Neil Patel

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Welcome to another exciting episode of the Dealmakers Show, where we delve into the stories of entrepreneurs shaping the future. Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with Matt Luongo, a visionary in the realm of Bitcoin and freedom technology.

Matt’s journey is one of resilience, innovation, and an unwavering pursuit of knowledge. He talks about the challenges he faced with his first company, dealing with failure and subsequent successes. He also reveals tips on raising funding, which are inspiring for budding entrepreneurs.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks

Early Life and the Spark for Technology

Matt was born in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, a place far removed from the tech hubs we typically associate with pioneering entrepreneurs.

Growing up, Georgia was predominantly focused on football, while Matt found his passion in computers, doing a lot of scouting and camping programming computers.

Despite his parents’ professions—his father a carpenter and his mother a psychologist—Matt gravitated towards technology, a passion ignited by a fifth-grade teacher who introduced him to programming.

“I was the computer nerd when everyone cared about football,” Matt recalls. This early interest in computers led him to explore hacking magazines like 2600, where he discovered a love for understanding and exploiting rules.

His high school years were marked by an infamous incident where he enabled classmates to cheat via a local network. Threatened with suspension, Matt simply explained that what he did was actually allowed according to the school policy.

He wasn’t using unauthorized access but had authorization from another user and only allowed people to chat. Although all the other people involved were suspended, Matt walked away without repercussions. Rather than derailing his path, this incident solidified his love for technology and rules.

The Challenges of Being a Gifted Kid

Matt’s intelligence was both a blessing and a curse. He explains that it messed up his worldview because he would get praised for things he didn’t earn and got bored quickly.

He excelled in areas he was passionate about but struggled in subjects like math until he discovered calculus, which he appreciated for its application in physics.

A chemistry teacher was pivotal in his academic turnaround, recognizing Matt’s potential and advocating for his placement in advanced classes. This support was crucial, highlighting the impact of educators who see beyond a student’s immediate performance and see them as individuals.

The letter she wrote asking the calculus teacher to accept Matt ended up being a cornerstone to his engineering education later and everything he’s done professionally.

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The First Foray into Startups: Scholarly

After college, Matt ventured into the tech startup scene with his first company, Scholarly, an ed-tech startup focused on research search. Despite initial enthusiasm, the company struggled. “We had user insights but not business insights,” Matt explains.

Matt and his co-founder worked on a tool to find papers more easily when digging through the citation graph. They had been considering academia and wanted to venture deeper into it.

Their objective was to commercialize recent research. However, all they had were user insights and not business insights.

The venture from 2010 to 2013 taught him valuable lessons about the challenges of raising capital, the importance of understanding venture capital incentives, and the necessity of having a firm grasp on a startup’s technical and business aspects.

As the CTO, Matt focused entirely on coding and interacting with customers. Being a tech guy, he did not exert more control or offer inputs into the other aspects of the business.

Matt and his co-founder realized that getting funding would be easier on the West Coast because of the more advanced infrastructure.

However, they stayed on in Atlanta, raising small checks from angel investors. Eventually, they moved to Boston and tried to get into an accelerator program.

Dealing with Health Issues and Bereavement

While trying to secure funding, Matt faced personal turmoil as his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The stress of managing the startup, coupled with his father’s illness, led to severe health issues for Matt.

As a coping mechanism for his father’s passing, he threw himself into work, pushing harder on coding and working out. He even got a standing desk, believing the exercise to be good for his health.

Matt contracted an autoimmune disorder that left him hospitalized for six months. “The low point was coding at a hospital table with a gown on,” he recalls.

Matt reflects on the misplaced priorities that nearly cost him his life. The demise of Scholarly was particularly painful, and soon after, Matt had to get major abdominal surgery that took him six months to recover. He could no longer continue with his favorite high-impact hobbies, such as martial arts.

Resilience and the Birth of Thesis

Despite these hardships, Matt’s entrepreneurial spirit remained unbroken. After his recovery, he continued working in the Atlanta startup scene as a CTO for hire and stumbled upon an idea that would eventually become Thesis, a Bitcoin and freedom technology venture studio.

The idea sparked from a stack of Starbucks gift cards he found in a drawer that was worth more than $81K. Instead of using them, Matt explored the secondary market for gift cards, which led him to discover Bitcoin as a payment method.

