It’s a well-kept secret that, until very recently, Matter has been the work of just two full-time individuals, punching well above their weight. For most of last year, Corey and Lara were running so fast and relentlessly that they didn’t even have time to interview candidates for the new roles they needed to fill!
All that’s changing, because Matter is now growing its workforce to a robust team of 6. How are we going to scale our impact with so many more hands on deck? Stay tuned to A Matter-Driven Narrative as we reveal what we have in store for 2016.
For now, let’s take a closer look at the narratives of each Matter team member:
COREY FORD, MANAGING PARTNER
“The bottom line is that it’s about people and it’s about culture. Leaders are the signal-generators of cultures. My job is to find the right people who fit and reinforce this culture of experimentation. Much of my work isn’t about predicting the future of media, but creating environments where people can realize their full potential, reach for their dreams, fall if necessary, and get back up. There is no place in media that really enables you to do that.”
Corey’s always been laser-focused, fleet-footed, and a natural leader, starting out as captain of the football team in high school. After discovering documentary film-making as an intern at National Geographic, which led him to jump out of an airplane as part of his “job”, Corey decided to “go off the beaten path” and major in Journalism as a Morehead scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Corey’s first job out of college was a role at PBS’s Frontline, and over 6 years he worked on 17 different films, for which his teams won an Emmy and a duPont-Columbia Gold Baton Award. But he was also worried: “10 years ago I felt the world was about to change very dramatically, especially in terms of media, and that we were not set up to survive the transition.” He moved to Silicon Valley to learn about entrepreneurship and innovation at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he found strong teaching about later stage entrepreneurship but little advice on how to take the first step.
It was at Stanford’s Institute of Design that Corey had his lightbulb moment — he fell in love with design thinking, a problem-solving methodology often used in big consulting projects, and realized it could be applied to early stage media entrepreneurship. Corey then taught at the “d.school”, helping connect it with the John S. Knight Fellowship Program, and later built a pre-team, pre-idea incubator for Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s VC firm, Innovation Endeavors.
Initially supported by Public Radio Exchange, the Knight Foundation, and KQED, Corey co-founded Matter three years ago with the mission of using the startup accelerator model to drive innovation in media. Since then his team has led 83 entrepreneurs and 35 startup companies through the 20-week program, held 10 Demo Days, brought 9 partners on board, and made 5 seed investments. He sees a lot of overlap between his job leading Matter and his early days as a documentary film producer. “You’re the hub of a creative wheel,” he says. “I was always good at that, creating processes and systems, working with different people to build something creative that has impact, and ship it to the world. They used to be documentaries and now they are media ventures.”
Corey lives in Oakland with his wife Jenna, whom he met in a busy newsroom on 9/11, and his daughters, Ella, 6, and Kaia, 3. To learn more about the story of how he came to do what he does, watch his Tedx Talk.
LARA ORTIZ-LUIS, ASSOCIATE
“I grew up in an era of media innovation so it was already in my DNA to be thinking about new ways of doing media. There’s something really refreshing about working in mission-driven tech — everybody who’s part of our community is intrinsically motivated to make the world a better place through challenging the status quo, and that’s incredibly powerful.”
Lara was born in Toronto, Canada, to doctor parents who had emigrated there from the Philippines. They moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when Lara was 6 to join the family restaurant business. Lara studied Human Biology at Stanford University with a focus on women’s reproductive rights. There she co-created All of 100 with a group of fellow students. They wrote 100 words every day for 4 years and then published a book of their best creations.
Lara’s passion for cooking comes from her grandmother, the family’s culinary matriarch. Her first independent foray into entrepreneurship was a side project called Chefing: helping kids learn how to cook for themselves post-college. But Lara’s main goal was to find a career that would be impactful and humanitarian-focused. She was torn between medical and law school. After graduation she worked at a public interest law firm bringing a gender class action lawsuit against Walmart.
