Entrepreneur Matthew Riches is a man devoted to his passions. He tried to pursue a psychology degree, but found himself returning to IT work over and over again. He’s been a web designer, web developer, SEO specialist, and the founder of over 40 not-for-profit websites. He’s lucky to have an understanding wife, because he has a penchant for video games as well.
He writes professional game reviews for one of his sites, No Fuss Reviews, but doesn’t stop there. He’s also the founder of FreeGlance, a website that aggregates articles, news, and reviews about video games. Take a glance at all the latest in gaming or disappear down the rabbit hole of reading.
Riches has a trait most entrepreneurs would kill for–he functions well on little sleep. While most of us are recharging, he stays current on games and gadgets, and builds sites like (b)human, where visitors can share or comment on real human stories that aim to stir us all with compassion and hope. Forget coffee. Let the industrious spirit of Riches, which he shares in the following chat with KillerStartups, jolt those startup aspirations.
How long have you tangoed with the internet? What were your first steps? What was your first computer? How old were you when you first danced with the world wide web?
I’ve been involved in the Internet pretty much since it started, I’m part of the lucky generation that grew as computers did, and I have a great respect for what we take for granted today. When I was young, I remember playing on a Magnavox Odyssey. I slowly graduated up from there, going through most of the major systems–old Atari’s, the BBC. I even did some early coding as a young boy on an Amiga 500, back when it took 4 pages of code just to make text cycle through colors. I guess I first started using the Internet back when I was almost a teen, when AOL was king, telnetting to message boards was common, and bridging two 28k modems resulted in mind-blowing speeds.
What time do you usually start work each day? Do you have an office or work at home?
Since I look after a network of 42 sites in total, my day is pretty busy–more by choice than real necessity. I normally wake up around 5AM, do administrative tasks till around 6:30. Then it’s the drive to work. Up until 9, I carry on looking at stats and general email communication until I start my job as a Front-End Developer. Once the working day is over, I get home at around 6, sort out what games I have to review (a lot of the sites I look after are review sites), have some tea, and then work on whatever is needed until about 2AM, before starting all over again. I’m very lucky in the sense that I don’t need a great deal of sleep to function correctly, and I have an understanding wife.
All of the work I do for my sites is done at home, but, if something major comes up, my employer has been flexible enough to allow me to do what is needed.
What’s the first thing you do when you leave the office at the end of the day?
The first thing I do when I leave my full-time job for the day and get home is to make a cup of tea, turn on the Simpsons or Futurama, and browse our list of games to review.
When do your best ideas come to you? In bed in the morning? During dinner? After working for 16 hours?
I don’t think there is anything that really prompts me to create new ideas. I think it’s more of necessity; when I come across a problem that I feel would be good to solve, I try to do just that. A good example of this is the first site I created in my network of sites, No Fuss Reviews; this site was born through frustration.
I was trying to just find a simple score for a video game quickly, but all the sites I went to made it difficult to find. They were filled with adverts or simply didn’t have a score. So, I thought to myself, “I’m going to create a site that just gives you a score, that’s it.” In its first weekend of service, it received over 20,000 unique visits. And it all grew from there.
We want to know about where you spend your day! What’s on your desk right now?
Both my work desk and my kitchen table-desk at home are immaculate. I’m a bit of a neat freak, so much so that I have to have things around me a right angles (weird I know). So on my desks, I have nothing other than a single lined pad and a pen and a mug of tea (I also clean my desk every morning since the cleaners never really do a great job).
Favorite book? Author?
My favorite book and author is an easy one: the original I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. The book is an incredible collection of short stories that are so far ahead of their time it really is mind-blowing that Isaac could have dreamt all of it up. I find the stories both thought invoking and morally challenging, and I never get tired of reading them.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to attempt realizing yours?
I once read a statistic that 9 out 10 websites fail after the first year. After much hands-on experience, I would say this is true; however, it’s the ones that actually make it that spur you on. I don’t think it’s a matter of confidence, but it’s a matter of dedication and pure tenacity–to just keep going until it succeeds.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get their business off the ground?
The best advice I could give to entrepreneurs is to aim for the stars through continued hard-work and dedication. It’s rare that something becomes a hit overnight, and in the real world it takes a lot of work and a lot of hours. Also, I would say there is a difference between giving up and recognizing fault–there is no shame in identifying that an idea doesn’t work and heading in a new direction, or starting a new project using what you’ve learnt. In total, I have helped create over 300 websites, and 42 of those remain today as viable businesses.
Who has been your biggest cheerleader?
My wife Celina is a strong force that keeps me motivated and ensures the cup of tea on my desk never gets cold. Without her, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today.
3 people you recommend we follow on Twitter, and why?
There are so many great people on Twitter to follow that it’s very difficult to pick just three. Being a fan of Stephen Fry, I would say he’s a good person to monitor. I am also a big fan of everything gadget related, and Engadget is a great outlet for breaking tech and gadget news. My third would have to be the original sh*tmydadsays. Having followed the account for some time, seeing it turn into a phenomenon makes me smile and of course laugh.
We also love to know the fact and figures. Any details you’d feel comfortable sharing with us?
The Freeglance site is currently a stand-alone property. Being only a couple of weeks old, it’s still toe-dipping time (so investors are welcome). However, early indications are very favorable. The site will either be incorporated into its own company or into the non-profit No Fuss Reviews network to sit alongside other sites having the same theme of video games.
Where can our readers get a hold of you? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Personal blog? Any other projects you’re working on that we should check out?
What is your favorite video game?
The answer to that is almost impossible, there are so many great games with great stories out there. It’s immensely challenging to pick just one. I’m a strong believer that video games can qualify as art just as some films are regarded. I think the best game, in order to fulfill its role as being entertainment, should do so through story, gameplay and that special little unquantifiable something. A few of my favorites include Monkey Island, Half-Life 2, Valkyria Chronicles, Little Big Adventure, Final Fantasy 8 (yes 8), Heavenly Sword and Uncharted 2; however, there are also retro games that defined and pushed forward the entire industry–so without rambling on about a subject I could ramble on about for days, I would suggest I have no favorites, just ones I don’t like.