Entries by Corey Ford

Leading the Sulzberger Program

The Redesigned Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program at Columbia Journalism School Is Open For Applications From Rising Leaders in Media and Journalism

Corey Ford

Today I am excited to announce that I, in partnership with Raju Narisetti, will be leading the redesigned Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program at Columbia Journalism School. The program is designed to train the future leaders of the world’s most impactful journalism and media organizations during a time of rapid transformation, uncertainty, and opportunity. The next program kicks off in January and applications are now open.

For those of you who have been following my journey building Matter Ventures, you know that I made the difficult decision to pause late last year in order to flare on new and different ways to make a difference in the space. Many of you reached out saying how much Matter has impacted you and your organization. You reinforced how deep of a need Matter had filled in the journalism industry and how much of a gap its absence has left behind.

One person who reached out was longtime Matter mentor Raju Narisetti. He had an idea: What if you were able to continue the impact of Matter by taking over the Sulzberger Program at Columbia Journalism School and infusing the essence of Matter into it?

It was a chance for Matter to live on when it was needed the most. I was in.

While this is, in essence, a side gig as I continue to flare on what I will pour myself into full-time, it guarantees that I have an outlet to continue to impact leaders within journalism and it ensures that the transformative experience of Matter has the opportunity to continue in a new form.

The redesigned Sulzberger Program draws heavily from my experience training both entrepreneurs and journalism leaders through Matter. But it also combines forces with Raju, who has led internal transformation at some of the most important journalism institutions. In addition, it leverages the assets of Columbia University, pulling instructors from Columbia Journalism and Business Schools, drawing industry innovators working in one of the world’s great media capitals, and tapping into the powerful Sulzberger alumni network. This community will give Sulzberger Fellows a powerful breadth of perspective on what it takes to lead innovation in media and journalism.

Like any rising executive, these fellows need a way to improve their leadership, business, and management skills while on the job. But because they are also navigating an industry facing constant disruption, traditional management training won’t suffice. They need to build cultures and create processes within these media companies that doesn’t just help them come up with “the next big thing” but enables the organization to constantly understand the changing needs of their audiences, experiment with emerging technologies, and seek sustainable business models as the world rapidly changes beneath their feet. They need to recognize opportunities for innovation and pursue them without being told what to do or how to do it. They need to lead.

Through the redesigned Sulzberger Program, these rising leaders will learn how to be entrepreneurial within their own media organizations. This is a hands-on, real-world, innovation-focused mini-executive MBA for rising leaders in the fast transforming world of media and journalism.

The program is organized from the point of view of the fellow as the GM/CEO/Founder of their own internal venture or enterprise-wide project. At the heart of the program is the Sulzberger Project. Each fellow will be required to define a project of strategic importance to their employer that they will lead throughout the course of the program. The project can be the launch of a brand new initiative, product, or strategy but it can also be taking charge of an existing one. Most importantly, it should be mission critical to the organization and fit naturally into the fellow’s full-time job.

The 16-week program starts on Jan. 6 with an intensive two weeks on campus at Columbia University. The first week is an immersive team-based experience where fellows will learn how to build a venture from scratch using design thinking processes and mindsets. The second week builds on the venture frameworks established in week one and dives deeper into each module through a series of lectures, case studies, workshops, and guest speakers leveraging experts throughout Columbia and the industry at large.

The modules that organize the Sulzberger experience will be based on the leader as an individual, the leader in the context of a team, and the leader deeply understanding the core variables that must be combined in any successful innovation. Those “venture variables” include understanding Top-Down Trends (The Macro Environment), developing a Bottom-Up Point of View (Audience/User/Customer), creating and managing a Minimum Desirable Experience (Product & User Experience), finding a sustainable Business Model, executing on a Growth Hypothesis (Marketing), establishing a Sustainable Competition Advantage (Strategy), and putting it all together in a Story that coherently brings all these variables together in a vision, plan, and pitch to obtain resources.

After two weeks at Columbia, fellows will return to their organizations with new lenses on themselves, their teams, and their organization. fellows will immediately get an opportunity to directly apply their learning to their own organization through a series of assignments as well as the ongoing project. They will receive feedback and support through regular check-ins with their cohort and myself.

On April 20, fellows will return to Columbia for the final week of the Sulzberger Program ready to share and discuss their real-world experiences while going deeper into the modules through more lectures, case studies, workshops, and guest speakers. The Sulzberger experience will conclude with final project presentations and the opportunity to pitch key stakeholders at their own company.

