Episode 159 – Creating a 100x Future with Matt Ward

Steve: Welcome to our Becoming Your Best podcast, listeners, wherever you might be in the world today. This is Steve Shallenberger, your host, with Becoming Your Best global leadership and we have a very talented guest today. He brings a whole new perspective to things and I think this will be a terrific benefit to push and stimulate and pull at our thinking about the future. He is an angel investor, startup advisor, and serial entrepreneur. He’s really focused on building a better future through innovation and entrepreneurship. Welcome, Matt Ward.

Matt: Hey thanks for having me today, Steve.

Steve: You bet. And before we get started, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about Matt. Matt has scaled an eight-thousand-dollar investment into a seven-figure exit in 12 months. He’s the author of Gods of the Valley: How Today’s Tech Giants Monopolize the Future. Matt you’d be interested to know I ordered that last week and I was hoping it would have gotten here before our visit but we’re going to start learning about it today and as soon as it arrives, I can’t wait to tear into it.

Matt: You should have told me I would have sent you a free copy.

Steve: Oh dang, but that’s okay. Anything to help the business, right?

Matt: Absolutely.

Steve: Matt has spent the last four years traveling the world living in South East Asia, South America. How’s your Espanol?

Matt: It was, it was OK for a while. I hadn’t done any Spanish since high school, so that was quite something getting around.

Steve: Okay. Europe and South Africa, while he is building his businesses. So, Matt let’s just jump right into this today. Tell us about your background and including any turning points in your life that’s had a significant impact on you. Just love to hear more about you.

Matt: Yeah absolutely my background was strong in math and science, so I’ll study mechanical engineering, right? I got into that and found out quickly that I loved doing it but while working for employers I, I hated that there was no way it was going to be employed by someone. I just merely unemployable, I’m much too, I want to have my hands on the wheel and be doing things and not doing things that don’t matter and doing new things everyday type deal. So, I got into entrepreneurship and started looking into start-ups. I obviously like every young and fanciful person thought oh I’ll be the next Mark Zuckerberg and start a new Facebook. I got into the crazy world of that type of social media startup and ultimately while that obviously never led anywhere it led me to discover more of a solo-preneurship, a self-funded bootstrapped business type route. From that, I played my way through e-commerce, learned the ins and outs while failing along the way and I got into crowdfunding. I built the top crowdfunding podcast, Art of the Kickstart, and this was when Kickstarter, Indiegogo, this was five-six years ago, and it went incredibly well. Other than the fact that if people want you to help them raise money, they don’t have jack to pay you with. So, there was no business there. So, I was the poor broke college kid with nothing to do. I decided to start my own products business and while I was doing this I was living in Southeast Asia, as you said. It was a great experience, but I decided to start the products business. I moved to China I worked with a factory there and found out quickly, when you have a design for something, in this case, it was a laptop case I designed to open up into a standing desk, it takes you three to four weeks to get a prototype. I’m kind of an impatient person. You can tell I talk a little fast. I also run a little fast and figured well I’ve got this extra time. I know folks who are just manufacturing products in China and they’re importing them to the US they’re slapping a brand on it and they’re selling and they’re selling well on Amazon. If these guys can do it, I can probably figure it out as well. I start doing that I get some samples. One thing leads to another, it takes off. It starts to accelerate. It starts to consume all of my time I have to stop doing everything else just to focus on this. And that was the that was the 8K investment. I was working on scaling the business up. I started a podcast around that time because A. I like podcasts and B. I figured everyone else is trying to tell me all of these things and then sell me a course. Maybe if I just tell people what I’m doing that’ll go well. It went incredibly well I was able to use the podcast to fund my lifestyle. I would share tools tips that I used in my business and I would get small commissions from that. So, I was able to reinvest 100 percent of the actual e-commerce business into, into growth. I scaled that up. It was never a passion thing it was let’s sell stuff let’s make a little bit of money, so I can focus on shit that actually matters. Sorry for swearing I’m not sure if that’s if that’s okay on the on the podcast I’ll try to I’ll try to hold back a little bit.

Steve: All right. Yeah, good idea.

Matt: We’ll just we’ll just bloop that one out with a nice fun a nice fun one but.

