One of the skills I feel like Third Culture Kids and Global Nomads are best suited for because of the constant change involved, need to adapt to many different situations and the ability to deal with a diverse group of people with unique personalities. Today's conversation is with Matt Chambers, Founder of a Software As a Service (SaaS) Company based in Denver called Loxo.
Tayo Rockson: Can you talk a little bit about your self and how you got to where you are today?
Matt Chambers: Absolutely. First off thanks for having me; it’s a pleasure to be part of this impressive community you’ve built.
TR: Thank you!
MC: You are welcome! To answer your question, I’m the founder and CEO of Loxo, an early stage SaaS startup based out of Denver. This is officially my second company, although my first foray was ill conceived at the ripe age of 24.
At the time I wrote a traditional business plan for an Action Sports and Media company called Life Style. I meticulously planned for months; albeit the way they teach in traditional academia and business schools. When the “business plan” was complete, I took out a home equity loan after coming to terms that raising money from my family wasn’t an option and before the ink dried I looked myself in the mirror and realized I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I couldn’t risk my house. I decided a more prudent path was to find the smartest tech entrepreneurs I could surround myself around, work my ass off and effectively earn my PhD in entrepreneurship and that’s just what I did.
On a personal level - I’m a small town guy, from humble beginnings.
My father was the hardest working person I’ve ever come across and still is to this day. He’s been a custom homebuilder for 40 years. He instilled the values that shape the core of who I am today. A strong work ethic and guiding principles of integrity, taking pride in world-class craftsmanship and always doing what’s right when nobody is looking. My mother was a sign language interpreter and social worker. She helped kids with special needs, worked with the deaf-blind and handicapped.
My upbringing was central to the person I am, but also at the crux of what drives me.
TR: Why do you feel like the start up culture was something that you identified with so much?
MC: I think it was less about consciously identifying with the startup culture, and more the fact that it seemed as if the universe pulled me into it. When I was a junior in college, I decided to take advantage of a study abroad program in Australia.
During my trip, I was able to do some soul searching to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Before I knew it, I was writing a business plan and from that point forward I started spending my free time self educating; learning about startups, reading every business book I could get my hands on and how the hell I find that secret path to becoming successful. Now that I look back, I never made a conscience decision to be an entrepreneur – but I took that first step.
Startups epitomize everything I love and gravitate towards. Being passionate and relentless towards a goal, kazien, continuous innovation, and leading an unproven concept with limited resources in a hyper competitive and constantly evolving environment. Even small victories that come to life with a team in this climate are extremely gratifying. The ping pong tables, kegs, flip-flops and long boards are a major bonus, but the cultural aspect that resonates with me the most is seeing the passion at the grassroots level - the young people who are so hungry to succeed they risk everything; surrounded by amazing mentors in an ecosystem of like minded individuals.
TR: You used to be at Qualvu. That's where we met when I was an account manager for Keystone Learning Systems. When did you know that you wanted to venture out on your own and start Loxo?
MC: I knew before I ever started. The funny thing was I joined the CEO as the first employee to help build the pitch deck a couple months before he had the seed round to pay me. I jumped at the opportunity even though I had no clue how pathetic that first paycheck would be. It didn’t matter because I recognized the opportunity to earn my PhD in entrepreneurship on someone else’s dime. I told him one day I’m going to start my own company; I need to be ready when that day comes.
As the business grew I pushed myself to learn as much as possible during each phase. I spent as much time reading and researching, as I did executing. Very rarely in a startup someone has the answer for you, so I developed an approach to creative problem solving to just figure it out. I also always had this feeling in the back of my mind that I needed to prepare myself so when the day came I wouldn’t let my team and employees down, which was a huge motivator.
As Qualvu grew to over 100 people, we raised anther round and launched an office in EMEA we started to transition into company building phase – the culture went through some drastic changes. I really struggled with accepting certain inevitabilities and at the time didn’t understand how common they were in venture funded tech companies.
My loyalty and fear of taking the leap kept me around much longer than I should have stayed but another thing I think is in the entrepreneurial mindset is timing. Knowing when the optimal timing is to make a key decision. It’s not just about making the right decision, but making the right decision at the right time.
TR: Can you talk about Loxo and why you feel there is a need in the marketplace for your solution?
MC: Loxo is a SaaS platform, we are building the next generation ATS – “The talent intelligence platform”.
The hiring model is broken, and there is no effective solution to identify the best possible candidates for any given job opportunity. Conversely, there is no effective online personalized career resource.
Loxo will enable our customers to find the best possible mutual match for any given career opportunity.