As with anything I touch, this experience is a prototype and always will be. In a rapidly changing industry, the Sulzberger program will need to change with it. We will strive to deliver timely case studies and guest speakers, adjust modules to fit the observed needs of our fellows and their companies, and constantly improve through feedback.

If you have any case studies, expertise, or feedback that that you think would be particularly relevant to our fellows, please reach out to me at corey@matter.vc.

I’m excited. Are you? If so, dig into the details and apply through Columbia Journalism School here.

It’s time to flare.

I’m proud of the impact we’ve made at Matter, the team we’ve built, and the people that we have transformed. But now it’s time for me to explore.

Go to the profile of Corey Ford

As all Matter entrepreneurs know, venture design is a process that consists of a series of flaring and focusing, knowing how and when to explore and knowing how and when to execute. In a flare, you uncritically explore and ideate; when you’re focusing, you filter and execute on your ideas. Successful venture designers do that as many times as possible as they create a venture that is feasible, viable, and desirable. I call this journey “The Drunken Walk of the Entrepreneur.

Recently I’ve come to the realization that for the last 7 years I have been in extreme focus mode. Since starting Matter from scratch in 2012, Matter has raised 2 venture funds, run 8 accelerator cohorts, invested in 73 portfolio companies, brought together 12 institutional media and technology partners, delivered 5 partner accelerator programs, trained local news organizations across the United States and Asia Pacific through Open Matter, assembled a network of 340 mentors, established media innovation spaces and communities in both SF and NYC, and built a team of extraordinary human beings on both coasts. We’ve proven that our repeatable and scalable venture design process works. Matter startups have raised over $53M and have been acquired by companies like Snap, Buzzfeed, and Kickstarter. In this tough early-stage media space, Matter startups have proven to be resilient, with 84% of our Fund II companies still operating or achieving an exit. And, in an industry with a terrible track record of diversity and inclusion, 50% of our Fund II founder CEOs are women and 40% are people of color.

I’m proud of the impact we’ve made, the team we’ve built, and the people and organizations that we have transformed. But now it’s time for me to flare.

For the last two years I have tried to secure Matter’s future. While I succeeded at figuring out how to successfully expand Matter and its unique culture to NYC and to tranform Matter into an organization that could continue to operate if I were hit by a bus, I have yet to successfully raise Matter Fund III and we’ve come to the end of our runway.

As the investment period for Matter Fund II has now come to a close, I have decided to pause raising Matter Fund III and take a step back to decide where I want to take Matter and, most importantly, what I want to pour myself into next. That could take many forms, from deciding to raise Matter Fund III with a different strategy, to pivoting Matter to a services business, to starting my next company, to taking a leadership role at an existing company in media, venture capital, technology, education, or government. The whole point is I need to flare — get out into the world, have lots of conversations, and generate multiple directions before focusing on one. So if you’re up for exploring possibilities, let’s talk.

Up until this exact moment I haven’t allowed myself to think about anything besides figuring out how to keep Matter alive. Matter is my baby. And I have made the classic (and inevitable) founder mistake of intertwining my identity and my self-worth with the identity and the success of Matter. That’s not healthy. That’s why I need to take a step back. So I am allowing myself to separate the two as I explore potential futures for myself in which Matter continues — and in which it doesn’t.

I’ve been focusing too long. It’s time to flare.

The practical implications of this are that the Matter accelerator program is on pause indefinitely and I have knocked down our burn rate to the studs. The Matter spaces in SF and NYC have been subleased and, effective February 1, the full-time Matter team will just be me. I will continue to support our portfolio of 73 companies across our two funds. I may also continue to provide Matter services like bootcamps, workshops, consulting, coaching, and speaking. I will do this full-time for now but this may shift to part-time in the future depending on how my personal exploration takes shape.

I don’t make this decision lightly. In fact, I’ve been struggling with it for the last 6 months. But if there’s one lesson that all Matter entrepreneurs know, it’s that sometimes you have to “Kill Your Puppies” in order to truly make your venture succeed. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I still fundamentally believe in Matter’s mission to support early-stage entrepreneurs and leaders within essential institutions of journalism to build a more informed, empathetic, and inclusive society. Journalism and democracy are now under attack around the world. Social media giants have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to make decisions that are in the best interest of their users and of democracy. Mission-driven media entrepreneurs are needed now more than ever to build alternatives and to strengthen our media ecosystem. And existing media institutions need to become more resilient by transforming their culture. The world is moving so fast that media organizations will only be relevant, sustainable, and impactful in the future if they focus on building culture, people, and processes that enable them to constantly be understanding the needs and behaviors of their audiences, leveraging emerging technologies, and seeking sustainable business models. That starts and ends with culture.

