Matter – Building an agency, businesses, and team while bootstrapping

1 year and 10 days ago I started 4 Weeks to Launch, with the goal of launching a new product every month. Today I’m launching Matter–a product studio that creates sustainable businesses.

Balance side hustles with work life

When I moved to New York City a year ago I focused on building my own products and 4 Weeks to Launch was born (read about it here). The year started off well enough–I consulted with an interesting startup for half the week, which allowed me to spend the rest of my time building side projects. In 6 months I launched 4 “startups.” But then then my client pivoted and I was out of work.

I didn’t want the same situation where I was dependent on one client, so aimed to have at least two concurrent clients at all times. Redundancy is smart, right? I reached out to my network to see who else was in need of my skills and quickly got a few introductions.

One month later I had outdone myself. I had 4 clients and while I’d solved the problem of consistency, I’d sacrificed my free time. How was I supposed to balance this equation? I set out to finish the work I had committed to, but meanwhile I was trying to find a system to sustainably balance side projects with consulting. How could I have predictable income and time to explore new ideas?

What is Matter?

Today I’m launching Matter. Matter is a product studio. That’s a BS term I made up, but I’m sticking to it. So what is Matter?

Matter is a product agency. Matter works with startups to improve their products and development, and with established companies that want product innovation. We help build and manage engineering teams, implement product development best practices, and build products, prototypes and MVPs.

Matter is a startup studio. Matter builds startups. We build businesses in-house that are designed to be self-sustaining. Each business aims to be profitable in 6 months. If not, we shelve it. We’re not an incubator where applicants apply to work with us. We build our own ideas, that our team has picked, that we run. And we don’t build pie-in-the-sky potential billion dollar startups like you typically see in Silicon Valley. We focus on niche and revenue producing businesses.

We are a team. More importantly (and to my great relief), this isn’t the Elijah Show any more. This about something bigger. We’re a team of builders who can think. Thinkers who do. And we’re all in it together. The agency is the studio and the studio is the agency.

Matter Product Studio.

Biz #1 and the Journey Ahead

My biggest takeaway from last year was that working alone sucks. Matter is starting as a team of 4, with a breadth of experience across multiple industries (more on the team soon!). Not only am I happier working alongside just as hungry and ambitious people, it also increases my bus factor. It now takes 4 buses to kill Matter, not one. That’s what I call progress!

We’ve already begun our journey as a team with the pre-launch of our first business, The Greeting Card Club. Sign up, tell us a loved one’s birthday, and get a pre-stamped envelope + card sent to you 2 weeks before their birthday; just sign and send. We’re currently doing a referral campaign. Sign up if you want to remember your mom’s birthday for free. This is the first of many products we will launch in 2018.

The mission of 4 Weeks to Launch was to build products quickly and create a repeatable process for launching them. Matter is doing the same, but with extra emphasis on building sustainable businesses. The Greeting Card Club may never sell for $1B, but that’s not the point. It solves a very specific need (that I always seem to have) and we launched it in under 2 weeks. It’s these types of startups that we’re exploring.

4 Weeks to Launch has grown up! It’s evolved into Matter. Just like 4 Weeks to Launch, Matter wants to define the best process for launching startups. In less nebulous terms, we want to define a repeatable framework for launching profitable businesses; from idea validation to go-to-market strategy. And like 4 Weeks to Launch we will share all of our thundering successes and abysmal failures along the way.

In the upcoming months the Matter team will share more insights into how we launch our businesses, pick our ideas, and run our product studio.

Excited, intrigued or dissatisfied? Send this to “that” entrepreneur you know. !

Thanks for reading.

Elijah + Matter Team

Why I do what I do

Tl;dr

Extreme Vacation Deals done!

I finished the Extreme Vacation Deals. 5ish weeks ago I didn’t know how to build a mobile app, and now it’s done for Android and iOS. Pretty awesome, even if I still have the database in Dropbox (can read about that here). We hooked up Slack so every time a customer “books” a property we get a notification and can complete the booking via email, PayPal, and manual processes. Most of my time last week went into building the landing page, designing the app logo, and tweaking the apps.

Tomorrow we submit to the App Store and Play Store! I’ll publish links to the apps once they’re approved, but for now, a little insight into why I am doing 4 Weeks to Launch.

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When I was 5 years old, I went through a phase where I would reply, “why and how?” to just about everything. Yeah, I was a fun kid. What fascinated me was how you can endlessly drill down with these questions, and down, and down. To this day I still get into the “why” mindset every few months and question everything. Why 4 Weeks to Launch? What keeps me going, even when sometimes I feel like I’m failing? Why blog; why publicly? Why care about passive income?

As much fun as it is to build multiple products, I know that I could build a higher quality product by focusing on one idea for a longer period of time. I also spend a lot of time updating 4 Weeks to Launch, further taking away from my product quality. And in truth, I don’t even like blogging. So why do all of this?

Why: 4 Weeks to Launch

Doing something difficult is rewarding. That deep sense of satisfaction from using willpower to accomplish a hard goal is the best feeling I know. The feeling of meaningful action.

I build a new product every 4 weeks because it’s hard. It’s hard to build something in a limited amount of time, with limited resources. But by doing so, it forces me to grow and to solve problems in new ways. This growth is crucial to all of us. Struggling, failing, and achieving are powerful experiences, and sometimes even scary. That’s why some leave their dreams on shelves; pretty things to look at but not to touch let alone fulfill.

Why: Blog

I blog to hold myself accountable. Publicly posting about my failures, progress, or lack of progress keeps me on task. Where I am sometimes weak in follow through, I delegate to a system that forces me to keep going, i.e. blogging. I feel guilty when I don’t work; not the nicest of motivators but it sure as hell works. I’ve made a public promise and despite no monetary progress so far, I want to keep that promise alive.

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Why: Passive income

Passive income is more than just money to me, it’s a milestone. Money is a means to wealth. Whether wealth is time with your kids or travelling the world, money can (typically) get you there. However why care about passive income since my personal definition of success/wealth is building products?

In a hyphenated word, self-mastery. Passive income to me means that I’ve beaten the system. To the world, our society, and to my mind, that means escaping the 9 to 5 rat race. Not trading time for money. That is meaningful to me. To have power over time. And it’s meaningful because I chose to give it meaning.

Self-mastery has been a personal goal for 10 years. It’s why I blog, why I build startups, why I focus on passive income. I want to beat the system and to have no master other than myself.

Everyone has his/her own purpose in life, but it’s up to you to decide what it’s going to be. Someone else’s purpose isn’t yours, just as much as your experiences aren’t others’. That extends to all the advice from parents and gurus and therapists. It’s what you put meaning into that defines you; what matters to you, is what matters.

I chose to work hard to get closer to my ideal self and self-mastery. This means building products. This means 4 Weeks to Launch…at least for now!

If you’re looking for inspiration:

Question: What are you working towards, and why? Let me know by email, reply/comment, or phone.

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