Startup Hustle: Matt Alexander
Writing about Matt Alexander is, I’ll admit, a little intimidating.
He’s a solid writer himself, having kept several blogs over the years — one that reached a readership of 1.5 million unique visitors per month. He started that blog when he was 11, by the way.
So, yes, sending him any kind of draft did make me slightly nauseous.
It doesn’t help, either, that the guy is English. Everything he says in person sounds a touch more refined than how I’d say it, and I swear you can tell just from his writing that he grew up in London. (His mom is a Texan, which is part of why we’re lucky to have him here in Dallas.)
Matt went to SMU, where he studied English Literature and Computer Science (among other things). While studying, he accepted an internship (then later a position) with Southwest Airlines.
In April 2012, he left Southwest and started Construct, a boutique consultancy firm. “I was of the belief that I would not attempt to start a company until I had an idea of sufficient quality,” Matt explains. “So, Construct was my means to work with interesting people around the world — whether helping with funding or project management — until I arrived at my idea.”
While at Construct, he helped put on a conference for American Express executives, provided some PR for Uber’s launch here in Dallas, and designed some new software to be used at Ernst & Young and the Ministry of Defense in the UK.
NEED: The Beginning
“It was at this point that I came across the idea for Need, around December of 2012. I had it over lunch with a German VC in London. I then sat with a friend (and the co-host of the Bionic (now Bonanza) podcast) — in a London-area pub and wrote 13 pages about what it’d become. I continue to use this as the formative document and blueprint for Need’s future,” Matt explained.
Trey Bowles and Kevin Vela reviewed the initial pitch documents for Need, and encouraged Matt to start it in Dallas. He joined WELD’s coworking community and pitched to several investors on January 27, 2013. Need was funded and incorporated by February 12.
Need was launched in November 2013 and promptly sold out. “Since then, we’ve garnered over 250,000 members, continued to sell out each month, launched a full revision of the site, co-presented New York Fashion Week with Cadillac, and won two Webby awards.”
Matt himself was named one of Dallas’ top men of style, a style maker of Dallas, and D CEO named Matt one of the New Faces of Dallas Tech in their January/February edition.
He also partnered with Bryan DeLuca of Foot Cardigan last fall, and brought a pop-up retail experience to downtown Dallas, allowing for artists and retailers to showcase their work in a free space. Unbranded was a great success, and the two entrepreneurs are looking to make Unbranded a permanent fixture downtown.
I KNOW, RIGHT? I hate him now, too.
But I sat down with Matt recently, and we talked about all of these milestones and fancy projects, and I realized that he’s not actually intimidating. He’s just giving himself the freedom to work on all of these things.
“I derive the most pleasure from launching,” Matt explained. “And by recognizing that, I’ve given myself permission to try out all of these projects.”
I wanted to know a bit more about how he keeps up with all of these tasks and brilliant ideas, and he was kind enough to humor me.
HOW DO YOU DO IT, MATT?
“We use Slack at the office, Gosquared for metrics, Zendesk, and Basecamp for project management. I live on my iPhone. I love my Mac. I use Fantastical for personal calendaring, Omnifocus for personal tasks, and Mailbox.” He also uses Overcast for podcasts and VSCO for photography.
He’s big into Twitter — a platform that some people still complain about being overwhelming, when it comes to social media. “That’s where everyone I like talking to tends to be.” He finds Tweetbot to be especially helpful for managing those interactions.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY OBSESSED WITH?
He’s building something right now for reviewing revenue stats for Need. “It’s to provide quick insight regarding all of the company’s metrics. We built our own back-end for Need, so, rather than over-burden our team with little nice-to-have features, I sometimes build these small things for myself. I love the small, hacked-together personal projects where you have instant gratification and see the fruit of your labor.”
FUN FACT: Matt was pretty hardcore about skating in his younger years. “So I recently bought a skateboard for the office.”
And how does he wake up in the morning? He makes a Chemex coffee. “It’s a ritual that forces me to disconnect and focus. I make it a habit to not look at email until I’ve done so.”
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THAT’S STUCK WITH YOU?
“I’ve learned to be overabundantly aware of my shortcomings,” Matt explains. “And that people are far more willing to talk to you about your ideas than you might realize.”
I’m personally looking forward to what’s in store for Matt this year. His understanding of what good branding means is beyond refreshing, and the way that he handles words makes this English major super happy.
He gets his audience — Matt understands that you can’t just send people to a website and expect them to understand what you’re about immediately. Sign up for Need, and you’re promised as few email updates as possible, so that you don’t feel pestered (however, getting the emails is always delightful and welcome).
Matt gets it. He just does. And it’s fun to find out what he’s up to.
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You can also hear more about Foremost from Matt at February’s Dallas New Tech, so get tickets HERE.