Steve: We’ll roll with it but we’re good. There you go.

Matt: Yeah, I wanted to I wanted to have the time to focus on things that mattered have the energy, have the funding and resources. So, after selling the business I got into much more working with startups both as an investor on a smaller scale side and then also working as essentially an advisor or consultant helping companies looking at growth, marketing, network effects, how they can take advantage of marketplaces and scale their businesses faster. I’ve been doing that for a while and I still do that I still run a podcast, the Syndicate, which is focused on early stage angel investing, but I really found that I think the biggest problem that humanity has is short term focus. There’s much too much of I want this, and I want it now. The stock market is ticking every single day. There have been polls for Fortune Five, it was either Fortune 500 or Fortune 100 CEOs, I can’t remember which, basically saying something to the effect of would you choose to have better numbers now or invest in something that would guarantee long term growth 5 10 years from now and 60 to 80 percent, I can’t remember the exact figure which makes the story sound a little funny but the numbers are close enough to very large majorities that it’s not important. 60 to 80 percent said we would prefer the short-term gains now because that’s how they’re incentivized, and I think in a lot of ways that’s that’s the problems that we have today. We don’t think about the long-term problems of climate change. We don’t think about the long-term problems of social media and the extremization of our society. We don’t think about a lot of these things because we’re incentivized for the here and now. So, I’m trying to change that with my newest, largest and most ambitious project, its long-form podcast, a bit like Ted, where I get those same caliber of individuals on the top A.I. guys, quantum researcher, space guys, you name it. The technologies that are transforming the world and we just have long in-depth conversations, so we can find out a little bit more about what they’re doing, where the world’s headed, what the big problems are and how we can all try to solve them.

Steve: Wow OK. That’s a great background. Thanks so much and we’re just going to have fun talking about this stuff today especially you know long term what does that really mean and how do we fit our lives into both being highly successful today but also sustaining that over a long period of time. That’s really what becoming your best is all about, it’s not just becoming your best, it is a moving target as we continue to improve and improve. And realize that whatever we did yesterday, is probably going to be somewhat insufficient for tomorrow because the world is changing so quickly.

Matt: Absolutely the world is changing faster than it ever has. We just have so many, in the past, there would be one maybe two technologies that were really driving change. We had phones that were invented. We had automobiles that were invented. We had lots of things that led to massive societal changes over long periods of time. Today with the combination or the intersection of A.I., the research and advancements that’s happening there with machine learning and neural nets. What’s happening now with the genomic side of things in biotech. Looking at the quite literally the code of life and being able to not only understand or start to understand that but also edit that. And then advances that are happening in terms of bringing all of those costs down. If you kind of look at the technologies that are happening today, it’s not one, two, three things, it’s five 10 different exponential technologies that are all kind of hitting their stride at the same point. That means 13 years ago the iPhone was created before that people used their cell phones to call and to text message each other essentially and to download those funny little ringtones. Today that’s completely different. Can you imagine 13 years from now, when that acceleration is even greater than it was over the past 13 years? And it’s kind of it kind of makes you think a little bit.

Steve: Yeah it does. Well, let’s dive in from some different dimensions today and really drill in on some of these things that you’re talking about. And if you don’t mind Matt I’d like to start with your book, Gods of the Valley: How Today’s Tech Giants Monopolize the Future, what’s that about and give us a good rundown and how does that impact people.

