Applications are open for Matter Nine. In conjunction with our launch we wanted to demystify the process we use to evaluate companies. At Matter we look at five critical elements when making the decision about whether to invest in a startup: team, media, stage, mission alignment, and venture basics. All of which are dissected below.
At Matter we invest in teams, first and foremost. Team is the biggest determinant of success or failure in startups. In fact, preventable human dynamics issues are the leading cause of startup failure. For that reason we look for teams with a diverse set of backgrounds and skills who have a strong history of working together through what is the roller coaster of entrepreneurship. We like teams whose founders’ skill sets complement one another and we believe the best teams have a combination of business, technology, design, and storytelling. Balance across those categories is important: we want to make sure that teams can build what they’re selling, and sell what they’re building.
We look for teams that are coachable, that are open to the process of failing fast, and that can quickly apply learnings in order to succeed sooner. We want teams that are collaborative. We need to make sure you have the right mindset to persevere in the face of ambiguity and failure, and support your co-founders as well as the other entrepreneurs on the same journey as you. As our Managing Director, Corey Ford puts it, “we are looking for founders who understand that their venture is an imperfect prototype. They are able to identify their key risks and untested hypothesis, knock down doors and cold call to test those hypotheses, synthesize and effectively communicate the insights that they learn, and make touch decisions about what to do with that imperfect information.”
Matter invests in early stage media start-ups, very broadly defined. But what does media mean in the first place? It’s not only content. Media is the connective tissue of our society. It’s how we communicate, learn, relate, debate, empower, connect, relax. It’s difficult to define what media is because media encompasses so many things. Media is networks. It’s new ways of working in creative industries. Media can be platforms or experiences. It’s emerging technology like VR and AR. To get a better sense of just how broadly we define media, you may want to check out our portfolio.
The biggest mistake founders make in this process is choosing not to apply because they think, “we’re too late” for an accelerator. You’re not. Our program works for companies who’ve raised a $2.5M seed round and for companies where we’re the first money in. If you have a scrappy team that’s willing to put in the work, we’re interested and can help you. We know because we’ve done it before (and our deal is structured on a sliding scale based on the stage of your company. So we meet you where you are at.).
Conversely, you need to have a working prototype. You don’t have to have a product with traction but we are looking for more than a wireframe, an Excel spreadsheet, or an idea. If you’re wondering whether you’ve got a working prototype, ask yourself: can I test this on my users and get feedback on the actual product (not idea) I’m building?
We are seeking for companies that are going to change media for good. We look for ventures that, if successful, will help to create a more informed, inclusive, and/or empathetic society. Additionally, a goal at Matter is cultivating a media landscape that’s diverse and representative of the society in which we live. We are excited to work with founders whose lived experiences are underrepresented in VC and Silicon Valley (underrepresented can mean different things but the guiding definition we like to use is: there are more people like you represented in the population than in the startup industry in the United States).
The last thing we look at are the minimum basic requirements your company needs to meet for us to be able to invest, of which there are five.
You must be for-profit. Not a project, not a non-profit, and not an idea you’re exploring. We invest in companies that have the potential to make money. This is because we believe that the way to maximize impact is to build scalable and sustainable businesses that generate returns.
Your venture must be scalable. This means that there’s a non-linear relationship between your inputs and ability to grow. For example, networks or platforms are usually scalable because because while developing the first technology or platform requires a lot of R&D and building, once it’s built and you achieve your inflection point, maintainence is much easier. You can grow to an enormous number of users without spending much more on development. Conversely, a consultancy business isn’t scalable, because you’re doing bespoke work for every customer.
You must be a Delaware C-corp (or PBC) by the start of the program. Because we are a VC fund, we can only invest in entities that are legally structured to take equity investments. It’s not feasible to invest in other types of entities such as LLCs, S-corps, partnerships, etc.
You must work full-time out of either our SF or NYC office for the duration of the program. If you’re from outside those two cities you’ll need to relocate for five months starting in August. Acceleration doesn’t happen remotely, so you and your co-founders, as well as any essential employees, need to be full time in one of our two locations. So far we’ve had teams successfully relocate from Venezuela, Israel, Hong Kong, Spain, Dubai, Finland, Canada, Argentina, the UK, Ireland, Boston, Chicago, Raleigh, San Diego, Albuquerque, and LA. Once you’re here, you’ve got an amazing and supportive community waiting for you.
You must be committed to your venture full-time. From the time the program begins through two months after demo day, even in a worst case fundraising or cash scenario, you must be all in on your venture. In return, we will work side-by-side with you and put 100% of our efforts into helping you succeed.
Matter Moving Forward
In an effort to meet every founder where they’re at, Matter is now always accepting applications. While the obstacles startups face are not unique (e.g., not enough time, not enough money), each company is. That is why we have shifted to an always accepting applications model. We’ll still start our programs at fixed times of the year, but you can apply at any time. Each cohort will have a deadline by which you’ll need to apply to be considered. If you miss that cutoff date, we will consider you for the following Matter class. For Matter Nine (which is scheduled to begin August 13th, 2018) the deadline by which you’ll need to apply is April 30th. If you apply after April 30th, you will be considered for Matter Ten, which starts in 2019.
So, are you a mission aligned, for-profit, early-stage media venture with the right team that’s ready to change media for good? If you check all the boxes above, then you are in our sweet spot and we’d love to hear from you. The evaluation doesn’t stop there however. We’ll dig into your pitch just like any good investor would. We’ll dig deep into the same types of questions that we ask at every Matter design review (check them out in the picture below).
Applications are open now and you have until April 30th to be considered for Matter Nine. Whether or not you’re one of the twelve companies we accept, we’ve designed the process so that you can learn something about your venture at each step.
Good luck. We can’t wait to build something meaningful together.
Matter is an SF & NYC-based startup accelerator and venture capital firm grounded in the principles of design thinking that supports early-stage media entrepreneurs and mission-aligned media institutions building scalable ventures that make society more informed, inclusive, and empathetic.
Our mission has never been more important than it is today. We are looking for scrappy entrepreneurs inspired to make real change. Our next cohort starts on August 13th. Apply now.