From Dyslexia to Deep Sea: Oliver Gunasekara’s Revolutionary Journey in Tech and Sustainable Innovation

Oliver Gunasekara: Navigating Tech and Oceans for Sustainable Future

In this insightful episode of the Bright Founders Talk podcast, hosted by Chris from Temy, an international software development company, we delve into the world of technology entrepreneurship with a notable figure in the tech industry, Oliver Gunasekara. Oliver, the Co-Founder and CEO of Impossible Metals Inc., joins us to share his journey and insights.

With a background as a founder of three companies and a CEO of another, Oliver brings a wealth of experience to the table. His approach to starting the day with a healthy breakfast, his passion for photography and movies, and his love for science fiction are just a few of the topics we explore.

Oliver’s candid discussion about his early interests in technology and system administration, along with his reflections on the late discovery of entrepreneurship, provide a fascinating look into his career path. This episode not only offers a glimpse into Oliver’s personal life and hobbies but also dives into his perspective on entrepreneurship and its evolving landscape.

Oliver Gunasekara: Navigating Tech and Oceans for Sustainable Future
Oliver’s Odyssey: From Tech Enthusiast to Entrepreneurial Visionary

Diving right into the heart of our conversation with Oliver, we uncover the simple yet profound beginning to his day: a hearty breakfast. “I definitely think with a good breakfast,” he shares, painting a picture of mornings filled with fruits and oatmeal. It’s a modest start, yet it sets the tone for a man whose day is anything but ordinary. This peek into Oliver’s everyday life adds a relatable touch to a figure known more for his tech-savvy and business acumen.

But Oliver isn’t all about algorithms and analytics. He reveals a more artistic side, a passion for photography that sees him capturing the world in stills – from the wild heart of nature to the crafted beauty of landscapes. “I love just being a couch potato sometimes,” he admits, showing a love for movies that ranges from the dramatic flair of Shakespeare to the raw energy of ‘Pulp Fiction’. This eclectic mix not only showcases his diverse interests but also humanizes a personality often seen in the light of corporate achievements.

The most striking part of our dialogue, however, comes when Oliver reflects on his journey to entrepreneurship. “I learned what an entrepreneur was pretty late,” he confesses. Growing up with no role models in the entrepreneurial world, his curiosity remained unchanneled until later in life. This candid admission, “I’ve always been very curious,” serves as a poignant reminder of the paths we discover only when we venture beyond the familiar. Oliver’s story is not just about tech and business; it’s about the unfolding of a latent dream, a narrative that resonates with so many of us.

I learned what an entrepreneur was pretty late

Oliver’s Unexpected Journey: From Community College to Tech Titan

Oliver’s story starts in a place many wouldn’t expect for a tech leader. He candidly opens up about his challenges in school, notably his dyslexia and underperformance. “I was very much an underperformer at school,” he admits, revealing a vulnerability often unseen in the corridors of tech giants. His decision to leave school at 16 for community college marks a pivotal moment in his life, guided by the wisdom of his mother who advised him to pursue engineering. This choice, seemingly simple at the time, laid the groundwork for the extraordinary path that lay ahead.

Oliver’s journey didn’t stop at engineering. His curiosity and drive led him to continuously seek knowledge, even as he climbed the corporate ladder. “I joined a startup that became quite big,” he says, which opened doors for him to further his education at prestigious institutions like Stanford and MIT. His approach to learning was not traditional; instead, he opted for short, intensive courses that complemented his burgeoning career. “Taking a few weeks out, getting a top up… was really valuable,” Oliver reflects, emphasizing the importance of continuous learning in a fast-paced world.

I joined a startup that became quite big

In a world where education is constantly evolving, Oliver keeps pace by embracing modern methods. No longer confined to the traditional academic path, he finds value in the wealth of information available online, particularly on platforms like LinkedIn. “It’s just amazing the amount of information that’s there,” he observes, highlighting how relevant and accessible learning has become in the digital age. This adaptability not only shows Oliver’s commitment to continuous growth but also his ability to evolve with the times, a trait essential for success in the ever-changing tech industry.

Oliver’s Trailblazing Path: Vision, Strategy, and the Power of Dreaming Big

Oliver, with a thoughtful gaze, delves into the lessons learned during his early career, particularly during his transformative years at ARM. “Having a vision is so critical,” he states, recalling the ambitious goals set by ARM’s founder, Sir Robin Saxby. Oliver vividly narrates the scene of a small startup daring to challenge industry giants like Intel and Motorola. This audacious vision wasn’t just a fleeting dream; it was a driving force that inspired and propelled the team to achieve what seemed impossible. Oliver’s reflection on this experience emphasizes the power of belief and vision in transforming a modest startup into a global leader.

Having a vision is so critical

Oliver’s journey at ARM wasn’t just about technological innovation; it was equally about smart strategy. He shares a key insight: “You have to be smart with customers; they don’t always know what they want.” This realization led to a pivotal strategy of reaching out to the end-users of their technology, such as mobile phone manufacturers, bypassing direct customers resistant to change. This approach not only ensured ARM’s survival but also its dominance. Oliver’s narrative here offers a valuable lesson in strategic thinking, highlighting the importance of understanding and navigating market dynamics.

As our conversation shifts to the present, Oliver reflects on his entrepreneurial philosophy, shaped by years in Silicon Valley. “Dream big,” he advises, emphasizing that the effort put into startups should be matched by the scale of their vision. He contrasts the bold ambitions prevalent in Silicon Valley with the more conservative approach he observed in the UK. This mindset, he suggests, has been instrumental in the success of tech giants like Google and Apple. Oliver’s journey from ARM to the world of startups exemplifies the transformative power of ambition and the importance of nurturing grand visions.

Oliver’s Visionary Leap: From Tech Innovator to Deep-Sea Pioneer

Oliver, with a mix of nostalgia and pride, recounts the early days of founding NG Codec, a stark contrast to his time with ARM. “It was tough to get funded,” he recalls, painting a vivid picture of the struggles faced by new entrepreneurs. Unlike his previous venture under ARM’s safety net, NG Codec was a leap into the unknown, fueled by passion and a vision for disrupting video processing in datacenters. Oliver’s story takes us through the challenging early days of working out of a converted garage, relying on savings, and facing repeated rejections. This journey, culminating in a successful exit in 2019 with AMD acquiring their technology, is a testament to Oliver’s resilience and innovative spirit.

Delving into the dynamics of starting a business, Oliver highlights the importance of complementary skills in co-founders. “You need people with different skill sets than yourself,” he advises, emphasizing the need for a blend of technical and business acumen in the early stages. His insight into the entrepreneurial journey sheds light on the necessity of having a team aligned in mission, ready for a long haul filled with highs and lows. He stresses the importance of grit and perseverance, key attributes he deems essential for anyone embarking on the unpredictable path of entrepreneurship.

You need people with different skill sets than yourself

Shifting gears to his current venture, Impossible Metals, Oliver outlines a bold and altruistic mission: responsible deep-sea mining. He paints a picture of a world in dire need of metals for the energy transition, highlighting the insufficiency and environmental impact of traditional mining methods. With a focus on extracting essential metals like nickel and cobalt in an environmentally conscious manner, Oliver’s venture is not just a business but a solution to a global challenge. His vision of utilizing advanced underwater robotics for mining reflects his relentless pursuit of innovation, merging technological advancement with environmental responsibility.

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