Matt: Yeah, I gotta say I feel I feel a little terrible that you bought it because I’m going to actually give it away for free to any listeners that want to check it out. But if you’ve got a you guys can grab it. Basically, where the where the book came from and it’s really more like an industry-specific report, what it came from was the idea of a report card and I was thinking about the big companies the gafa companies Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple. These are the companies that are dominating more and more of our lives. But what would happen if we wanted to give these companies a scorecard? How would we think about how they’re doing today or where they’re headed in the future? So, what the book is, is there’s a chapter dedicated to each of these, each of these gods so to speak and for people that realize yes Amazon’s not actually in the valley, but the gods of the valley sound quite cool and it’s close enough right. But basically, looking at these companies looking at how businesses are performing and more importantly where they’re headed in the future. So, Google, sixty-five percent of their business is just based off of their generic search advertising. Something I can’t remember off the top of my head, 80 85 percent is overall advertising. They have an enormous business that’s driven off of ads. What happens as we start to have more and more voice-based technology and other types of interfaces, does that change? I know, I don’t know about you Steve but if I if I was going to have an Amazon Alexa or Google in my home which I’m not going to, I wouldn’t want to say hey what’s out what’s the weather like tomorrow. And for it to say oh you can buy a pair of shoes here for seventeen ninety-nine or a winter jacket you might need for tomorrow because it’s going to be a little cold seventeen ninety-nine. I want the information I don’t want some rubbish ad being added at the beginning of its. So, I personally predict that a lot of that search revenue will start to decrease as we change the way that we interact with technology. Amazon, Amazon’s expanding and taking over more and more of industry. You can see with not just the growth of their e-commerce side of things but what they’re doing now with buying Whole Foods. Amazon buys one of the largest grocery stores in the U.S. for 13 billion dollars. Their biggest acquisition ever and one of the largest acquisitions ever. And the public market caps of the top three supermarket chains in the US drops by 13 billion dollars. It’s like they subsidize the purchase for Bezos. So basically, the book looks at what happens in the future as these companies become stronger more powerful which companies do they acquire, what areas did they get into and who ultimately comes out ahead. I think it’s important for entrepreneurs. I think it’s important for investors. I think it’s important for anyone that has their hands and feet in the worlds of technology and also using this technology to understand where we are headed because technology is a slippery slope. And in a lot of ways, if you don’t see something coming it’s a lot of times like your hair, it will grow longer and longer and longer until one day you look in the mirror and realize that it’s it’s down to your butt, you can’t really do much about it. It’s already there.

Steve: Yeah right. Well, that’s interesting. And how does this impact people? How should they be thinking about this as they seek to plan their lives to continue to be sustainable in their own businesses and to look for opportunity?

Matt: Well for businesses specifically you’ve got to think about the nature of these businesses. So specifically, Facebook and Google are kind of the one-two when it comes to advertising, there’s nothing else there. But what happens if you build a business on top of one of these platforms you build an e-commerce company on top of Amazon. You build a business off of Google search traffic. You build an app on Facebook only for Zuckerberg to copy it and replace it and replace you. You’ve got to understand the fire that you’re playing with and then there are the industries that they’re not directly involved in but I think they will become involved in soon. What Amazon is doing now with health care, their announcement with JP Morgan and the other company I can’t think of Berkshire Hathaway, in terms of offering health care for their employees and what’s going to be happening as they start to roll out Amazon pharma products as they start to incorporate some of these into their business model you need to understand where these companies are headed so that if you are in that arena of playing in a competitive type of space you can position your company effectively and if you’re not in one of those spaces you can try to avoid or build something complementary, versus building something that will come to a head with these companies because it’s nearly impossible to compete with them based off of funding you have to in some way differentiate yourself ahead of time to survive that flood.

Steve: I love I love living in today.

Matt: It’s an exciting time.

Steve: It is exciting. It’s the ultimate challenge. And one of the things that will give our listeners some really great hope is that the 12 principles of highly successful leaders have been effective forever and they are the platform that helps you stay ahead of this change and this disruption because they’re the very principles that create this success. So, the character, the vision. And this is all about what Matt Ward is talking about here what is the vision of the future and how do I fit in that and starting to look out not only now, this year, you know this month but out in the future, this is what he’s talking about. Well, this is the application of that principle and then what will we do today to stay ahead of the curve. Well as you go through each of these principles. And Matt I think you have a Becoming Your Best book on the way.

Matt: I just got it. Congrats on getting Stephen Covey to right to write the forward by the way. I was impressed.

Steve: Oh well thanks. Well, that goes back to my college days. Stephen Covey was my organizational behavior three twenty-one professor and we had eight hundred people in the class and I had this new company in publishing, printing, etc. and asked if he’d be on the advisory board. Well, he ended up being on the board for 17 years and I joined his board when the seven habits came out. I had the wonderful privilege and opportunity to manage some of their international groups and then we all went forward in different ways. But he’s been a lifelong friend and then Stephen M.R. who is also a close friend is the one that wrote the forward and his dad had actually written the forward for Becoming Your Best, but unfortunately passed away at that time and McGraw-Hill said well not sure that’s going to work. And I said well we have another great option.

