Matt Galligan is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer for SimpleGeo, where he oversees the strategic direction of the company. He founded SimpleGeo in 2009 with Joe Stump with the goal of providing a location infrastructure for developers to easily add location-aware elements to consumer and business applications – a process that they learned is extremely difficult when they began developing a location-based gaming company several years ago. SimpleGeo currently has more than 12,000 developers using its tools, and within only four months of launching products, some of the most innovative new applications (Path, Yobongo, Hipmunk, Posterous, etc.) are all using SimpleGeo.
Prior to SimpleGeo, Matt founded Social thing, a service that made it easy to keep up with friends’ activity from multiple social networks. Social thing was acquired by AOL in 2008 and is currently a major part of their strategy. The product continues to live on years later at AOL, now going by the name AIM Lifestream.
In 2010, he was named as one of Business Insider’s Silicon Valley 100, a list of the top entrepreneurs in the epicenter of technology. Matt is regularly quoted in the press and has spoken at numerous industry conferences including Web 2.0 Summit, Web 2.0 Expo, Where 2.0 Conference, SXSW, The Location Business Summit, CSIA DEMOGala, Geo-Loco, Location Based Marketing Summit, Deal Maker Unplugged, GeoM, Signal:Austin, and ILM:10.
With a background in graphic design and user experience, Matt has also worked for MonsterCommerce, which was acquired by Network Solutions. He has long been heavily involved in the internet, starting as a graphic designer at age 15. Matt grew up in Illinois, but now lives and works in San Francisco, CA.
What are you working on right now?
Day-to-day I’m working on strategy at SimpleGeo, mentoring at TechStars and advising a number of other startups.
What does your typical day look like?
These days a lot of my time is spent in email, on the phone and in Keynote building slides. It doesn’t sound glamorous, but I tend to get a lot done. There’s always music playing, and thanks to my standup desk, I can rock out while I’m cranking on stuff to do.
3 trends that excite you?
New innovation with music (Turntable.fm, 8tracks, iTunes Match), innovation in education (entrepreneurs not waiting for the system to fix itself), innovation in health and healthcare.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Find a problem and solve it, simple as that. I find that the best companies are built on the founder addressing a specific problem that they personally had. Both companies that I’ve started have been built out of problems.
What inspires you?
I grab inspiration from many places. I’m always trying to surround myself with people far smarter than I, and that usually leads to new ideas or at least new viewpoints. I’m constantly listening to music, to keep my mind open wide. Finally, I’ve been getting a lot more into photography these days. There’s something about capturing a specific perspective and moment in time that really gets me inspired.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
Caring too much about what people think of me. I think the crux of this comes from being picked on a lot as a kid and having people surrounding me that expected a lot out of me. I’ve come to learn that you don’t need to constantly impress someone, or tout yourself…that can only feed one’s ego in the wrong ways. Instead, just do everything to be humble, and successful based on your actions alone, and good things will come from it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I want to see games that I play in the real world. This is what we set out to solve when building the precursor to SimpleGeo, CrashCorp. But it still hasn’t come yet. I want a World of Warcraft-class game, but the map that I play on is the real world. Big possibilities here.
What do you read every day? Why?
A variety of things, but almost always the feeds in my Flipboard. I try to read articles from The Economist and Bloomberg Businessweek as much as possible, to get a more worldly view. It’s easy to get a very short-sighted opinion when only reading tech-related stuff.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
I loved reading Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild“. It has absolutely nothing to do about tech, but has everything to do about a kid that gave up everything comfortable to fulfill his dreams. That speaks a lot to me.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
While I don’t think it helps me every day, I’m in love with my Fujifilm X100 camera. It’s quite a throwback to the cameras of the mid-1900s. While most point-and-shoot cameras take a shotgun approach and just shoot what it thinks is best, the X100 is a scalpel. It’s completely unforgiving, but I love that. It takes exactly the picture that I want it to.
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
Shervin Pishevar. He’s got such an incredible story to tell.
What’s the single most important thing to concentrate on professionally, when starting up a company?
People. Nothing is more important than the people that you surround yourself with. You are going to war, and the only way to win that war is to have people that are willing to go with you and fight as hard as possible. You are with your co-workers more than nearly anyone else in your life during the course of a startup. Choose them wisely.
What’s the most important thing to consider personally, when starting a company?
Physical health and diet. So much of one’s wellbeing is hinged on keeping a healthy and balanced lifestyle. It’s easy to get burnt out if you work too much. It’s easy to feel like crap when what you put in your body is crap. Maybe reach for a salad instead of that pizza, or maybe some salmon and veggies rather than the carb-filled sandwich.
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