Doug Wilwerding and Joseph Lassen are the men behind The Optimas Group; we are a venture investment team based in Omaha, NE. We invest some of the capital of Doug’s family office and have been connecting on the philosophy and best practices of business since 2010.
The Optimas group has been making investments for nearly a decade – some of which have been successful, and some not so much. We have learned from both outcomes. Traditionally our investments have been concentrated in companies that are post-revenue and pre-earnings with products that have the ability to scale quickly. Lately this has led us to deals primarily in SaaS businesses and in other technology-based companies generally located in the Midwest. As investors we serve as both board members and advisors to our portfolio companies. We believe the board of a company exists so that management can benefit from experienced perspectives in business and unique views on strategic direction. The Optimas Group is interested to be a strategic partner offering capital, unique perspectives, and a well-cultivated network from which entrepreneurs can benefit. Helping companies grow is our passion.
Doug grew up in the company that became Omnium Worldwide, Inc. From the time of the company’s founding in 1969 until the sale of the company in 2007 Doug had jobs in the family business ranging from cleaning ashtrays and emptying wastebaskets to eventually buying and running the company.
After graduating from the University of Denver with an MBA in 1986, Doug joined the company in a field sales role. With an incredible team Doug started and built the most profitable division of the company, eventually completing a leveraged buyout of other family members in 1998. After the buyout, Doug became the CEO of Omnium. Under his leadership, the company grew revenue by 5x and margins by 125x over the next nine years. This trend of sustained growth and health of the business led to the sale of the company to West Corporation in 2007. Since leaving West Corp. in 2008, Doug has pursued his interests in entrepreneurial and family business as an investor, board chair, board member, and an additional stint as CEO of one of our portfolio companies. Doug has poked and prodded the entrepreneurial experience from all angles.
During the Omnium years, Doug learned a great deal about family business, about being entrepreneurial from the ground up, and about building great teams. After the sale in 2007, Doug learned what it feels like to sell the company he loved and grew up with over 39 years. None of these lessons came easy, but all of them stuck. Everyone on the Omnium team had a great run, learned a lot, and had a blast doing it. Many of the team members are still friends to this day.
After selling Omnium, Doug started the Optimas Group as a venture investment firm that provides capital, support, and resources to entrepreneurs. Helping Optimas’s portfolio companies thrive is his mission.
Joseph grew up in an entrepreneurial family in Denver, CO. During his childhood, both of his parents started and ran various companies; as is to be expected in new ventures, some failed and others have grown to become great successes. In this environment Joseph had the opportunity to witness first-hand the inherent volatility that each new venture brought, each driven by the whims of the market. It is safe to say that the risks have paid off, and Joseph now enjoys his own deep passion for both entrepreneurship and investing.
Following his parents’ lead, Joseph has periodically begun small side-businesses of his own – each has been great fun. His favorite was a tennis racquet stringing business started during his freshman year of high school. After borrowing $1,000 from his dad to pay for a stringing machine, he began stringing racquets for friends and family. Three years later, by undercutting the prices of the nearby tennis club, he had created a monopoly in his neighborhood and on his high school tennis team. The year Joseph left for college, he had repaid the loan to his dad and broke $2,000 in bottom-line earnings. It truly seemed like a king’s ransom back then. The lesson: passion and profitability needn’t be mutually exclusive after all… in fact, they never should be.
Joseph graduated from Creighton University with a B.S.B.A. in Economics. During his time at Creighton, Joseph held internships in investment analysis, banking, and options trading. He also spent two semesters in rigorous international business programs in Chile and South Korea. Post-graduation Joseph worked full time at the Northern Trust Corporation in Chicago, valuing equity securities for Citadel’s trading desks. After a year, Doug and Joseph struck a deal that brought Joseph back to Omaha to join Optimas and help with financial and investment analysis. He joined in 2015. While at Optimas, Joseph has assisted to complete numerous new and follow-on investments, briefly served as the Vice President of Finance for a portfolio company prior to a strategic exit, and currently serves as a Board Member of another.
Joseph’s background in finance and investing coupled with a passion for perpetuating the entrepreneurial spirit, allows him to approach his work at Optimas from a unique perspective that he hopes to share and develop further through his writings on this blog.