Matt Wilson is my kind of entrepreneur – he travels, he surfs and he’s making a positive impact along the way. As the co-founder of Under30CEO, the website that’s helping young entrepreneurs build profitable businesses, he’s recently launched Founder Excursions to bring the top young innovators from every continent together for a five-day adventure to focus on making impact through entrepreneurship. We caught up with Matt, somewhere in the world, to talk Icelandic volcanoes, Costa Rican waves and why he’s thanking Jay-Z.
Tell us a little more about what inspired Under30CEO and your new projects coming up.
When I graduated from Bryant University in 2008, the economy was in free fall, people weren’t getting jobs, and young professionals needed tools and resources to start their own businesses. When I was at Bryant, we built our Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization to #1 in the world four out of the last five years, and we developed an incredible environment for ambitious young people. We saw a niche that needed to be filled, helping young people start businesses, and we figured if we were successful at it on the university level, we could do it on a global scale, online.
Now, we’ve expanded our mission to help young people not only become entrepreneurs, but get to the next level in their careers and with their personal finances. We want Under30Media to be a portal for young people who want to be successful through the launch of our two new sites this month: Under30Finance.com and Under30Careers.com.
After millions of views and a lot of great entrepreneurial events, we decided to start expanding internationally. This December, we are running an Under30CEO Experience to Costa Rica in conjunction with the Global Renewable Energy Education Network to explore green business and sustainable investments. We’re coming up with some even crazier experiences, like our Nicaraguan Microfinance Surf Camp. We are always looking for ways to have fun, make an impact, and do business.
Under30CEO Experiences sounds really great. What’s the main objective for an event like this?
Under30CEO Experiences are designed to provide young entrepreneurs with opportunities to make both a profit and an impact internationally. Our community of adventurers/entrepreneurs will build amazing relationships with each other, having crazy shared experiences like ziplining through the jungle, while gaining an inside look at the ecotourism industry, green energy, and sustainable real estate development.
What’s a typical day look like?
After an organic breakfast and café con leche at the eco-resort, we might hike up Arenal Volcano and then gain access inside the wind turbines that power Costa Rica’s renewable energy grid. After lunch, we might go to one of the poorest neighborhoods in Costa Rica and install rain water collection systems so the community can have potable water. Hopefully, we’ll still have time to catch the sunset and experience some local culture…all in all, not a bad day.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Test everything. Before you raise funds, before you commit your entire business model to something you don’t know will work, and before you spend 18 months developing something, hack it together and test your minimum viable product. At Under30Media, we test several different revenue streams to see if they work. If you fail quietly, nobody will ever notice – and you won’t go broke.
If you could have lunch with one person, who would it be, what would you eat, and what would you talk about?
While Richard Branson would be nice one day, I recently had lunch with Premal Shah, the President of Kiva.org, on the beach at Playa Gigante in Nicaragua, right after being in the field with some of the poorest people in the world. We ate fresh fish from the Pacific Ocean, and I got to hear his story: how he’s been able to use the Internet to create massive impact, connecting everyday people with extremely impoverished entrepreneurs who need loans in the Third World. It really doesn’t get better than that.
Can you share what your latest “WOW” moment was?
Well, if that wasn’t it, I don’t know what is!
I recently got rid of my overpriced apartment in Manhattan, and I’m using that budget to work virtually from wherever in the world I want. We’ve worked really hard for over three years to get our business to the point where I can do something like this. I’m headed back to Iceland to hang out with my friend, Siggi Bjami Sveinsson from South Iceland Adventure. We’re going to work more on our Climate Unchange project; I’ll take care of my responsibilities at Under30Media from the base of Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that erupted and stopped all air traffic in 2010.
What’s the one country you can’t wait to travel to next?
This fall, I’m going to get a chance to speak to young entrepreneurs in Indonesia with my friend, Wempy Dyocta Koto, through his consultancy Wardour And Oxford. I’ve never been to the Southern Hemisphere, so if I’m flying all the way across the world, I’m definitely going to spend some time in Bali surfing and doing yoga.
Web app or site you couldn’t live without and why?
I’m a minimalist, so I don’t use a ton. My iPhone is amazing when I’m traveling because I can connect to Wi-Fi and share with my friends and family what I’m doing on Instagram, foursquare, Twitter, etc. I also never thought I’d be one to read books on my phone, but it’s so convenient. I’m in the middle of Chris Guillebeau’s The $100 Startup.
What’s your music-streaming site of choice, and what’s currently playing?
It’s Spotify – I’ll never have use for anything else. I just read a Wall Street Journal article on Jay-Z and his impact on the Brooklyn Nets. He plans to make music at their new arena “less Jersey,” meaning less Springsteen and more up-and-coming artists like Santigold. That’s the artist I have playing right now.
What’s the greatest thing about Under30CEO?
The best thing is connecting with so many amazing young people who want to change the world.
Where can our readers reach out to you?
Thanks, Matt! I love the Under30CEO concept and I hope more entrepreneurs are inspired and empowered by your initiatives. Oh yes, and I admire anyone that can mix business with global adventures. Well done, sir!