We were made for this moment.
Matter was founded four years ago on the principle of applying the values of journalism and public media to the methodologies and mindsets of design thinking, entrepreneurship, and venture capital.
We started as a scrappy team of two. After three years and five cohorts, we decided to grow our team to six and then rapidly expanded from San Francisco to New York City. Our first bicoastal cohort was a success and I am in awe of what we were able to accomplish last year. But the way we did it — with lots and lots of flights between SF and NYC — was unsustainable. So post-Demo Day, we’ve had our heads down focused on one thing — building a world-class team in both SF and NYC that will sustainably deepen our impact in both locations.
With the four new hires we are announcing today, the foundation for Matter is now solid in both San Francisco and New York City and we are ready to scale our impact at a time when our mission is more critical than ever.
Each of our new hires understands that an informed public is the bedrock of democracy, and that we need to strengthen our media ecosystem by supporting innovators at mission-aligned media institutions and by investing in entrepreneurs building the future of media.
We believe the seeds of the next great media institutions will be planted this year by courageous entrepreneurs who make the leap to build ventures that speak truth to power, close the empathy gap, and take a radically inclusive approach to amplifying the voices of all people.
We’ve now got the team that’s ready to support 100 start-up ventures and 300 entrepreneurs in 7 bicoastal cohorts over the next 4 years. We’re taking lots of big swings at one of the most critical challenges of our time.
We now have a Director of Program and Director of Investments in both the Innovation Capital of the World and the Media Capital of the World, setting us up to run two cohorts per year by January. We have our first Director of Partnerships, who will be focused full-time on supporting our current partners, designing new offerings, and expanding our partnership base. We also have our first Matter alum joining the Matter leadership team, which will be invaluable in deepening our empathy for the entrepreneur experience.
I’m a huge believer that you should always hire people who are better than you, and we’ve certainly done that. The new Matter team has deep expertise in design thinking, computer science, entrepreneurship, partnerships, finance, strategy, and, of course, media.
As Director of Program (NYC), Roxann Stafford will run all aspects of our NYC accelerator program, including teaching design thinking process, coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs, and growing our East Coast mentor network. Kourtney Bitterly, our first Director of Partnerships, will oversee our partner program, deepen the impact we can have on our current partners, and develop new partnerships. Josh Lucido will lead our NYC investments as Director of Investments (NYC). He’ll source new startups for our program, manage our portfolio, and be intimately involved with the fundraising process. All three will work closely with our NYC-based Program Coordinator, Nikita Shamdasani.
In San Francisco, Ben Werdmuller, who was CEO and technical co-founder of a company in our Matter Three cohort, joins the Matter team as Director of Investments (SF), with a role that mirrors Josh’s on the West Coast. Our current Associate, Pete Mortensen, is now Director of Program (SF), with a role that mirrors Roxann’s. Liz Kopp will continue to run space and global operations out of SF.
We are excited for the new adventures that our Associate, Lara Ortiz-Luis, and our Storyteller, Rebecca Bowring, are off to. Lara will be starting her MBA at MIT-Sloan in the Fall (and traveling the world in between) and Becky will be starting her adventure as a new mother. We are sad to see them go but will be forever grateful for the strong foundation they have laid for Matter going forward.
Learn more about our new teammates from their bios and blog posts below:
“My career path has been one where I’ve brought together many worlds and used my commitment to social change, design thinking, and entrepreneurship to cultivate communities of diverse actors.”
Roxann brings together the worlds of social impact and design thinking. Her background in mechanical engineering, business, and psychology combines the analytical rigor and empathy necessary for sustainable systems design. In her previous role as Director of Design and Learning at the innovation agency SecondMuse, she worked with partners such as Google and the UN on issues from Internet Freedom to civic innovation and disaster relief. She has extensive international experience identifying big system problems in regions from the Pacific Islands to the Caribbean, and cultivating opportunities for entrepreneurship to solve those issues. Roxann has been named a tech innovator by NPR, for whom she is a commentator on diversity and innovation. She previously worked at Jump Associates, and has guest lectured at Stanford’s School of Engineering. She has an MBA from The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
“Our partner institutions feel more vital than ever. I’m inspired to see the iterative and entrepreneurial mindset being seeded in these cultures. I’m excited to work with these organizations as they tackle the changes in technology and behaviors that come their way.”
Kourtney cares deeply about helping media organizations find new models for growth. She comes to Matter from Kickstarter, where she worked as an outreach consultant, having previously headed up Strategic Partnerships at theSkimm. Prior to that, she was part of the Business Development team at IDEO New York, using design thinking to envision the future of media with partners including HBO, MSNBC, and PBS. She’s a former journalist who booked guests and briefed Charlie Rose for interviews, and worked on talking points for Arianna Huffington. She is a Notre Dame alumna, and speaks fluent Spanish.
“Some might say my path to Matter is reminiscent of the drunken walk of the entrepreneur, and they’d be right. I’ve worked across vastly different organizations and teams but two things remained constant: my passion for media, and my desire to do something that mattered.”
A New York City native, Joshjoins Matter from Beautycon Media, a global community for content creators, where he was Director of Finance and Operations. He has a background in financial diligence, strategic negotiations, and startup operations. He has mentored entrepreneurs in the VR and entertainment/fintech spaces, and worked on business strategy with a mobile health startup in Kenya. Josh obtained his MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management, and began his career in production for ABC News and the Directors Guild of America. He’s a sometime hockey goalie and a chocolate milkshake aficionado.
“A healthy media and an informed electorate are integral to democracy: without one, the other can’t function. Amplifying diverse voices, standing up for truth, and ensuring media independence and sustainability are some of the most important things we can be doing.”
Ben is an entrepreneur and software engineer who has spent his career building platforms at the intersection of technology and society. He has a passion for open source development and respectful social technology. In 2014, he co-founded the social learning tool Known, which was part of Matter’s third accelerator program. Prior to that, he was a co-founder of Elgg, an open source social networking platform whose users included Harvard and Stanford Universities, NASA, and The World Bank. He was also CTO at Latakoo, an enterprise video software solution used by media organizations including NBC News. Before joining Matter, he worked on the technical team at Medium.
Originally posted on Medium.