Matter is a community and it is a community that will continue. I am forever grateful to each and every one of you who have made the last seven years of the Matter accelerator program possible. Our founding institutional partners, KQED, Knight Foundation, and PRX, and my co-founder, Jake Shapiro, made a huge bet on me when Matter was only a crazy idea on a whiteboard. After we proved out our process for entrepreneurs in Fund I, The Associated Press, McClatchy, CNHI, and AH Belo made a bet on us that we could expand those offerings to our partners in Fund II. And when we decided to expand to NYC, The New York Times, Tribune Publishing, and Tamedia made a bet on us that we could successfully replicate our model and, most importantly, our culture in a new city. Steve Grove of the Google News Initiative has had our back at every step of the way, first by becoming our technology partner, then by supporting our expansion to NYC, and then by enabling us to offer our Open Matter Bootcamps to local news organizations across the United States and Asia Pacific. And Google for Startups has connected us into a startup community that has enabled us to learn best practices from around the world.

I am thankful for the entrepreneurs from our 73 portfolio companies for trusting us to invest in their companies and guide them on their journeys. We may have been investing in them but they were the ones really betting on us. Entrepreneurship is hard. I see the grit and determination and creativity of founders every single day. The highs are high and the lows are low and the chances of failure are almost certain. I believe many of our investments will succeed in fulfilling their bold visions AND the truth of the matter is that most entrepreneurs we invest in will fail. It’s the nature of the beast. But regardless of whether their business venture succeeds, I know that the Matter experience has transformed each and every founder who has come through our door and I believe in the impact that these incredible humans will have in their current venture, their next venture, or in leadership positions at the most influential organizations throughout media and technology. That is success.

We have built an incredible team at Matter and the thing I most regret is that I haven’t found a way to keep this team together. Everyone who chose to work at Matter made a bet on me and I’m grateful for that. Each of our employees has made me a better leader and a better person through their example, their empathy, their creativity, their grit, and their gifts of feedback. Lara Ortiz-Luis, Ben Werdmuller, Pete Mortensen, Roxann Stafford, Josh Lucido, Liz Kopp Morrison, Shereen Adel, Lindsay Abrams, Kourtney Bitterly, Nikita Shamdasani, Rebecca Bowring Radnaev, and Jigar Mehta, I hope to work with each and every one of you again one day. Thanks also to our Google News Lab Fellows, our Morehead-Cain Scholars, and our Stanford GSB Associates who got thrown in the deep end every summer and thrived as true members of our team.

I am also thankful for the guidance of Matter Advisory Board members past and present who have been the sounding board for Matter’s strategy and have given me encouragement and confidence through Matter’s own drunken walk. I am especially thankful for the steadfast support and guidance from Jake Shapiro, Jim Kennedy, Tim Olson, Andy Pergam, John Boland, Kerri Hoffman, Steve Grove, Jake Smilovitz, Nick Rockwell, Jeremey Gockel, Pat Talamantes, Craig Forman, Matthew Ipsan, Nicki Purcell, John Bracken, Ben Wirz, and Pietro Supino.

Finally, I want to thank our mentors — 340 strong! — who volunteered their time, their advice, their personal narratives, their “gloves off” feedback, and their connections. Matter’s core team has always been small and you were the leverage that made Matter possible.

Thank you all for creating a community that continues to change media for good. Onward.

A Lot More Experiments: Open Matter

Today, we launch Open Matter: Local News Bootcamps with Google News Lab, News Media Alliance, and 4 Top J. schools.

When the old model is broken, what will work in its place? The answer is nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for lots and lots of experiments.— Clay Shirky

Matter was founded in 2012 as a place for experiments in media to happen, from both outside and inside existing media institutions. To date, we’ve supported 61 media start-ups (with 12 more to be announced shortly) and 12 media institutions in testing new media products and business models in ways to meet the real needs of their audience, leverage emerging technologies, and seek sustainable business models. And through each of these journeys these intra- and entrepreneurs have transformed their cultures to become resilient and nimble in the face of uncertainty.

We’re proud of the people and institutions we’ve touched in the first five years of Matter, but we’ve always wanted to be able to offer the immersive Matter experience to more innovators beyond the select companies we are able to invest in or the media companies that are big enough to invest in us. That’s why today I’m proud to announce that, with the support of Google News Lab, we are opening up a core part of the Matter experience to local news organizations all over the country.

