In the vast landscapes of Minnesota, where winters are cold, and summers are serene, Matt Martin found his roots. In a recent interview, he took us through the remarkable journey that led him from the world of politics to the heart of Silicon Valley, sharing insights and pivotal moments that shaped his career.
His is a story of resilience, adaptability, and the pursuit of one’s true passion. Clockwise, with its innovative approach to time efficiency, stands as a testament to Matt’s ability to identify and address critical pain points in the corporate world.
Let’s dive into the narrative of a visionary entrepreneur who turned challenges into opportunities.
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Embracing Pragmatic Progressivism in the Heartland
Growing up in Minnesota, Matt fondly reflects on the beauty of his upbringing. The state’s cold winters and picturesque lakes served as the backdrop to a childhood filled with sledding and summers that felt like a dream.
However, it wasn’t just the weather that left a lasting impression on him; it was the spirit of pragmatic progressive politics rooted in the Scandinavian blood that runs deep in Minnesota.
Matt’s early exposure to politics ignited a passion for bringing people together to achieve significant change. This spirit of collaboration and impact would later shape his journey in the world of software, where he saw the potential to make a widespread difference.
A Political Detour to Dartmouth and Law School
Leaving the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Matt ventured to Dartmouth for his undergraduate studies. However, his political bug followed him, leading him to intern with his then-senator and work on various Senate campaigns, including those of Senator Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.
Law school soon beckoned, a decision fueled by the desire to contribute to government, public policy, or politics. Little did Matt know that this detour would lead him to the world of corporate law, where he found himself as a litigator in a large law firm.
The Corporate Realm: Lessons Learned as a Litigator
As a litigator, Matt gained valuable insights into the nuances of business dynamics. Navigating through the complexities of corporate disputes, he learned to appreciate the shades of gray in every situation.
The experience taught him that business is rarely black and white; it’s a sphere of nuance, decisions, and occasional encounters with truly bad actors.
While the corporate world provided stability and a substantial income, Matt felt a growing restlessness. The predictability of the legal path and the lack of a creative outlet began to wear on him.
The realization that he enjoyed creating – whether through drawing, painting, or engineering software – became a driving force, leading him to question his trajectory.
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The Steve Jobs Moment: A Leap into Silicon Valley
Matt’s journey took a significant turn during a moment of reflection triggered by Steve Jobs’ passing. Inspired by Jobs’ philosophy that doing great work requires a genuine passion for what you do, Matt decided to pursue his true passion: software.
Despite lacking a computer science degree or an MBA, he took a leap of faith, moved to the Bay Area, and dove headfirst into the world of startups.
His initial forays into the startup scene involved taking substantial pay cuts, proving himself, and gradually making his way up. Matt found himself at RelateIQ, a company that would later be acquired by Salesforce, providing him with a ringside view of the full lifecycle of a startup.
At the time, he was managing the front-end software engineering team.
The Birth of Clockwise: A Solution to Time Inefficiency
Post-acquisition, as Matt settled into his role with SalesforceIQ, a realization struck him: the inefficiency of time in modern organizations.
Inspired by the success of his previous venture, RelateIQ, he teamed up with Gary Lerhaupt to explore a solution to the shared, unregulated nature of time in corporate environments.
Their brainchild, Clockwise, aims to optimize and coordinate time efficiently, addressing a fundamental issue plaguing workplaces. However, finding a product-market fit and convincing individuals to adopt a non-existent product category proved to be a challenge.
Switching Defaults and Finding Success
The turning point for Clockwise came when they flipped the default approach. Instead of users opting into recommendations, Clockwise introduced an opt-out system, automating the process to make it seamless.
This decision proved to be the catalyst, leading to widespread adoption and unlocking the organic growth that every startup dreams of.
Clockwise secured a Seed round from Accel Partners in 2017, providing the runway needed to refine and scale the product. Today, with $76 million in funding, Clockwise has become a transformative force in major organizations, optimizing schedules and improving productivity.
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Navigating the Funding Waves
Venture funding can be a tumultuous journey, filled with highs and lows. Matt reflects on this, emphasizing the uniqueness of each funding round. He expresses gratitude for the high-quality investors on board, highlighting the positive impact they’ve had on the company’s trajectory.
Some of the major investors backing the company include John Lilly at Greylock Partners, Ajay Agarwal at Bain Capital Ventures, Lucas Swisher at Coatue, and Steve Loughlin at Accel.
Matt also worked with Atlassian Ventures and Slack Fund. Their support has added validation to the concept and its massive opportunity.
In essence, Matt and his team have solved the issue of productivity inside organizations and having fragmented schedules that people aren’t happy with.
Matt distinguishes between rounds driven by necessity and those born out of opportunity. His experience spans both scenarios, providing insights into the diverse challenges and strategies involved.
This dynamic approach to fundraising speaks volumes about Clockwise’s adaptability and strategic foresight.
Crafting a Vision for Personalized Productivity
The core of Clockwise’s vision revolves around empowering individuals to optimize their schedules for both work and personal life. Matt envisions a future where every knowledge worker has a schedule they genuinely love, enhancing not only productivity but overall well-being.
The concept extends beyond work, embracing the seamless integration of personal and professional commitments. The vision comes to life through a personalized calendar assistant for each user.
From minor details like adding Zoom links to meetings to complex tasks like tracking quarterly goals, Clockwise aims to be the ultimate facilitator.
Matt paints a picture of a world where individuals no longer expend mental resources on scheduling intricacies. The result? A harmonious collaboration where organizations thrive, fueled by employees with schedules tailored to maximize productivity and satisfaction.
A Lesson in Founder Psychology
In the midst of entrepreneurial challenges, Matt imparts a valuable piece of advice to his younger self and fellow founders. He emphasizes the importance of separating personal self-worth from the success or failure of the startup.
Drawing from his own competitive nature, he acknowledges the struggle many founders face in detaching themselves from the business’s outcomes. The analogy of sailing through the entrepreneurial journey as if crossing an ocean resonates deeply.
Matt encourages founders to patiently navigate the challenges, understanding that smooth seas make for a more manageable and fulfilling voyage.
By distancing personal value from business performance, founders can operate with a clearer business mindset, taking risks, facing setbacks, and waking up each day ready to navigate the next challenge.
The Journey Continues: Lessons from the Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster
As Clockwise continues to scale new heights, the lessons learned from Matt’s entrepreneurial roller coaster are invaluable.
From embracing change to navigating the uncertainties of product-market fit, Matt’s story is an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to turn challenges into opportunities and make a lasting impact on the business landscape.
In the coming years, Clockwise is expected to make a significant impact on how we manage our most valuable resource—time.
Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:
- The transition from a background in politics to the heart of Silicon Valley illustrates the unexpected turns a career can take and the importance of following one’s true passion.
- The experience as a litigator provided valuable insights into business dynamics, emphasizing the nuances, decisions, and occasional encounters with challenges in the corporate sphere.
- A pivotal moment triggered by Steve Jobs’ passing led to the pursuit of a true passion for software, marking a significant shift in his career trajectory.
- Clockwise, born out of the realization of time inefficiency in modern organizations, stands out for its innovative approach to optimizing schedules and improving productivity.
- Clockwise’s journey through venture funding, with a unique approach to defaults and securing support from high-quality investors, highlights adaptability and strategic foresight.
- Clockwise’s vision revolves around empowering individuals to optimize both work and personal schedules, painting a picture of a future where productivity and well-being coexist seamlessly.