Ivan Matkovic – CEO and Founder of Spendgo

[quote style=”boxed”]I would build my personal network earlier. A startup is not a DIY project.[/quote]

Ivan founded Spendgo in 2010 following the advice from his college professor and now current Spendgo board member, John Durham. During the last four years, Ivan has taken Spendgo from a tiny warehouse with three developers to a national company. Today, he is the CEO of the digital loyalty startup and responsible for company revenue, operations and partnerships. Ivan also serves as the President of Accura Precision, a quick prototype and production manufacturing and machining company. His experience with machining and working with large vendors like Applied Materials, NTK and Fujitsu, was vital in his ability to transition into his leadership role at Spendgo.

Ivan graduated with honors with a degree in Business Administration and Economics from the University of San Francisco in 2008.

Where did the idea for Spendgo come from?

I was fortunate in college in that I didn’t need a full-time job to get by. My parents supported me financially so I only worked as a tutor for a few hours a week. The job required me to fill out an expense report and save my receipts and at the time, retailers were just starting to email receipts. I figured that this should be standard practice and everyone should be doing this.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Some people like to squeeze everything into a few hours, but I’m more of a marathon worker. I start my day as soon as I wake up responding to emails. Then at the office, the majority of my morning consists of meetings with partners and customers; and internal team meetings in the afternoon to prepare for the next day. Then in the late evening, after some personal time, I will either have a meeting with our team in India or work on any of my personal deliverables that weren’t finished while at the office. To ensure I keep my days productive, my personal work times are set up in themes so that I am not burdened with multi-tasking. I have yet to meet someone who is actually as good as they claim to be at multi-tasking.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’m a firm believer that observation that leads to a trend analysis is critical when coming up with ideas. That’s usually how I come up with mine. When I have an idea that is worth pursuing, I’ll typically lock myself away for a few hours and scope it out. There have been occasions where my engineers have found me passed out in front of the white board after an all-nighter going through this exercise. I will then meet with product and engineering teams to try and poke holes in the idea. This may go through a couple of rounds, but eventually we have a great idea with team buy-in, and then prioritize it with the rest of our development schedule.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I’m really excited about how technology and specifically the Internet is integrating into our lives outside of just the PC. The transformation in just the last decade with mobile, the cloud, and now wearables is amazing. Technology and the Internet were things you previously had to go somewhere and use, but now it is becoming an essential part of our daily life, just like breathing.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

It is really quite simple. I put everything I need in a list. I actually use my email inbox as my To Do list and use filters to make sure it stays clean of any unnecessary communications.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

The worst job I ever had was filing papers at my parent’s office as a kid. I learned that it is very hard to change people’s behavior even if it is inefficient. My plan to buy a scanner and have them store everything digitally did not work.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would build my personal network earlier. A startup is not a DIY project.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

One of the hardest things is taking your own bias out of a decision. You have to be ruthlessly efficient in a startup and the only choices I regret are the ones I didn’t make soon enough.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Our primary focus is creating processes that eliminate friction wherever possible. As an example, our technology integrates with almost any store, and the loyalty programs we power require only a phone number entry from customers.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

For a short time, I was actually pretty bad at hiring. I retrained myself to begin the hiring process much sooner in order to anticipate needs many months out. This gave me time to find the best people without the pressure of needing someone to fill a position immediately.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would like to see someone tackle gamification in education among K-12 grades. Teachers can begin to displace traditional homework with templated games they can configure themselves to fit the curriculum. My thought is that if content was presented in a compelling way, with enough variety and a scoring system with prizes that motivated students, test scores and satisfaction would improve dramatically without having to displace the entire education system.

Tell us something about you that very few people know.

My clothes are color-coded and spaced evenly in my closet. Should I be worried?

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I’m a big fan of Dropbox. It has completely changed the way I work, and store files and photos. I have the freedom to be virtually anywhere without having to worry if I have the right piece of technology with me.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Growth of the International Economy, by A.G. Kenwood, A.L. Lougheed and Michael Graff. For some, this may make your eyes bleed. It is essentially a history book on enterprise and entrepreneurism, It is interesting to read about the parallels of globalization in the 19th and 20th centuries to the Internet today.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

It is hardly original choices when I say Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. It is certainly interesting to see how these two individuals, who could essentially buy whatever lifestyle they want, choose to live.


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