Each member of the Matter cohort to date has started their Matter journey with an immersive bootcamp that teaches them how to build profitable media ventures through an audience-centered, prototype-driven process called design thinking. This bootcamp is the core foundation of the Matter experience. And, now, we are opening that up to a whole new set of people.

Over the next 6 months, Matter will be running four Local News Bootcamps in four different regions of the United States in partnership with Google News Lab. And your for-profit local news organization can apply to attend for free right here.

Led by Matter’s Pete Mortensen and with tremendous support from the News Media Alliance in getting the word out to their members and helping select the winners, we will hold four tuition-free design and entrepreneurial thinking bootcamps for journalists, news businesspeople, designers, and technologists. And we’ll do it in four different regions to be as local as possible for as many publications as possible. At least 20 publications will join the training, and we’ll have the honor of helping run at least 120 outstanding individuals working on the front lines of the local news business through our bootcamp.

We’re also partnering with four top-tier journalism programs: CUNY Graduate School of Journalism; the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism; the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management & Leadership at the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication; and UC Berkeley Advanced Media Institute. Their excitement and support in helping to get this initiative off the ground will provide our bootcamp participants with as rich and experiential a learning environment as we offer to our entrepreneurs and partners, anchored in the environments where the next generation of local news leaders will develop.

At critical moments in our history, Google has helped Matter to reach our next level, starting from the first time Google News Lab founder and director Steve Grove reached out to ask how he could assist with our mission. That ultimately led to them joining as our first technology partner and later helping making it possible for us to expand to New York. Now, we’re joining up to broaden our impact, hand in hand. We couldn’t ask for better partners in that journey.

As we start our sixth year, it’s clear we need a lot more experiments if we’re going to move the needle. Fast. The trends in the media industry that drove our founding have worsened. Newsrooms continue to get smaller. Ad rates continue to plummet. Trust in the media ebbs ever lower.

In order to think bigger about how to change media for good, we need to think smaller: community by community, publication by publication, station to station. This is at the heart of this new collaboration.

Yet the numbers consistently show that, while people don’t trust “the media,” they tend to put greater trust in their local news sources, the outlets that are embedded in their communities and have a stake in their success. In order to think bigger about how to change media for good, we need to think smaller: community by community, publication by publication, station to station. This is at the heart of this new collaboration.

Open call for inspired teams from local media organizations of all sizes.

Starting today, we are launching an open application for teams from local for-profit news organizations to apply to join us for these workshops. The biggest challenge in a sustainable local media landscape is in finding sustainable revenue in a for-profit environment, not just philanthropy and public funding. We don’t shy from a challenge, which is why we’re addressing it head on. (We’re also very interested in running the same type of bootcamps for public media and other local non-profit institutions, so stay tuned for other opportunities in the future or reach out hello@matter.vc if you’d like to support such an initiative.)

The application lives here, but these are the pertinent details for interested organizations and individuals:

  1. Apply as a team; each accepted publication can bring up to six individuals, so think through exactly who would best benefit from the training and widen impact.
  2. Think multidisciplinary; innovation happens when editorial, business, tech, and design are working in sync, not as isolated functions in a larger organization. We’ll look favorably on applicants who show a good mix.
  3. Think local; we’re not hoping to inspire the next Buzzfeed or theSkimm, providing a new take on national or even global content. We’re hoping to equip the local news industry to find new opportunities to connect with their communities and make money by providing the insight and reporting that only great local publications can.
  4. Think regionally. We’ll start in New York the week of April 23, then hit Missouri the week of May 7, and Berkeley and Georgia the week of June 25.

Applications open starting today and will remain open for each location until about 45 days prior to each bootcamp. (So if you’re interested in New York, please get your applications in by 3/7!) The first five accepted publications in each region will receive a guaranteed six slots in one bootcamp, tuition-free, with included breakfast and lunch for all three days. Publications will be responsible for any travel costs and other meals for their participating team members. Space for other publications at varying headcount may be available beyond the initial five for each site, space and quality of applicants permitting.

If you’ve got questions, please reach out to us at localnews@matter.vc. We can’t wait to hear from you, understand your excitement and hesitations, and build an experience that will make a material difference across the mosaic of Community news.

And if you haven’t yet clicked earlier, apply here!

Join Matter. as a Program Coordinator — Help change media for good!

Matter Ventures is about to open our garage door to our seventh accelerator class. We’ve spent the last few months sourcing courageous entrepreneurs building ventures that speak truth to power, close the empathy gap, and take a radically inclusive approach to amplifying the voices of all people. On June 5th, they’ll start their 20-week Matter journey supported by a community, culture, and process that sits at the intersection of design thinking, entrepreneurship, venture capital, and the future of media that matters.