Matt started out by diving in, buying for friends, and reselling them. He worked in a local coffee shop so friends could accept Starbucks gift cards and exchange them for store credit, maybe 60 cents to a dollar.

However, he did not have the cash to set up a proper merchant account. That’s when he discovered Bitcoin.

In late 2013, Matt relaunched his business using Bitcoin and saw immediate success, doing $50K in volume in the first two days. This venture evolved into Fold, a Bitcoin rewards card, and marked the beginning of Thesis.

Today, Thesis is an innovative studio that has launched multiple companies, all focused on leveraging Bitcoin and other technologies to promote financial freedom.

Building Thesis and the Vision for the Future

Thesis operates differently from traditional venture capital firms. It builds companies internally and rarely writes outside checks. “We’re not like normal VCs. We invest off our balance sheet and build things ourselves,” Matt explains, having successfully raised $120M for Thesis.

Storytelling is everything which is something that Matt Luongo was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

This hands-on approach allows Thesis to develop businesses that are deeply aligned with their mission and vision. One of the key insights Matt shares is the importance of understanding who you are selling to—users, customers, or investors.

As Matt opines, for the longest time, people were too afraid to build for consumers in the cryptocurrency space because it’s very easy to get investment to build infrastructure, and it’s very hard for an investor to have the guts to choose an application they think will succeed.

Each group has different needs and expectations, and success comes from aligning product development with these needs. For Thesis, this often means focusing on infrastructure in the cryptocurrency space, an area with significant gaps and opportunities.

As Matt explains, startups in the cryptocurrency sphere don’t have attribution for marketing and growth tools and often encounter obstacles, unlike other startups. People also struggle to get paid in Bitcoin and instead receive payments only in dollars.

Matt’s objective is to bridge the gaps in the space and identify great ideas. He focuses on their existing portfolio, targeted markets, the talent they have available, and how to use the portfolio to get distribution in this new market.

The Impact of Bitcoin and Freedom Technology

Matt’s vision for the future is one where Bitcoin and freedom technology play a central role in financial systems worldwide. “Everyone who wants to will have opted out of the US financial system and primarily hold Bitcoin,” he predicts.

This shift will enable people to take USD loans against their Bitcoin holdings, becoming their own financial institutions without relying on intermediaries like PayPal or Venmo.

This technology represents a lifeline for those living under oppressive regimes or with intense capital controls, offering true ownership of their money and protection from political and financial censorship.

In Matt’s opinion, much of fundraising is about momentum, and you can show momentum in many different ways. However, the best rounds are those that have a competitive dynamic and don’t involve pitting people against each other, especially when they will be working together.

Fundraising can also give entrepreneurs the chance to finally get their ideas validated when too many people don’t believe in their potential.

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Reflecting on his journey, Matt advises aspiring entrepreneurs to stick to their convictions, even when faced with skepticism. “Stick to your guns more,” he says, recounting the early days of Bitcoin when many thought it was a passing fad.

Matt’s persistence and belief in the potential of Bitcoin have paid off, leading to successful ventures under Thesis. His story is a testament to the power of resilience, the importance of a supportive network, and the potential of technology to drive significant societal change.

From a suburban computer nerd to a pioneer in Bitcoin and freedom technology, Matt Luongo’s journey continues to inspire and pave the way for future innovators.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • Matt Luongo’s journey demonstrates that dedication and resilience are crucial for entrepreneurial success, even through personal and professional hardships.
  • Transitioning from a tech-focused role to a more comprehensive business role taught Matt the importance of understanding all aspects of a startup, not just coding.
  • The influence of dedicated teachers and mentors can significantly impact one’s educational and career trajectory.
  • The stress and lifestyle of startup life can take a severe toll on health, underscoring the importance of balancing work and well-being.
  • The failure of his first startup, Scholarly, provided Matt with invaluable lessons about the intricacies of business and the importance of having business insights alongside user insights.
  • Discovering opportunities in everyday situations, like turning Starbucks gift cards into a business, can lead to significant entrepreneurial breakthroughs.
  • With Thesis, Matt emphasizes creating a nurturing environment for new businesses and founders, focusing on projects aligned with his expertise and interests.



For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here). 

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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks

Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

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Neil Patel

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