Matt: Good work, good work.

Steve: And Stephen M.R. went for it. He’s awesome and he’s doing great work with the speed of trust and the impact of what they’re doing keeps going forward. So anyhow you have a sense then from this that this will be helpful to our listeners. But nonetheless what Matt is talking about today is front and center as we apply these principles. Let’s just think about this, Matt. One of the things you talked about is how you’ve ramped up different companies and different projects, is it possible to receive a 10 to 100 times result with the same amount of effort? Is that something you still believe is possible?

Steve: Yeah, I think it actually comes back to what you were saying in terms of how you think and plan in advance. So, it’s really two things. It’s which problem do decide to solve and how do you decide to go about solving it. So here I’ll give you an example. I was thinking I want to make an impact in the world, what’s the best way to do it. And the easy obvious answer at least for someone in college is you go to Africa and you help for building houses with one of one of those organizations for a bit. Awesome, you’re doing an awesome thing you feel good about it, you get to see the world but you’re one person, you’re one body, you’re one manual laborer. There’s not a whole lot of impact that you can have on a truly quantitative scale. You think about the problem well how do I, how do I do a better job of that? Well, I could start a business and then do that. So, then I have 10 guys working for me and we’re all building houses. Or I could start a business that’s maybe helping other people start businesses building houses in Africa. Well now maybe instead of 10 people working I have 10 different businesses. I’m helping every year times 10. So that’s 100 per year that we’re scaling up or maybe I start a business lending money to people that are starting businesses to build houses in Africa. So, then I have another scale of 10. Or maybe I make a lot of money doing something else, so I have the money to invest in these different areas of business or different areas of Africa so that we can try to scale these up and do a better job of building something exponential. And that’s just a different way of thinking about the same problem. You have only so much time on this planet only so much time in your life. What’s the best way to make an impact? Obviously, the best way, at least in my opinion, is to go for one of those later rounds because you are having an exponential effect. But you have to think about it differently. It doesn’t take you more time, it doesn’t take you more energy, you’re not out there every single day drilling with hammers and putting holes and trying to connect everything together to make a house. You’re doing the less manual but significantly more impactful work of doing it the other way. And I think anyone can do similar things in their business. Just an example I like to give is, what are your goals with your business. What’s your goal with this podcast, Steve?

Steve: Right, it’s to get the word out to people and to help them literally have the tools and capacity to become their very best as an individual realizing this also has a deep impact professionally. So, it lifts businesses which in turn lifts the world. So, we’re trying to reach a billion people to become their best.

Matt: Ok. Well, you’re already shooting pretty high so that one’s gonna be tough for us the ten or one hundred x.

Steve: Oops.

Matt: But let’s assume let’s assume that you had an already thought like this because I can see that you’ve already, you already think a bit like this just generally speaking for a lot of people they say I want to start a business where I earn one hundred thousand dollars a year or I earn a million dollars a year. Or I want to start a podcast where I get five thousand people listening to me. They just set their goals too low and that’s the nature of humanity is oftentimes we can underestimate ourselves and the, what I would invite people to do, listeners to do is to say OK we’re doing we’re doing five hundred thousand dollars a year this year what would it take to do five million a year? What would it take to do 50 million a year? And you think about this and once you 10 x 100 x a thousand x whatever you’re doing or whatever you’re shooting for it’s not necessarily that you’ll get there but you’ll think about the problem differently maybe doing five hundred thousand a year you have two people working for you and you kind of manage them full time but if you wanted to get onto five million dollars a year, maybe suddenly you need to hire a manager or two or some other higher level workers to replace yourself. If you want to go even above that you need to do something else. You might have to bring in a sales force. You might have to implement some new strategies for growth. You might need someone for HR. You think about these different these different hurdle points so to speak of what it would take you to reach there. It’s not going to take you more effort to do it. It’s just going to take you approaching the problem differently and suddenly you’ve done that. The same with what we said before in terms of solving a different problem. If you’re solving a problem that’s not that meaningful, how do we increase conversion rates from 1 percent to 2 percent? Well what if you were to go about something and say well instead of thinking about increasing our conversion rate from 1 percent to 2 percent what about thinking about how we can bring in a thousand times as many people, 10 times, 20 times as many people into our organization into our sphere of influence so to speak. So, you can you can think about a different problem that leads to a bigger result that you never could’ve got.

