could index the human brain?”, Tomas’s now co-founder asked him. With this, the two began brainstorming how exactly they could create a human search engine. They went through various formations from “Tinder for knowledge” to a “global brain” and came up with Sphere, the community messenger app they developed over 6 years before Twitter came knocking.
“Twitter got in touch to say we like what you’re doing and you are doing it better than us”
Let’s take a look at Tomas’ three key takeaways:
#1 Broaden your scope
Tomas emphasises the importance of ‘having range.’ At Oxford, he said yes to every opportunity, and in business constantly finds inspiration from other areas.
- “Do we hyper-focus or find a breadth of knowledge?“
The discussion concludes that it’s about a balance, but Tomas goes on to say that the most accomplished sportsmen, musicians and entrepreneurs have experience in other areas and this supports their expertise. He even shares examples of this within his own business, emphasising that inspiration can be found in other areas and be applied to business.
#2 Keep learning
Tomas also stresses the need for a deep understanding of your area of specialism. It is hard work understanding all the areas you need to make decisions in but this is how you truly maximise your growth rate.
- “How do you personally do this?”
“I read,” Tomas answers, “and you can train yourself to love books”. Whilst the tip is beautifully actionable for our audience, who hastily ask him for recommendations (provided below), it also becomes clear, as he banishes the use of Netflix and shares his 8-hour sleep routine, that there is a huge amount of self-discipline that goes into this success story.
#3 Strategy first
- “Should we be thinking in the long term or the short term as entrepreneurs?“
There is a balance to be found between just building something and seeing what happens, and figuring out where you’re going before making a move. He encourages a longer-term approach overall, concluding that if you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t get there.
Tomas describes himself as a systems architect when it comes to strategy in his ability to look at all the moving pieces and build an entire system where all the components fit together.
The concept for Sphere
Originally the concept for Sphere was “connect with anyone, anywhere”. As things progressed, they realised the key to building this global network was creating communities, and so began the focus on creating an online environment truly conducive to building relationships. “Nothing they developed was revolutionary”, says Tomas, “we just tried to keep this idea of community front and centre and looked at real-world communication for inspiration”.
“I believe the metaverse will have a strong place in our future, the question is ‘How far away and what will it look like?’”
The metaverse: A fairly unified virtual reality
As Tomas jokes that in the metaverse we could have a meeting on top of a volcano, it becomes obvious that, as a creative tech entrepreneur, the concept is compelling to him with its exciting possibilities for immersive experience. “If I were to think more critically though”, he goes on to say, “there are 4 issues we still need to overcome”:
- Computational power: The real world is high definition, how do we recreate this?
- Privacy: We will have far higher levels of privacy concerns in the metaverse.
- Governance: How do we implement governance into a complex new system given the difficulties we have had with digital governance thus far?
- Social issues: We must be careful that if we are creating something that is even more immersive and addictive, there’s enough humanness in that system.
- Crucial conversations by Joseph Grenny
How to deal with difficult conversations.
- The value of everything by Mariana Mazzucato
Left-wing leaning exploration of the value of our world tends.
- Free to choose by Milton Friedman & Rose Friedman
The forgotten value of the freedom of exchange.
- Cynical theories – Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsay
A play on woke lefty culture, positioning a more classical liberalism.
- High output management by Andrew Grove
The ultimate business book.
- Good enough parenting – John Philip Louis & Karen McDonald Louis
A parenting book that shares different examples of childhood environments and how they are reflected in later life.
If you’re interested in enriching your entrepreneurial experience and finding a strong community of entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders then contact our membership team at Home Grown.