You have an opportunity to join them on this journey.

We are hiring two full-time Program Coordinators to join the Matter team — one in San Francisco and one in New York City. Our Program Coordinators have the potential to create and support a truly world-class experience for entrepreneurs whose ventures help create a more informed, inclusive, and empathic society. We’re ready to make an impact — are you?

The Program Coordinator is the backbone of our Program and Investment team, which spans our Entrepreneur Program, Partner Program, and Investments. You’ll be exposed to all facets of Matter by acting as the central hub of our programs for entrepreneurs and media partners, in addition to helping the investment team find new, innovative media startups. You’ll be the tactical and creative glue for the team as you create amazing events, prototype projects, and take a human centered approach to problem solving.

This is a great opportunity to harness your creative drive and fully immerse and expose yourself to early-stage entrepreneurship, media innovation, venture capital, and design thinking. By joining our small team, you’ll get behind the scenes at a mission-driven investor the Wall Street Journal says is investing in companies with innovative models that are protecting and addressing what is at stake in our democracy. The timing couldn’t be better to jump right in.

Specific responsibilities include:

Accelerator Program — The entrepreneur accelerator program is Matter’s bread and butter. You’ll work alongside the Director of Program to amplify the experience of entrepreneurs from Bootcamp through Demo Day — prepping materials, producing events, and acting as a thought partner in planning everything from Bootcamp, Speaker Series, Workshops, Design Reviews, to Demo Day.

Partner Program — Our media partners, such as the New York Times, the Associated Press, and KQED, experience an accelerator program of their own that runs in parallel to the entrepreneur program. You’ll work with our Director of Partnerships to support and amplify the partner experience.

Space — Our offices on Union Square in NYC and South Park in SF are the hubs of all the activities in our community. You’ll own the space experience at Matter. You’ll build and iterate upon our spaces by creating environments that amplify our program and support various learning modalities. You will be one of the first faces that visitors meet in our office and keep our offices running smoothly and stocked with snacks and drinks.

Events — Events at Matter are the intersection of our community and Program, Partnerships, and Investments work streams. You’ll produce events to help us reach out to new startups and partners, as well as happy hours and Design Reviews. During program and events, you’ll help set up and troubleshoot our presentation, sound, and tech setup (don’t worry — we’ll show you the ropes).

Media — Document the Matter experience my capturing photos and video of the activities in our space. Basic photo and video editing required. Manage these media assets and create a system to share easily with our internal team.

Investment Air Traffic Control — Our Investment team sources the inspiring start-ups that come through our doors. You’ll help the Directors of Investment with sourcing and scheduling, throwing aspirational sourcing events along the way.

Team — You’ll be the glue of your local office and look out for the team pulse. By working closely in step with your local team, you’ll help the team be their best selves by collaborating on various projects and jumping in to support as needed.

Skills & Experience:

  • Professional Experience — Must have 3 or more years experience working on small, collaborative, scrappy teams in a fast-moving environment (ex. film/media production). Experience producing and hosting events. Demonstrate to us that you have a unique superpower that you can bring to our team. Undergraduate degree required.
  • Skills — Organized and detail-oriented. You’re a self-starter who is proactive and has a bias toward action. Media savvy (even as a hobbyist, you’re interested in photography and video capture and/or editing). Tech savvy. Excellent written and verbal communication skills, including writing blog posts and emails, making and presenting decks using Keynote, and interacting with key stakeholders such as entrepreneurs, investors, and executives.
  • Personal Characteristics — Passionate about our mission to create a more informed, empathetic, and inclusive society. High EQ. Ability to inspire. Excited to learn through experience and embrace a human-centered, prototype-driven approach to your work at Matter. Creative thinker and problem-solver with entrepreneurial drive and comfort with ambiguity. As with all positions at Matter, there is no job below you and no job above you. Hungry to always be learning. Scrappy.

Salary based on experience and qualifications. We offer a competitive benefits package including health care, dental, vision, 401K with a 4% employer match, commuter benefits, and other perks.

All Matter. team members work full-time out of our offices in San Francisco or NYC. Some night and weekend work required. Occasional travel required.


Excited to join our team? We’d love to hear from you even if you don’t fulfill every requirement listed above.

Part I — Fill out our Applicant Information Form right now.