By the way, I’m sure you’re wondering…Loxo means representative trajectory in Greek. I thought it perfectly depicted the concept of accelerating one’s career path.
TR: Funny enough yes I was! Haha thanks for the enlightenment. So what would you say is your long term vision?
MC: My long-term vision is ultimately to help ambitious people reach their greatest potential. That is what burns at my heart and is my passion. In order to put a viable business model around that vision I had to do a lot of customer development and competitive analysis to identify the opportunity first, then figure out the strategy to increase the probability of success while driving towards that vision.
There are literally hundreds of traditional Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). There is little differentiation at the top, and the “innovations” in the industry are focused on social job board sharing. There has been a dramatic dip in the reliance of job boards. Companies and recruiters pay a lot of money and get abysmal results, while companies struggle to find good people.
Loxo is creating an industry-leading platform by helping our customers be significantly more successful. In the process we think it will help evolve the hiring model.
TR: Awesome! I think you are really hitting on something that we need to fix and I can't wait to see where it goes!
MC: Thank you very much!
TR: Anytime! So what is one piece of advice you can give to young entrepreneurs and job seekers today?
MC: Be true to yourself and you will never fail. I think the pressure for budding entrepreneurs or anyone in life is to succumb to the tendency to let the people around you shape who you become, how you act and the path you ultimately take. If you ever want to have a say in where you end up, let alone your vision – you need to have the courage to forge your own path and not worry about what anyone else thinks. Figure out where you want to go, and take your time to decide when you will stop at nothing to be successful; the day you cross that line you have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to reach your first key milestone. If you’re not going to stick with it, don’t start until you are ready because it’s not an easy road. If you don’t leave any other option and refuse to quit, more than likely you’ll end up seeing a version of your goal come to fruition.
TR: What or who is your biggest inspiration and why?
MC: My grandmother. She is the rock and example for our entire family. She grew up in the great depression on a farm in Montana with 12 siblings, put herself through med school, and raised a family on her own after her husband passed away when my father was young. She epitomizes integrity and what character means – to do what is right when nobody else is looking. I think that is extremely rare in society today, and she’s set an example that has spanned multiple generations. She has no clue how much we all look up to her. She is 92 and still sharp as a tack.
TR: Digital, mobile, and content marketing are three of the biggest buzzwords right now. How do you think these three can be used by software companies to optimize their bottom line position?
MC: At the end of the day, those buzz words are core elements of a business model. Channels, content, and communicating that content to targeted segments. Content Marketing is fundamental for communicating with your target audience in the digital landscape.
We are at the greatest time in history to leverage online channels and social networks to reach an audience at the speed and scope never before possible. Why would you start a brick and mortar business when you could spin up an app with the potential to reach hundreds of millions of people, with a lower cost and shorter learning curve? That’s why there is a buzz!
Looking at it from the other end of the spectrum towards the Enterprise, the shift to embrace these mediums has forced traditional businesses to reconsider their entire models, or face extinction. This is mind-blowing. Look at Blockbuster vs. Netflix, or even what Wal-Mart is doing with offering online delivery to try and stay out ahead of Amazon’s upcoming food delivery service. Or MOOCS and the emerging Developer Boot camps that churn out 30 students every 120 days with graduates getting offers for $70k vs. a 4 year graduate at the leading Universities with a degree outside of the demand curve struggling to find work.
Every sector in the economy is now online or in transition and trying to reach the constituents wherever they are on demand, which happens to be mobile.
There is too much information and it’s difficult to measure the ROI. Identify key influencers, deliver the right message, and optimize the message to the highest yielding people that can help drive the bottom line. 5 years ago, none of this was possible at the price point and level it is today; I can’t imagine where we are going to be 5 years from now.
So to me, digital and mobile are really just platforms or channels that allow business to deliver their value proposition to their audience. Optimize that and your bottom line will benefit.
TR: What are you currently working on and where can we find you now?
MC: My entire focus is on building a world class SaaS platform that is measured by the degree to which customers use it and refer it to others. Loxo is in a white-hot market space; I’m learning so much every day, I’m surrounding myself around an incredible team, a special entrepreneurial think-tank group, passionate advisors and a growing community at the new Industry space in Denver, which has some names you may have heard of such as Google and Uber ;)…please swing in and visit anytime.
Thanks so much for the invitation to chat Tayo! Keep doing what you are doing and if I can ever be a helpful resource for any of your audience don’t hesitate to reach out.
TR: You are most certainly welcome and it is my absolute pleasure!