[quote]Leave the office and talk to your users. You are developing a product or service for them. The only way to understand what your users want is by turning off the computer and getting out of the office to ask them.[/quote]
Brad Matthews has spent the last year figuring out exactly how to help novice investors grow their money. As the fotunder and CEO of MoGro.com, he strives to make investing affordable, effortless and accessible for everyone.
In 4 simple steps, MoGro aims to offer a seamless investment process with no middleman stockbrokers and doing away with outrageous minimums, hidden fees, confusing forms, placing trades and financial mumbo jumbo. MoGro users will be able to invest their money with well established and insured investment companies. MoGro’s services also include automatic risk-management features, regular updates via text or email, easy to understand statements, an auto-invest option and a 24/7 help center.
Brad started his career in banking at some of the top firms on Wall Street: JP Morgan, Barclays, Citibank and Bear Stearns. However, he found that he was unable to silence that entrepreneurial voice inside his head. With the goal of helping people who lack the time, interest, or expertise to research, manage, and monitor their own investments, he pulled together a small team to assist in building his vision of MoGro. When Brad isn’t obsessing about how to make investing simpler, he enjoys running, snowboarding, international travel and pursuing his quest to have a beer at each of America’s oldest bars.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on getting MoGro up and running. The beta site is scheduled to launch soon. Most of my time is spent developing the product roadmap, forging business partnerships and expanding our amazing team. My focus is on testing and improving MoGro so that investing feels less like a dreaded trip to the dentist and more like placing an online food order.
Where did the idea for MoGro.com come from?
Working in finance, I grew tired of not having a good resource for my friends and family to turn to when they came to me with investment questions. Over and over, I kept hearing things like, “I just don’t know where to start,” “I know that I’m supposed to be investing, but who has enough money for the $1,000 minimums” and “I just want someone to tell me what to do—make it automatic.”
We all want to be prepared for our futures and our children’s futures, but mortgages, college savings and retirement funds can be overwhelming. With 59% of American workers lacking access to 401Ks or other types of retirement plans through an employer, MoGro is here to change the situation.
What does your typical day look like?
I’m an early bird and being on Pacific Time, I like to wake up early to watch the markets open back east while I read the Wall Street Journal and sip on a grande bold Starbucks coffee. Beyond that, no one day is truly typical. A lot of my time is spent meeting with smart people with backgrounds that range from design to finance to the start-up space in order to obtain their input on how I can enhance MoGro. I try to stay current by reading a ton of the tech and start-up blogs. When I can, I love to read books by other entrepreneurs. I also spend way too much time managing my email inboxes. MoGro is 100% designed to be user-friendly, so the best part of my day is learning more from our future users by letting them play with our product and making constant tweaks to better meet their demands. In the midst of all this, in order to maintain sanity and health, I try to squeeze in a few holes of Wii golf or go for a run.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a huge fan of good old-fashioned Post-it Notes and the yellow legal pad ideation method. I’m constantly jotting down ideas, drawing diagrams and doodling design mock-ups. I like to talk out my ideas and I often find it helpful to debate them with someone with an opposing viewpoint. If the idea stands a few rounds of debate, then the team starts building a prototype. Then we’ll put it in front of users for feedback, iterate and repeat.
3 trends that excite you?
1. Ebooks: these bring endless possibilities to learning. Information is now more engaging, more informative and more available than ever before (not to mention all the trees that will be saved by not printing millions of books),
2. Borderless Medicine: advances in medical science and technology enable doctors, public health workers, nurses, etc. to deliver their services to anyone at any location via video, mobile and web channels.
3. Self-Parking Cars: I don’t have one yet, but anyone who has attempted parallel parking in a tight spot on a hill in my hometown of San Francisco will appreciate the awesome usefulness of this new feature.
What is the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job that I ever had was selling rugs while I was in college. It paid the rent but I now know way more than I ever wanted to know about the intricacies of Persian rugs. Working to put myself through school helped me to better appreciate the value of an education and the merits of hard work. I also learned a lot about sales, which turned out to be pretty handy later in my career.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have hired a good lawyer right from the start. It seemed like an unnecessary expense at first, but good legal advice is worth every penny. Unfortunately, I learned that the hard way.
What is the one thing you did/do as an entrepreneur that you would do over and over again and recommend everybody else do?
Leave the office and talk to your users. You are developing a product or service for them. The only way to understand what your users want is by turning off the computer and getting out of the office to ask them.
Tell us a secret…
I used to cheat at Candy Land—I hope that my brothers don’t read this interview.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I really admire the new wave of for-profit companies that are also altruistic. I think that each one of us should find a cause that we’re passionate about and then figure out what we can do to earn money in order to support that cause. Paul Newman’s Newman’s Own, TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker glasses are all great examples of this construct. It’s a win for a corporation on many levels.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
I have to admit that my bookshelves are embarrassingly filled with finance books, but I do love reading ‘fun books’ when I have the time. I would definitely recommend Honeymoon with my Brother by Franz Wisner. It’s incredibly inspirational as well as the road map, quite literally, for my post-retirement journey.
If you weren’t working on MoGro, what would you be doing?
I would probably still be working as a banker making rich people richer while daydreaming during meetings about my next ‘big idea.’
Three people we should follow on Twitter, and why?
@TechCrunch: I like to stay current with everything that is going on in the Silicon Valley tech/start-up scene.
@Water: The lack of safe drinking water in the world is something that I care deeply about and I hope to be able to do something about one day. The least that I can do now is support this great organization and follow what they’re doing.
@TheDailyShow: Because sometimes you just need 140 characters of wit.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it.
CNN Developing Story (as actually seen on CNN): “Millions of Blackberry Messages on Hold: Outage now impacting users on almost every planet.”
Update: Preorders of iPhone4S sell out on planet Jupiter.
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Square because I think he does an amazing job of melding design with function–and developing products for the masses. I’d love to hear more about his business approach.
What words of wisdom would you offer recent college grads who are still looking for a job?
If there’s anything that I have learned from starting my own company, it is the importance of persistence and in setting yourself apart from the crowd. These are also very useful qualities when looking for a job. When I graduated from college, the dot-com bust had just happened and the job outlook looked bleak. Here are some recommendations of what worked for me:
- Take an unorthodox approach: in this economy there are hundreds of candidates applying for the same jobs. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but you must do something to distinguish yourself from everyone else.
- Leverage your network: you might not think that you have one, but you do. Reach out to alumni from your college or high school, friends of your parents, relatives and even your Facebook community.
- Be persistent: as daunting as it feels, you have to keep at it. That, in and of itself, will set you apart from many other applicants.
- Offer to volunteer, intern or even work for free: you will gain experience and it’s a risk-free way for employers to evaluate your abilities.
- Use this tip from my father (as I did, begrudgingly) and pick up a copy of the book, What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles. It’s a great guide for anyone who wants to change or establish his/her career. It offers some great advice on setting yourself apart as a potential employee and getting ahead once you are hired.