Part II — Compose a cover letter describing why you are an excellent fit for this position and what superpower you would bring to our team. Compile your cover letter, resume, and a writing sample into one pdf named “LastName_ FirstName.pdf” and email it to jobs@matter.vc with the subject “Program Coordinator — NY” or “Program Coordinator-SF”.

If you stand out to us we will follow up to learn more. We look forward to meeting you!

We are ready.

With four new hires, the Matter team is ready to deepen our impact right when it is needed most.

Matter’s newly expanded team will allow us to deepen our impact in both San Francisco and New York City.

We were made for this moment.

Matter was founded four years ago on the principle of applying the values of journalism and public media to the methodologies and mindsets of design thinking, entrepreneurship, and venture capital.

We started as a scrappy team of two. After three years and five cohorts, we decided to grow our team to six and then rapidly expanded from San Francisco to New York City. Our first bicoastal cohort was a success and I am in awe of what we were able to accomplish last year. But the way we did it — with lots and lots of flights between SF and NYC — was unsustainable. So post-Demo Day, we’ve had our heads down focused on one thing — building a world-class team in both SF and NYC that will sustainably deepen our impact in both locations.

With the four new hires we are announcing today, the foundation for Matter is now solid in both San Francisco and New York City and we are ready to scale our impact at a time when our mission is more critical than ever.

Each of our new hires understands that an informed public is the bedrock of democracy, and that we need to strengthen our media ecosystem by supporting innovators at mission-aligned media institutions and by investing in entrepreneurs building the future of media.

We believe the seeds of the next great media institutions will be planted this year by courageous entrepreneurs who make the leap to build ventures that speak truth to power, close the empathy gap, and take a radically inclusive approach to amplifying the voices of all people.

We’ve now got the team that’s ready to support 100 start-up ventures and 300 entrepreneurs in 7 bicoastal cohorts over the next 4 years. We’re taking lots of big swings at one of the most critical challenges of our time.

We now have a Director of Program and Director of Investments in both the Innovation Capital of the World and the Media Capital of the World, setting us up to run two cohorts per year by January. We have our first Director of Partnerships, who will be focused full-time on supporting our current partners, designing new offerings, and expanding our partnership base. We also have our first Matter alum joining the Matter leadership team, which will be invaluable in deepening our empathy for the entrepreneur experience.

I’m a huge believer that you should always hire people who are better than you, and we’ve certainly done that. The new Matter team has deep expertise in design thinking, computer science, entrepreneurship, partnerships, finance, strategy, and, of course, media.

As Director of Program (NYC), Roxann Stafford will run all aspects of our NYC accelerator program, including teaching design thinking process, coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs, and growing our East Coast mentor network. Kourtney Bitterly, our first Director of Partnerships, will oversee our partner program, deepen the impact we can have on our current partners, and develop new partnerships. Josh Lucido will lead our NYC investments as Director of Investments (NYC). He’ll source new startups for our program, manage our portfolio, and be intimately involved with the fundraising process. All three will work closely with our NYC-based Program Coordinator, Nikita Shamdasani.

In San Francisco, Ben Werdmuller, who was CEO and technical co-founder of a company in our Matter Three cohort, joins the Matter team as Director of Investments (SF), with a role that mirrors Josh’s on the West Coast. Our current Associate, Pete Mortensen, is now Director of Program (SF), with a role that mirrors Roxann’s. Liz Kopp will continue to run space and global operations out of SF.

We are excited for the new adventures that our Associate, Lara Ortiz-Luis, and our Storyteller, Rebecca Bowring, are off to. Lara will be starting her MBA at MIT-Sloan in the Fall (and traveling the world in between) and Becky will be starting her adventure as a new mother. We are sad to see them go but will be forever grateful for the strong foundation they have laid for Matter going forward.

Learn more about our new teammates from their bios and blog posts below:

Roxann Stafford: Director of Program (NYC)

“My career path has been one where I’ve brought together many worlds and used my commitment to social change, design thinking, and entrepreneurship to cultivate communities of diverse actors.”

Roxann brings together the worlds of social impact and design thinking. Her background in mechanical engineering, business, and psychology combines the analytical rigor and empathy necessary for sustainable systems design. In her previous role as Director of Design and Learning at the innovation agency SecondMuse, she worked with partners such as Google and the UN on issues from Internet Freedom to civic innovation and disaster relief. She has extensive international experience identifying big system problems in regions from the Pacific Islands to the Caribbean, and cultivating opportunities for entrepreneurship to solve those issues. Roxann has been named a tech innovator by NPR, for whom she is a commentator on diversity and innovation. She previously worked at Jump Associates, and has guest lectured at Stanford’s School of Engineering. She has an MBA from The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.