Steve: I love it, by the way. Because one of the biggest challenges that I see is that people sell themselves short frequently and this is at the very heart of good, better, best, of course, is that sometimes you just say well here’s where I think my good is and my better. But what is the best really look like and it’s a new way of thinking and this is what you’re encouraging people to do which is magnificent. So how have you found the best way to do that? Like when you try to when you look at something, Matt, what are the ways that you tried to explode it up to give yourself the capacity to see new possibilities until something starts resonating and you feel this hope and excitement and say, man, I think I can do this maybe. What are the best ways to do that?

Matt: I think it really depends. When I do it for other people, when I do it for instance advising, I’ll just kind of be a bit of a jerk and say OK do you want to start thinking bigger now or something to that effect. And then how do we 10x how do we 100x it. For myself personally, I’ve thought about similar things for myself and my goals. A big part of it as well for both me and others is to be honest. I started the disruptors podcast so that I could talk to the world’s most interesting folks. For a lot of reasons, I’m ADD and I love learning and I know a lot of other people out there enjoy learning as well. But a big part of it was getting around the smartest, most interesting game changers to get their missions and their thoughts out into the world. I very much believe you’re the average of the five closest people, not necessarily the ones you spend the most time with but the ones you spend the most intellectual and mental time with. So for instance, if you’re listening to podcasts, if you’re listening to this podcast, Becoming Your Best, and some other ones even though you may not have the most interesting and exciting friends around you, you are still up leveling the way that your brain takes in the world around it. So, getting folks that are talking about the future, they’re talking about living to be a thousand years old, they’re talking about putting a colony on Mars, they’re talking about robotics to replace human need for work. They’re talking about these concepts that seem sci-fi but are actually happening and happening now, that forces everyone else out there who suddenly is hearing about incredible people but just also everyday people doing incredible things. Suddenly they realize that they can do that too and they can explore these different areas, be it climate change, be it longevity, be it space, be it A.I. Whatever it is it encourages people to solve bigger problems versus solving the problem of better advertising or something small.

Steve: Oh that is a great answer. And tell us about the format of your disruptors FM.

Matt: Really, I wanted to build it as not an anti-Ted but a complement to Ted. I love Ted talks. They’ve been super helpful for me in terms of learning but at the same time, if you have someone incredible talking for five to at max 15 20 minutes, they can really only tell you so much. They can kind of bring you through a canned presentation and at the end you’re going to feel interested probably inspired you’re going to have at best a baseline understanding and you really can’t go deeper. The concept of the disruptors is really to flip everything of that on its head. We get the same caliber of people on. We talk about very similar topics but nothing scripted. Everything is just me and whoever our guest is. Be that a world-class quantum researcher, be that someone who’s working on A.I, be that a politician who was Clinton’s advisor, be that anyone. We can look at these topics and instead of having a defined place, we’ll start wherever the topic is. So today I did I did a great interview with Andrew Hessel. He’s founding a company using viruses to essentially combat and kill cancer. We start there but then eventually we get into crisper. We talk about these babies that were born that were genetically engineered. What are the morals and ethics look like for that? What happens as we start to evolve ourselves more? What happens if we do this with animals as well? Can we use that to start to reduce the effects of climate change? Speaking of climate change. It kind of becomes if you give a mouse a cookie. So, we get into these different areas where we’re talking about all of these different technologies and trends that are converging, how they all affect each other. You get a big picture view versus a small specific view and then also talking about the direction and the ethics because a lot of these things that are happening right now, they can be incredibly good, but they can be incredibly dangerous as well especially if (a) used in the wrong hands or (b) not known about by the public. So, we try to bring up all of these potential ethical pitfalls so that we can solve them before they arise.

