Exit like Thiago Olson


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Thiago experienced national acclaim when he built a working nuclear reactor in high school. After completing his physics degree from Vanderbilt University,  he co-founded Stratos, a venture-backed mobile payments platform. After building Stratos to a successful exit, he now serves as a startup advisor at ATDC, and evaluates companies for investment.


Thiago Olsen and I attended the same Angel Lounge meeting held at ATDC. He was one of the few young people in the room, so I had to meet him. After we had coffee, I learned about his awesome history and asked him to be a guest on Startup Funding.


Thiago is an experienced entrepreneur and investor in both consumer technology and B2B financial solution startups. He was the co-founder and CEO of Stratos, a venture-backed mobile payments platform, where he led the company to acquisition. Thiago has also managed robotics and ground vehicle systems projects and investments for the U.S. Department of Defense and has led research in particle and plasma physics everywhere from Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico, to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Thiago is a frequent speaker, and has been a featured guest on CNN, BBC and Bloomberg Television. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Physics from Vanderbilt University and a fellowship in Plasma Physics from Princeton University. Thiago is currently a vice chair at Georgia Tech’s Center for the Development and Application of Internet of Things Technologies, as well as an Entrepreneur in Residence advising on FinTech and IoT at the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC).

show notes:

Thiago Olson is the type of guy that makes everything look easy. The center of national attention as a teenager that built a working nuclear reactor, Thiago went on to found Stratos and subsequently lead the company to an exit. Oh, and he has had a planet named after him. No big deal right??

Perhaps the greatest surprise in talking to Thiago about his career is that despite how he makes it look, his path has not always presented a smooth ride. He has faced the same daunting circumstances and ups and downs that we all face in our careers. For budding entrepreneurs, the wisdom that Thiago shares offers a valuable guide for realizing your goals and vision.

In Thiago’s mind the future is bright. Have a listen to what he is excited about now in the world of tech and to hear some of his predictions for which industry trends have staying power!

Roshawnna and Thiago discuss:

  • 3:00 Thiago shares the story how he got started as an entrepreneur and investor, what drives him in his role 
  • 7:00 Thiago relates how an experience in his youth shaped his working life for years to come. 
  • 8:30 Thiago discusses how the exit process looked for his company, Stratos, and how he came to be an advisor. 
  • 11:00 Thiago discusses industry trends that he is excited about right now, specifically, the Internet of Things. 
  • 18:30 Thiago talks about how to bounce back from a bump in the road and how to deal with the stress of entrepreneurship. 
  • 23:00 Thiago talks about managing money streams as an entrepreneur. 
  • 29:30 Learning to recognize which advice to accept and which to reject. 
  • 34:00 Some advice on negotiating revenue terms 
  • 36:00 The benefit of working with a great law firm.   
  • 37:00 Thiago talks about what he looks for in an idea and a team as an investor. 
  • 45:00 Common mistakes that founders make when they’re looking to raise capital. 
  • 49:00 Thiago shares an excellent piece of advice that he was given. 
  • 51:00 Recognizing how you can create a solution to a problem. 
  • 59:00 A curve-ball question elicits an interesting response from Thiago. 
  • 60:00 The importance of mentorship.