Learn more about Roxann’s story in her own words and follow her on Twitter.

Kourtney Bitterly: Director of Partnerships (NYC)

“Our partner institutions feel more vital than ever. I’m inspired to see the iterative and entrepreneurial mindset being seeded in these cultures. I’m excited to work with these organizations as they tackle the changes in technology and behaviors that come their way.”

Kourtney cares deeply about helping media organizations find new models for growth. She comes to Matter from Kickstarter, where she worked as an outreach consultant, having previously headed up Strategic Partnerships at theSkimm. Prior to that, she was part of the Business Development team at IDEO New York, using design thinking to envision the future of media with partners including HBO, MSNBC, and PBS. She’s a former journalist who booked guests and briefed Charlie Rose for interviews, and worked on talking points for Arianna Huffington. She is a Notre Dame alumna, and speaks fluent Spanish.

Learn more about Kourtney’s story in her own words.

Josh Lucido: Director of Investments (NYC)

“Some might say my path to Matter is reminiscent of the drunken walk of the entrepreneur, and they’d be right. I’ve worked across vastly different organizations and teams but two things remained constant: my passion for media, and my desire to do something that mattered.”

A New York City native, Josh joins Matter from Beautycon Media, a global community for content creators, where he was Director of Finance and Operations. He has a background in financial diligence, strategic negotiations, and startup operations. He has mentored entrepreneurs in the VR and entertainment/fintech spaces, and worked on business strategy with a mobile health startup in Kenya. Josh obtained his MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management, and began his career in production for ABC News and the Directors Guild of America. He’s a sometime hockey goalie and a chocolate milkshake aficionado.

Learn more about Josh’s story in his own words and follow him on Twitter.

Ben Werdmuller: Director of Investments (SF)

“A healthy media and an informed electorate are integral to democracy: without one, the other can’t function. Amplifying diverse voices, standing up for truth, and ensuring media independence and sustainability are some of the most important things we can be doing.”

Ben is an entrepreneur and software engineer who has spent his career building platforms at the intersection of technology and society. He has a passion for open source development and respectful social technology. In 2014, he co-founded the social learning tool Known, which was part of Matter’s third accelerator program. Prior to that, he was a co-founder of Elgg, an open source social networking platform whose users included Harvard and Stanford Universities, NASA, and The World Bank. He was also CTO at Latakoo, an enterprise video software solution used by media organizations including NBC News. Before joining Matter, he worked on the technical team at Medium.

Learn more about Ben’s story in his own words and follow him on Twitter.

The Year of The Rebelpreneur

An informed and connected public is the bedrock of democracy. But with our journalistic institutions under threat economically, politically, and culturally, that bedrock is cracking. We need to strengthen our media ecosystem.

Winter is here.

I felt the bite of the wind most deeply when I got the email from another parent who had been on my daughter’s playground the day after that terrifying night:

The girls were standing in a circle
Comparing skin color
And deciding who was safe
And who was not.

These were first graders.
In Oakland.
On 11/9.

Day One of Trump.

I broke down. Terrified.
Was this my country now?
Nightmare. Sheer terror. Please wake me up. Wake up!
This is not my America.

But it was. I was awoken.

This is how it feels to be terrified of authorities.
To feel the machines of a totalitarian state begin to screech and turn and target you.
To look around at your fellow citizens and not know who is friend and who is foe.

This is how many of my fellow Americans who do not look like me feel every. single. day.

America, the myth. Shattered.

That woke me up.
No time to cry. No time to panic.

I was made for this moment, and so were you.

It’s the time to fight.
The time to courageously risk our privilege.
The time not just to resist, but to oppose.
Each with our own superpower from our own point of leverage.

From in front of the camera,
To the newsrooms of New York City,
To the garages of Silicon Valley.

Those who flinch will fall in disgrace. Heroes no more.

But those who stay clear eyed in their values and shout into the face of a creeping normalization of what we CANNOT let become normal — will rise.

It’s that. Or we lose everything we stand for as Americans.

An informed and connected public is the bedrock of democracy. But with our journalistic institutions under threat economically, politically, and culturally, that bedrock is cracking.

We need to strengthen our media ecosystem.

The seeds of the next great media institutions will be planted this year by courageous entrepreneurs who make the leap to build ventures that speak truth to power, close the empathy gap, and take a radically inclusive approach to amplifying the voices of all Americans.

Winter may be here but inside the fire is rekindled anew. Our purpose is clear.

This is the Year of The Rebelpreneur.

Matter has launched in NYC!

