“I want our generation to go down as the one that changed everything. We have a lot of work to do.”
Matt Wilson, Co-Founder of Under30Media, began building brands online including venture-backed startups like Zaarly after using social media to land Under30CEO on MSNBC and BusinessWeek.
Wilson’s passion for entrepreneurship began after leading Bryant University to becoming the world’s #1 entrepreneurs’ organization. After seven months abroad, Matt’s official title became Adventurer in Residence, heading up Under30Media’s travel company Under30Experiences.
What are you working on right now?
Where did the idea for Under30Experiences come from?
A year ago, I was standing on a volcano in Iceland literally having the experience of a lifetime and said to myself, “damn, I wish I could give this experience to other ambitious young people.” I pitched it to my business partner Jared O’Toole and we took the leap. We spent a year testing different models until we finally nailed the perfect format for the trip in Nicaragua. Under30Experiences is officially a reality.
How do you make money?
In the travel business, there are two main variables– margins, and volume. We charge for the trips, rent the resort, hire guides, organize meals, coordinate transportation, and pay our staff to curate a really hands on experience. Because we try to keep prices low, and cap the trips at just 30 people, we need to make up for it by running lots of trips.
What does your typical day look like?
Lucky for me, I’ve had the opportunity to spend the last seven months abroad scouting locations, working from my laptop. Talk about dream job…
I spent the winter in Costa Rica. I’m not an early riser but somehow I’d be sitting on my balcony by 6:15AM with a cup of Costa Rican coffee, laptop in hand. A huge part of my job is telling the story of our travels, and the life changing experiences our attendees have, so I do a lot of writing. The trips are designed to be a launching pad for young professionals to see the world, so we’re constantly surrounded by inspiration.
I have a logistics call with Shawna our Events Manager every morning at 9:30AM. She’s busy booking the locations, coordinating flights, and keeping me on my best behavior.
Jared, my business partner who handles operations at Under30CEO Skypes me about new content, marketing ideas, and how to keep the site growing.
Depending on the tide, I take off to go surf, and then get back on the grind later in the day…
How do you bring ideas to life?
Test them. We had an idea for a travel company, so we gave it a shot. Not everything went perfectly, but we had tremendous feedback from our attendees. We realized people were incredibly passionate about traveling with like minded people so we knew it was time to put more time and money into the idea.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Honesty and transparency. The days of putting up a big PR front are over. We love writing exactly how we feel on Under30CEO, and our attendees at Under30Experiences speak openly and honestly about their goals an ambitions. I love that the business world is becoming less about egos and smoke in mirrors.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
In the early days of Under30CEO my mom came to me and said we were losing our home. I immediately had to find the first job I could find and it happened to be a $15/hr wage as a driver.
Little did I know I’d be asked to wake up at 5AM everyday to drive a dumptruck and an 18 foot trailer. After that, I had to dig ditches for 12 hours, alongside migrant workers, who kicked my a**. When I got home, I’d have dinner and start working on Under30CEO until 2AM.
The learning? That’s easy. Success is way sweeter when you have to work for it.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Focus on email marketing. We ignored this specific tactic because everyone used to talk about how “email is dead”. Well, push marketing is a live and well, so start capturing those email addresses, and delivering the people who opt-in as much value as possible.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Workout. Seriously– I don’t work on anything for more than 90 minutes. The law of diminishing returns says, you get less and less accomplished after that. I’m always taking breaks to surf, workout or catch a yoga class, because I know when I return, I’ll accomplish tasks in half the time.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The failure: Taking too much advice from others. Here’s a little honest and transparent tidbit… unless someone is willing to pay your bills, be wary of their advice. Everyone told us this “Under30CEO” name would never work. We hate to admit it, but we even changed the name to “Factor77″ once to open ourselves up to a broader audience. This was a huge source of embarrassment for us, spending money rebranding and then switching back. We chalked that lesson up for experience…
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Someone please invent an app that tells me everything about my body. Our health and fitness needs to be metric driven. I want to know my blood pressure, my heart rate, how many calories I ingested, my weight, bodyfat, my sleep cycles, and everything about my body all on my iPhone.
Let me know if you do, I’d love to be part of this project. Start solving big problems.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
Our generation would be more concerned with changing the world. All of the smartest kids in the world are starting “just another” music sharing app, or a Facebook game, or something else that adds little value to making the world a better place. I want our generation to go down as the one that changed everything. We have a lot of work to do.
Bringing these people together online/offline to have these discussions is a big step in the right direction.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I haven’t been to a movie theater in four years. I guess starting a business and traveling has kept me busy doing other things…
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Keeping it mobile and travel themed: 1) WhatsApp–you can text with anyone when you are overseas, 2) Univision–yes, the Spanish channel has a great app, and if you are trying to learn a different language, you might as well watch television in the language, and 3) SMART Traveler app lets you register with the State Department anytime you go abroad, to keep you safe.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Dip” by Seth Godin. It’s all about when to quit and why you should or should not quit. It’ll get you through a rut, any day.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Last night we taught my buddies french bulldog puppy how to skateboard in my apartment. You can imagine how that went.
Who is your hero?
Family aside, I have three sports heroes, all for the same reason: they put every ounce of passion they have into what they do.
Magic Johnson, Brett Favre, and Tom Izzo.
If you could grow your travel business to three places where would they be?
Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Still close flights, in similar timezones to the United States, I’d dispel the reputation of Colombia and their drug cartels, see the Amazon and Galapagos in Ecuador, and climb Machu Picchu in Peru. Giving young professionals experiences in those places? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that for Under30Experiences.
How do you focus on work when you are in paradise?
Easy. If I want to pay my bills, I have to. Plus, as much as I love my work, I’m trying to get done so I can go explore wherever in the world I am. You learn to be way more focused when you have other stuff to look forward to during the day.
Under30Media – Inspiring, Leading, and Educating the Next Generation
Matt Wilson on Google+: https://plus.google.com/103938097201398990173
Matt Wilson on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewjwilson
Matt Wilson on Twitter: @MattWilsontv