WELD Artist of the Week: Matt Alexander
Career: Globe Trotting Entrepreneur
Mantra: Keep moving or get out of the way.
Interview by: Kristin Read
From what I’ve heard, you are the word ninja and should probably be the one conducting this interview . . . Is that true?
HA! I’ve been known to have a knack for words, yes.
Before we get started, what pulled you across the pond for good? (History: Matt’s a former Londoner turned Texan)
I’m half American and have dual citizenship (my mom’s from Galveston, Texas and my father’s from London). So growing up, I visited family in the states nearly every summer, but I attended the same suburban school in London from age four to eighteen, where I found I was far too “comfortable.” So, after graduation, I spent a month traveling through India, and then moved myself to Dallas to attend SMU. Since graduating in 2010, I’ve spearheaded several business ventures. Every six months I swear I’m moving back to London, it just hasn’t happened yet.
By the age of 11, you had a pretty loud voice in the blogosphere. Firstly, did anyone know you were 11? Secondly, 1.5 million unique visitors/month . . . What?! How?
Back in 2000, there was no such thing as a “social network,” the interactive paradigm was found in forums online. And being a very social person, I wanted to join the conversation. It started with the IRC community, instant message, and blogs—surprisingly, people responded. So I decided to start my own website. At age 11, I had a very nerdy website under a pseudonym and never told anyone—family, or friends. I was very self-conscious, constantly battling this self-inflicted stigma of being seen as a “nerd.” For three years I managed this site, development, design, one and a half million unique visitors a month, a development team that worked for free, maintained corporate sponsorships (with companies like Nintendo), etcetera. But one day, I just shut it down. I didn’t quite realize what I had until recently. (For context, the traffic to the old site is almost fifteen times larger than my current one.) Sometimes I go back and look at it, challenging myself to do more. I’m really proud of what it was now, but at the time I wasn’t.
You’re notably considered a “jack of all trades,” so can you offer us a little clarity about what you do?
Whether it’s helping businesses through logo design, building on concepts, raising venture capital, developing supplier agreements, business plans, or simply writing an article, I try not to limit myself in any capacity to a certain type of work. For example, I left my corporate job at Southwest Airlines last April, and given that my website had been going strong and I had earned credibility in the text world, the obvious next step was to join a startup. But I instead sought out fledgling startups in Texas. I wanted to work alongside others and help them develop their passions. I’ve learned that my best work comes when I’m constantly moving and solving problems. So, if I’m passionate about a project, I’ll gladly go after it feverishly.
I know there’s more . . . where else might one find you?
I also have a podcast, which I host with a partner (and friend) in London. We’ve recorded 35 episodes on the 70Decibels Network, but, as of last week, we’ve been acquired by 5by5 in Austin, TX. So, you’ll find us there soon! My co-host and I don’t plan “content,” we literally just talk for about 30-45 minutes every week. On our previous network we were able to respond to listener emails and comments, but through 5by5, we’ll hopefully be able to broadcast live and communicate with listeners by chat room. We’re excited about the opportunity to reach a new listenership and engage with listeners on a different level.
And . . . ? Tell me a little bit about your newest venture (the extent of which you can share).
I can’t share much, but I’ve been working on new men’s lifestyle service called Need. There are quite a few noteworthy partners on board, and we’re excited about its launch in the coming months.
It seems that your words carry a sizable weight with your audience. What do you consider as your personal responsibility to your listeners?
When I first started, my general online narrative was very reserved. I took myself, and my content, too seriously. Everything I wrote I was trying to fit the stereotypical mold of the online writing community, so I geared my content towards big name conglomerates. As time went on, I realized my responsibility wasn’t to write these exhaustive long form articles in blind support of one company over another. I believe it was January of 2012 when my writing career shifted for good. I wrote an article that was disagreed on by a well known entrepreneur, and quickly received a call from one of my supporters that reminded me if I was going to be successful online, this was my chance to speak up . . . so I did. My traffic went through the roof. That experience reminded me that web writers all too aggressively worry about well-written SEO headlines, or they write rather dull or mundane pieces, and I want to be different. I work to write relevant content and share my opinion, all in good fun and to encourage interesting dialogue. My responsibility is to share an accurate reflection of who I am, how I’ve come to agree/disagree with others—not for any sort of merit, money, or notoriety—because people need good content.
Professionally, what is your ultimate goal?
To avoid comfort altogether. When I’m borderline uncomfortable, that’s when my best work comes to fruition. I want to continue building things with a genesis aligning with my passions, and that others are delighted to use/engage with. I want to help others build a framework for their personal success, to develop personally (online and off), and to be able to stand on a platform that I can proudly say I created.
Name one thing you wouldn’t be caught dead without.
My phone. See, I’m not home. I’ve been stateside for 7 years, and while I may refer to my apartment as “home,” in my head I’ve never left England. In my mind, I’m here temporarily for a purpose. My phone is the one reliable means connecting my two worlds: life here and my real life in England.