In our first installment of the Game Changers Series, we profiled a top executive of Canada’s premier training and simulation technology and services company.
Now, we’d like to introduce you to a fast-rising young woman who built a company that is revolutionizing the defence procurement industry.
Nicole Verkindt is the founder and president of OMX. She was only 27 when she launched the company back in 2012.
OMX is dramatically changing the way companies in the defence, aerospace and security industry do business with the government by a secure, subscription-based software platform that serves as a Web-based matchmaker for companies and government agencies seeking products and services.
OMX provides access to tens of thousands of companies and RFPs, RFQs and RFIs categorized by region, size, local content, certifications, and capabilities. The platform generates real-time analytics and reporting to ensure companies are ahead of their offset obligations as a result of winning government contracts.
The online procurement exchange platform is the only one in the world, according to OMX, which manages “offsets” or obligations government contractors have to invest in local economies as part of the contract. The platform also generates real-time analytics of data that enables governments to understand the economic impact of procurement decisions.
Since its inception, OMX has evolved into a powerful online marketplace with subscribers from the world’s top defence, aerospace, and shipbuilding sectors as well as tens of thousands of local suppliers around the globe.
Before heading OMX, Nicole launched Tiburon (the Spanish word for shark) in 2008. The offshore manufacturing firm based in the Dominican Republic sold shelter components for government contractors during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. During this time, Haiti was struck by a killer earthquake. Nicole founded a non-profit organization called GlassFrog which provided aid to victims of the catastrophe.
Later on, Nicole integrated Tiburon into the family business, GMA. In 2011, she led the sale of both companies to a private equity firm.
We asked Nicole a few questions to get to know her better.
Vanguard Magazine: Please describe to us your role at OMX.
Nicole Verkindt: As founder and president my role is to keep pushing growth in other areas, other places where we can offer more value than what is there now.
VM: How did you start out in this industry and how has it brought you to where you are today?
NV: The first business I started was called “Tiburon” which is the Spanish word for the only animal that could kill my family’s business (GMA), our biggest competitor Saab Barracuda.
I took out a load and opened an offshore manufacturing business manufacturing subcomponents for large shelter systems, camouflage nets, and vehicle components.
We had about 70 Dominican employees. I lived on the beach and had to learn “shop floor Dominican Spanish if I wanted to make our deliveries to the U.S. Department of Defence on time during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
That business was a sudden and immediate lesson in the stark realities of entrepreneurship, which essentially come down to one lesson: deliver and watch cash flow.
VM: What was your aha moment?
NV: I don’t believe in aha moments…The true creative geniuses understand that being a “game changer” is actually a long (often boring) process of constantly engaging potential users, listening, changing again, seeking help and advice from everyone around you and constantly re-creating.
But to answer your question, I found myself suddenly without a job after selling to a private equity company. I was passionate about helping up the ante for Canadian industry in government procurements. I knew I loved that mission, I just had no clue to I would get there in the beginning.
One step at a time led us to where we are today.
VM: What was your most challenging moment?
NV: After spending many hundreds of hours working with a venture capitalist, they finally agreed to move ahead with a major investment in OMX. That evening, I celebrated with the team, giddy that we had finally got our first big break.
The next morning, on signing day, they backed out because they received a call from “an industry expert” advising them that the defence sector will never change. I’m sure Blockbuster thought the same, despite getting hundreds of calls from Netflix asking for investment at an obscenely low valuation, until the day it did change.
VM: What habit contributed to your success?
NV: Unglamorous Sundays in the office.
VM: What was the best advice you ever received?
NV: Act “as if.” You have to do a lot of pretending and have the confidence to “fake confidence” in the beginning.
VM: What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovator mindset?
NV: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX
VM: What do you think our readers can take away from this?
NV: If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards. We can’t just throw our hands up and say “well the defence industry will never change.” The truth is we are in the most innovative sector in the world.
Technology is changing exponentially…I am confident that if you embrace that change, despite ridicule, you will win in the long run.
VM: Any parting advice?
NV: We all need to work together to solve the big challenges coming up next.
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