Joining Matter two years ago as Program Coordinator gave Lara the chance to merge her academic rigor with her creative side. In September 2015, she was promoted to Associate. She found Matter such an interesting proposition because it’s mission-driven and for-profit. “I wanted to take a bet on the fact this could have greater social impact in the long run,” she says. In her spare time, Lara can be found in the kitchen, playing volleyball, hiking, camping or hanging out with her film-maker husband and their friends and family.
PETE MORTENSEN, ASSOCIATE
“I walked away from journalism because it was hopelessly broken and impossible to fix from the inside. And I hated interviewing people at holiday parades, asking if they enjoy having fun and getting turned down for comments. But I still deeply want to help make journalism better because I really believe in its potential. That’s why I joined Matter.”
Pete hails from Midland, Michigan, which has two famous exports — Steve Shelley, drummer in the band Sonic Youth, and the Dow Chemical Company. Like many in the city, his grandfather was a chemist, but Pete had other ideas: he wanted to be a print journalist and started his training on the school newspaper.
Pete met his future wife working on nyou magazine at Northwestern University, where his degree courses included Literary Journalism and Machiavellian Shakespeare. After a stint as a features writer and copy editor with a daily newspaper in Michigan, he moved to California’s wine country and wrote about rock/paper/scissor competitions. Playing up his Apple junkie credentials, he went on to write for Wired.com and Cult of Mac.
It was at Jump Associates, an innovation consulting firm based on design thinking principles, as Matter is, that Pete co-authored the award-winning book Wired to Care, about empathy as a source of business growth. More recently he worked at Jetpack Consulting with a team bringing a more entrepreneurial approach to consulting. As Matter’s newest Associate, his responsibilities include running the program, managing dealflow and mentoring. Pete lives in San Francisco with his wife and baby daughter, Iris. He likes comic books, running marathons and brewing dirty craft beer and wild ales in his kitchen.
LIZ KOPP, OFFICE MANAGER
“I was excited for this opportunity at Matter because design thinking is not only a framework we talk about, it is ingrained in the practice and culture of being a part of the Matter community. It’s the structure we use to push forward human-centric, ground-up, proactive, and creative prototypes.”
Liz was born in Los Angeles into a family of educators. Her mom was a teacher, and her father an engineer. Liz describes herself as a “creative soul”, one of life’s observers, and as a child was a proficient rhythmic gymnast.
Liz studied International Development at UCLA, with a Minor in Urban Regional Planning. One of her university research projects was about parking meters, which she insists are surprisingly interesting. Towards the end of her degree, Liz took an internship at the legal branch monitoring the U.S. Department of Transportation where she was excited to see how change management works within a large organization — but ultimately found government processes were too slow and sticky. She also worked on Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign.
After moving to San Francisco in 2008, she experimented heavily with craft and multimedia content creation, playing into her interest in cities, structures and system design: “every day was an art project”. Her artistic side also came out in her work at music festivals for environmental non-profits, but was balanced by a stint as in appraisal compliance for a mortgage-lending startup that later went bust.
Liz then landed a position at an ed-tech company that uses design thinking to bring about change in school districts through personalized learning. She took on just about every conceivable role at the company and says “it was a great place for a lifelong learner.” Her responsibilities at Matter are similarly multifaceted, including HR, budgeting and all aspects of space and operations, to which she brings a human-centered, prototype-driven approach. She also excels at dreaming up ingenious gift ideas for people’s birthdays. Liz lives in San Francisco with her musician boyfriend. In her spare time, she likes to explore, bike, go to underground music gigs and wander around the city.
BECKY BOWRING, STORYTELLER
“Working for big legacy media companies, I became disenchanted. We had no idea who our audience was, and knew even less about what content they wanted. At the same time, after interviewing tons of CEOs, I was madly in love with startup culture. Matter gives me extraordinary access to the entrepreneurs who are building the future of media, and the community that’s nurturing them.”
