Dynamic duos: Richard O’Sullivan & Andy Powell

InMobi's VP and general manager Richard O'Sullivan ANZ and VP and managing director EMEA Andy Powell discuss how a few beers in a bar in Dubai 15 years ago started a friendship that would eventually see the pair heading up different regions at InMobi.

In Dynamic Duos, Mumbrella each month asks two members of the same organisation with a professional and personal affiliation, to share with readers the importance of workplace relationships in an increasingly work-from-home world.

Richard O’Sullivan:  Ironically, given I now live in Australia, we met in an Aussie-themed bar called Bidi Bondi in Dubai in 2008 via a mutual friend. We were both British and both in the media business so got chatting over a few beers and several rounds of pool. What we didn’t realise until a way into the conversation was that I’d just left a role at ITP Media Group and Andy had just started there – so that coincidence kicked up the conversation a notch.

Back then, most of the media businesses were based in Dubai Media City and the media expat crowd would always be at Radisson Rooftop each Thursday, so we kept bumping into each other and our friendship was formed. The Friday brunches and boat parties every weekend also helped.

Beers and playing pool led to Squash (which we still like to play today whenever we’re in the same city) and then, eventually, to become colleagues.

I’d joined InMobi in 2012 as GM and quickly hired a dynamo number two in Robyn Meyers. We were a pretty formidable team and I knew I had my work cut out to find someone to cover her maternity leave, not least because my remit had expanded to include India, South East Asia, Middle East and Africa and I’d moved to Singapore by 2014.

By that stage I knew Andy pretty well, trusted him implicitly, knew he had a great in-market reputation and was certain he’d be a great fit. However, he was at Yahoo!, which always offers a degree of safety given its reputation, size and standing in any market and we were a scrappy start-up in challenger mode. Fortunately, Andy is always up for a challenge, and my pitch on InMobi, it’s entrepreneurial culture, rapid merit-based progression and geographic mobility helped make up his mind. The rest is history; he’s now VP & MD of EMEA for InMobi.

Andy is hugely outgoing and immensely likeable, as well as being an impressive operator in the media space. He takes on any challenge head on and leads with integrity and grit.

The last time I physically saw Andy was in Bangalore in January 2020 just before the pandemic hit. It struck us that the ‘original’ three from InMobi were all still with the company, Andy heading up EMEA, Robyn heading up the West Coast of the US and myself down here leading the ANZ business. Long may it continue, as there’s a special shorthand you have with people you professionally grew up with. Personally, InMobi has definitely been one of those companies that can back up their claims to be family.

Andy Powell: We met almost 15 years ago in a bar in Dubai. The media industry over there is pretty small, but even so it was a bit of a sliding door moment when I found out Richard had just left the company I’d joined (ITP Media).

British expats in Dubai don’t need much more than being just that to bond and our friendship was accelerated by initially bumping into each other around the usual media traps. We were soon playing regular squash games, against each other and as doubles with a couple of guys from PHD. I expect Richard will say that I kept losing, but we both know I’m the better player!

For a good few years we were purely social friends, albeit in the same industry, but that changed when Richard spoke to me about the opportunity at InMobi and the chance to cover for the wonderful Robyn Meyers while she was on maternity leave. I had a pretty comfortable gig at Yahoo! at the time so it wasn’t an obvious move, but I’d had a front row seat for a few years hearing about Richard’s experiences there, and the degree of global collaboration and the potential to fast track my career was a strong pull.

I had no qualms about working (at the time) for Richard. He’s a straight up operator. Inclusive, transparent, determined, and focused. He cut his teeth in ‘old school’ media sales, so has been able to combine that experience with a now incredible knowledge of the ad tech industry. He’s constantly upskilling himself and I’d say he’s one of the stand-out leaders in our industry. He’s also very passionate. I recall him excitingly showing me some of their early ads during a social night out, way before I considered joining – there’s no fakery with Richard.

I like how he jumps in headfirst and immerses himself in each region he’s worked in. He has worked for InMobi in Dubai, Singapore, North America and now Australia, and knows each market as well as a local after just a few months. He’s also a great elevator of the people who work for him. Both Robyn and I are still at InMobi, and he’s championed our rising through the ranks. There’s no ego with Richard, which can be a rare thing in the media industry.

We don’t have a real need to speak on professional matters much these days, but if ever I’ve got a tricky issue to deal with, I’ll pick up the phone without hesitation to speak to Richard. I trust him implicitly.

Richard on Andy:

Most memorable moment with Andy:  What sticks in my mind is a series of humorous (but tinged with panic) texts from Andy when he was embarking on a series of pitch meetings with a 40-week pregnant Robyn in tow in 40-degree heat. He was genuinely concerned his skill set would have to expand to become midwife (hasten to add that Robyn wanted to do the meetings – we actually have a great parental leave policy!)

Best word to describe Andy: Gregarious

Most annoying habit or endearing behaviour: His back-hand at squash (definitely in the annoying category)

Andy on Richard:

Most memorable moment with Richard: Playing killer pool in Bidi Bondi in Dubai well into the night (on many nights). As the saying goes, I’ll always remember him this way.

Best word to describe Richard: Competitive in every sense of the word

Most annoying habit or endearing behaviour: He loves his jargon! I still have to interrupt him to question one of his acronyms.

If you and a colleague would like to submit your story to Dynamic duos, please email kwelch@mumbrella.com.au.


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