Gen-Z Founder Interview #1: JZ @ Matrix
Hey MealMe friends!
A lot of people have been asking our founders, Will and Matt, questions about building a startup and the insights they've gained along the way. They love these questions! I've also found that many people are curious to know these same things from all sorts of founders.
Founders are the true snowflakes of the world: all incredibly unique, quirky, and insightful in their own ways. They also each bring to the table a set of different life experiences, ambitions, and skills.
I am fortunate enough to live and work at an incredible startup in San Francisco, where there is an abundance of young innovators from all walks of life. In the spirit of spreading the entrepreneurial gospel, I thought it would be awesome to start a series where I interview Gen Z founders and capture some of their best candid wisdom!
My first subject (who also happens to be my housemate): JZ, founder of Matrix. This 20 year old founder, originally from the Bay Area, is building a blockchain-based gamified platform for creators to improve audience retention and democratize content production.
Now, without further ado, let's get into the interview!
Did you go to college? If so, where and what did you study? Nope. I started working on Matrix in 2019, while I was still in high school. I actually raised money before graduating high school, and have been working on the company since!
What is Matrix, and how did you come up with the idea for Matrix? I've been interested in Crypto for a long time. I also started watching E-Sports a lot in middle school and high school, and I noticed this big problem in E-Sports where fans weren't really connected with their teams. So I started thinking, "how do you combine Crypto and E-Sports to fix this?" Well, I realized you could create a more interactive fan experience by building crowdfunded teams using Crypto. As the idea grew, however, we realized that the market wasn't ready for it and we took a pivot to find a better market fit. That's basically how we ended up with Matrix as it exists today - we think of it as a portal into the Metaverse. We enable fan-curated content that accelerates engagement and democratizes entertainment, introducing monetary and quality upsides for creators and consumers alike.
What is the hardest part about being a founder? Good question - VCs don't ask me that one. Hardest part about running a startup at this moment is hiring, but is that really the hardest part about being a founder? I think the hardest part about being a founder encompasses more than that. I'd probably say that its making the right decisions. This is the first time I've founded a company, so I don't really have a good way of knowing what's right and what's wrong - what works and what doesn't. I just have to rely on my best judgement, execute, and see what works. I actually think hiring is a subset of this in some ways - its really hard to know who and what to look for when you bring someone onto your team.
What is your favorite part about being a founder? I love being able to work with the people I want to work with every day, and the freedom that I have. I like being in the driver's seat and having control of what I do - I'm not working for other people and I basically have total creative freedom to spend time on the things I care about.
How do you find your investors, and how did you get into that ecosystem when you first decided to raise? Oh yeah, its actually been entirely through Twitter. Every single dollar I've raised has come through Twitter. I think my first check was from Village Global - we had applied online the first time and got rejected. But I ended up becoming Twitter friends with this woman who was co-founders with a partner at Village Global, and decided to reapply. We didn't really change anything with our application, just resent it. This time around, however, because I had a connection at the firm, they accepted us. Literally everything has come through Twitter connections, that's even how we most recently sourced our lead investor! I honestly don't understand how founders could survive without using Twitter - its an access point into the ecosystem and a great way to meet important people.
How do you manage your time as a founder? Honestly, its pretty fluid, I do stuff as it needs to be done. It kind of goes back to that best part of being a founder, I have total freedom over how I choose to spend my time which can make it hard to manage. There are many distractions, I could easily just play games all day, so it definitely requires a level of diligence and self-control.
Where do you see your company in 5 years? I think if we lock on and focus on this vision, we end up being the portal to the Metaverse as I mentioned earlier - the place where people can onboard from the physical world into each individual creator's universe. We want to answer the question of how fans can earn their way into these universes, and craft a space where you can earn actual ownership of everything you consume. I think that's pretty unique: we haven't really been able to truly own the creators of our content before. Ownership has been removed from a lot of society recently and I think its something we'd like to bring back in a democratized way. I think it facilitates wealth distribution and rewards people for their consumption. I also think having ownership over the culture you consume is very important - this is a very Marxist idea. If we aren't just fed the information we consume, but rather, can exert some control over that as a consumer, you can push culture where you want to see it go rather than having that dictated by the previous controllers of the system.
FOOD QUESTIONS (an essential here @ Meal Me)
Favorite restaurant to order from? In-N-Out for sure; that place is so good.
Favorite dish to cook? Cup noodles. I can also make eggs, but I'm much better at cooking cup noodles than eggs.
Shoutout to JZ for taking the time to talk with me, super excited to see where Matrix goes. Audience, let me know if you enjoy this type of content, I'd like to make it a series!