Steve: So do these go for 30 minutes, an hour what’s the length of them?

Matt: The average is about an hour I would say, our longest is maybe an hour and forty-five and that’s kind of that’s kind of a pretty good time frame about an hour to really get into a topic and the topics around it because you’re not going to learn everything about biotech, quantum computing, A.I. over the course of an hour. But what it will do for some folks is they’ll be interested enough to look into it more. These are the fields of the future and we need the smartest folks tackling those problems. So if you can get the smartest folks interested in something they did not realize was happening they didn’t realize holy cow I could be the person who helps humanity live 20 years longer on average, I want to explore that field. Trying to get people into those exciting and important fields is a big part and portion of the podcast.

Steve: Yeah, I love that. That’s great. A friend of mine, Charlie Jones, told me many years ago he said you will be the same in five years from now as you are today except for two things, the people you meet and the books that you read. You know the books could be podcasts, it could be other sources of information. But how true. And so, I love your answer that one way to think bigger ten times 100 times is to invite other resources particularly specialists in the area that you want to learn and grow in that gives you these new thoughts and it just may be one experience and all of a sudden the insight comes, and you say there it is. There’s the hundred times and it’s a pathway that you pivot to, so, good going on all this. That’s great.

Matt: Yeah, I would definitely agree with what he said. I would add one caveat, I would add a third way and the third way are the choices that you make because the choices define who you are. It’s not just knowledge it’s not just theory. It’s also what you do in the world.

Steve: Yeah absolutely. Well, I am always stunned by how fast things go and our time is up. I mean I still have a bunch of questions I’d like to ask. So, any final tips that you’d like to leave with our listeners before we wrap things up?

Matt: I would say the most important tip is is kind of the rule that I live by and I think a lot of us should is there are no rules. Society will tell you, you’re supposed to do something you’re supposed to go to college, get a job, you meet that girl, you get married, you have a house, you get a cat, you have a nice white picket fence, you get a new job it’s bigger it’s better so you need a bigger better house. People get pulled into these traps of what they’re supposed to do because that’s what others around them do. That’s what society tells them to do. I would even say in a lot of senses this applies to laws. It’s illegal to import drugs that could save your save your life from cancer or whatever you want to come up with. There’s lots of reasons where a lot of the rules are rules that we feel are applicable to us, just shouldn’t be if someone is giving you advice and that person isn’t further along on the journey of life than where you want to be, if they’re not living what you want to live in the future, then their advice is oftentimes not valuable for you because they’re giving you advice to live their life, not advice to live yours. So that’s what I would that’s what I would leave people with is to live your life and don’t live it by someone else’s playbook live it by your own.

Steve: Ok. Yeah. And the only thing I’d add to that Matt’s been so good today and thanks for adding that is that just being sure that its principle-based, because for everything you do there are principles that govern our behavior and just look at the predictable outcome and make choices that take you to the right place. So, I fully agree with this and that is its principle base that you’re at a solid foundation. So how can people find out about what you’re doing, Matt?

Matt: So there’s a couple of places I would say the best places That’s where you can find the podcast, you can subscribe, you can listen to some episodes, find suggestions and explore the different topics that we have. There’s some really fascinating ones. If you go to you can grab the Gods of the Valley book for free if you add your email. Sorry about that Steve I would’ve given it to you for free I’ve decided it’s more important to get the information out there.

Steve: Good job. The one I paid for, right?

Matt: Exactly. I’ll have to sign that one when I see you. In terms of in terms of other places to find me, Twitter I’m Mattwardio and I’ve also got a personal website,, which just shares a little bit more information about me, what I’m working on, different places you can find me. And then a blog where I do, I do a fair bit of blogging on mediums, so you can find that through there as well.

Steve: Well thank you for your time today. This has been invaluable. It’s really been terrific and going to cause me to keep thinking clearly about what the possibilities are and to continue to learn, to gain new insights. So, this has been fun, Matt. Thank you for taking the time.

Matt: We’re either learning or we’re dying so I suppose that’s a good thing, right?

Steve: Now that’s that’s true. Well, we wish you all the best in your endeavors and to all of our listeners, never forget you too are making a difference every single day. This is wishing you a great day, Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best.

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