Becky was born in Wales, UK, a place with more sheep than people. She was a bookworm child who wrote lots of poetry and singlehandedly published the school newspaper. Becky’s dad was an entrepreneur who started a software business in the early days of personal computing.
Becky studied English & European Literature at Warwick University and initially thought she might become an academic, but after completing a Master’s Degree at the University of Southampton, she wanted more real world experience and became a researcher on BBC documentaries. Inspired by great war reporters including Kate Adie and Orla Guerin, she then decided to go to journalism school. Her first jobs were as a freelance radio reporter and newsreader (the pay was terrible), and a producer for Sky News in London. In 2009, she hopped across the English Channel to join French TV news channel France 24 in Paris, where she co-founded a technology show called Tech 24, and anchored breaking news events such as the ouster of former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak.
Becky’s next leap was to China. In smog-riddled Beijing, she trained Chinese journalists in writing for broadcast and on-air presenting. Then she moved to San Francisco where she worked as a video journalist for a small international news agency. After a spell producing and editing content for startups, she was thrilled to be selected as Matter’s first Storyteller, a role that involves drawing out the insights of the Matter community and sharing them with the wider world. Out of the office, Becky loves learning languages, swing dancing and riding a tandem bicycle with her Siberian Atomic Physicist husband. And she’s pretty wildly excited about Virtual Reality journalism.
NIKITA SHAMDASANI, CHIEF OF STAFF
“Before first interning for Matter two years ago, I thought words like “entrepreneurship,” “disruption,” and “innovation” were buzzwords. Matter showed me how the principles behind those words can lead to finding solutions that are better, different, and disruptive. I’m back at Matter for that environment of constant learning and the chance to support great ventures.”
Nikita was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to parents who had emigrated to the United States from Delhi, India. Her dad has 6 brothers and sisters and the family has always been incredibly close — in fact they run several businesses together, the largest of which sells uniforms to law enforcement and the military. Nikita studied Political Science as her Major with a Minor in Business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was, like Corey, a Morehead-Cain Scholar. In her second year at university, she heard Corey speak about the “drunken walk of the entrepreneur” at the first UNC TEDx conference. Her immediate reaction was that she wanted to work for him.
Nikita joined Matter as an intern during the inaugural accelerator program in 2013. The experience taught her a huge amount about prototyping, since the program was itself a prototype, as well as about the importance of failure, flexibility and adapting to ambiguity: “Failure terrified me. But because I was able to see Matter One, I could see some things that didn’t go right that we quickly had to modify. There was an attitude of…let’s move on, let’s fix it.” She played a key role in (spontaneously) getting Demo Day New York City off the ground.
Nikita had a long-standing interest in consulting but also always wanted to have her own business. She and her friends were “always coming up with startup ideas”, ranging from shower cap for luggage on Indian taxis to UNC’s official mobile app, carolinaGO. She was especially interested in ways to empower women, even more so as an intern at Ellevate, a professional women’s network, where she noticed how few resources there were for women who aren’t white and middle class.
After graduation, Nikita helped build a small donor strategy for MiracleFeet, a design thinking-powered social enterprise that makes low-cost braces for children with clubfoot. Then she worked at Deloitte doing federal consulting that involved getting government departments to share core services. She stayed in touch with Corey and kept a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge on her phone screen, hoping one day to return to San Francisco. When the opportunity arose to join as Matter’s Chief of Staff, she couldn’t resist: “I was so excited to see how quickly Matter is growing and becoming more and more noticed.” One of her principal tasks is to manage Corey’s hectic schedule, as well as working on special projects. Outside work, Nikita loves brainstorming startup ideas, listening to podcasts, and doing Kayla Itsines workouts.
Matter supports entrepreneurs building scalable media ventures that create a more informed, connected, and empowered society. We invest seed capital and provide intensive support through our human-centered, prototype-driven start-up accelerator in San Francisco. Learn more by reading stories from our entrepreneurs, partners, and us and watching our latest video about the accelerator experience.
Matter is committed to creating a diverse environment and is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, or veteran status.