If you were an equity holder in a startup business with a lot of success, and a lot of upside, would you be willing to give back some or all of your allocated equity because you felt you did not deserve it? Because you had not been able to do all that you committed to doing when your equity was first allocated to you?
For today’s guest, Matt Allen (or Matta), this is exactly what he has done in the past, would do again in the future, and encourages the founders in the businesses he invests in to do as well. And it is in sharp contrast to many of the stories we hear today (eg Zuckerberg and Saverin in the film The Social Network) of founders fighting to the detriment of their health and wellbeing for every share of equity they have been allocated, regardless of the fairness of it all.
Matta is a Melbourne based start-up founder and angel investor who has had his fair share of successes, failures, and tough conversations with cofounders. This is probably a big part of the reason why for him the team that is forming a business is more important than the problem that team is trying to solve. He sees the biggest role he can play is identifying a team that has some magic forming within it, and then helping those team members to have the type of conversations that will enable them to have long term success.
Ensuring that the difficult conversations that need to be had between founders are had, is something Matta has learnt a lot about through his own experience as a founder and investor, and reminds me a lot about the way Brene Brown seems to run her businesses: an emphasis on openess and encouragement of vulnerability, staying in the moment of uncertain and difficult conversations, and allowing truth and goodness to emerge.
Matta is currently investing in or running seven businesses, many of which run out of the coworking space TeamSquare he is an investor in, and which was also the location for our conversation together.
The seven businesses are:
– Teamsquare: a coworking space for more established startups, in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD
– Lookahead Search: a technical recruitment company where the recruiters are all technical
– Pin Payments: payment gateway for web and mobile payments
– Gyde: a soon to be release social TV and movie guide that helps you track the shows your friends recommend, and then find the cheapest platform to stream them from
– Taggd: tool for retailers to bring in Instagram photos of people wearing their products, and display them on their web stores
– Donesafe: cloud based workplace health and safety software
– Hava: software to automatically generate diagrams of your cloud server architecture
Quite a spread! Given that he is an important part of so many businesses Matta explains how he manages to stay across them all. Making use of tools like Slack, he keeps himself abreast of the everyday goings on of each business and inserts himself into conversations when he sees the need. In this way he can put most of his energy into the business he works in on a daily basis (Lookahead Search), while keeping an eye on those he invests in.
In our conversation we also touch on the need for a solid business model for any business that wants to have a positive social impact, and Matta talks about his idea to one day disrupt the way teams work together, specifically so that they are location independent.
And his suggestion for how to become a subtle disruptor? Every time you meet or interact with somebody, genuinely ask them how you can help them, and then do what they ask. Doing this for people was a big turning point in the journey of Matta becoming a subtle disruptor.