The New York Times Joins Matter.

When we first launched Matter three and a half years ago with the support of Knight Foundation, KQED, and PRX, I firmly believed that by creating a truly independent start-up accelerator focused on helping early-stage media entrepreneurs experiment and fail their way to building the future of media that we would also be creating a place where important, mission-aligned media institutions could come to re-invent themselves, free from the constraints of their own Innovator’s Dilemma.

The New York Times becomes Matter’s ninth media partner seeking to leverage Matter to do just that, joining Knight Foundation, PRX, KQED, The Associated Press, McClatchy, AH Belo, CNHI, and Tribune Publishing. We are proud that this collaboration gives one of the most prestigious brands in journalism access to our culture, our process, and our community through our parallel program for media partners.

The Times, along with other partners, will run internal innovation teams alongside our entrepreneurs during the 20-weeks of our accelerator program, going through our bootcamp, our design reviews, and our Demo Day. We’ve already helped media institutions such as the Associated Press and KQED achieve real results in pursuing an outside innovation strategy through us and we are excited to help The New York Times do the same.

I am excited to work directly with Nick Rockwell, the CTO of The New York Times, and Will Bardeen, SVP of Strategy & Development, both of whom will lead the New York Times’ collaboration with Matter.

Like me, Nick sees a big win-win between The New York Times and Matter. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that New York, in addition to being our home, is the global capital of news media. To be in both places really strengthens Matter’s mission and brand.” says Nick, “We think that this is a unique opportunity for us at the Times to observe, participate, and maximize our exposure to design thinking, and the transparency Matter brings to the process. If I could send 200 people through the Matter bootcamp, I would, because the need to innovate really permeates the entire organization.”

Teams from the New York Times have just completed our partner bootcamp and their first design review and have three more design reviews to go before revealing their progress at Matter’s first Partner Demo Day on October 26.

I can think of no stronger way to land in New York City than by collaborating with the New York Times. It’s one of the most influential and prestigious brands in journalism and the impact it has had over the last hundred years is the type of impact we want our entrepreneurs to achieve over the next 100 years.

Matter SF ∞ NYC

Matter SF ∞ NYC

We’re expanding Matter to NYC…and bringing SF with us.

In less than 30 minutes, with the swipe of a Metro Card, you can go from the hallowed halls of The New York Times in Midtown to the hipster heaven of Vice in Williamsburg.

You can have breakfast with the CTOs of all the major media companies while overlooking Central Park and then run to The New School where media and tech professionals are drawn by intrinsic motivation to, as a side-hustle, teach the next generation of creators in a design thinking environment.

You can pitch media-focused VCs at Betaworks or Union Square Ventures or Lerer and then strike a distribution deal with Buzzfeed or Quartz or Hearst.

This is New York City — where Matter NYC will be launching on June 13!

Applications for our first Matter NYC cohort are now open. We’re already meeting with the world’s most promising media + tech startups right now and we’re extending the application deadline for Matter Six to April 7 to accommodate applicants interested in Matter NYC. We’ll select six NYC-based start-ups and six SF-based start-ups for our intense 20-week accelerator program that unites design thinking process and early stage entrepreneurship to build the future of media that matters.

Our NYC cohort will not be an island. Instead of isolated programs in SF and NYC, we are designing an interwoven experience that exposes our 6 SF-based teams and our 6 NYC-based teams to both the Innovation Capital of the World and the Media Capital of the World. By uniting these two communities, we are making 1 + 1 > 2 and increasing the intentional serendipity between the tech and media tribes.

Our model, which has been tested and validated over our last five cohorts (and has some roots at Eric Schmidt’s VC firm and Stanford University before that), integrates this idea of an interwoven experience seamlessly. Our 20-week program is designed around the monthly design review, where we create an experience for our entrepreneurs to fail fast, get feedback, and prepare for the sprint to the next design review.

We’ll select 6 start-ups to be based in SF and 6 start-ups to be based in NYC. But they’ll have a joint Bootcamp and Design Review Zero in SF to kick-off the program before settling into their respective geographies. They’ll have Design Review One separately before coming together in NYC for a joint Design Review Two. Then they’ll have Design Review Three separately before coming together for joint Demo Days in both NYC and SF.

We’ve always held Demo Days in both SF and NYC, and the added exposure our startups have gotten by bringing them to NYC has been simply invaluable to them. Now they can be exposed to that community earlier in the program.

How expanding to NYC will benefit our entrepreneurs.

It just takes a few days running around NYC to realize how obvious expanding to NYC is for Matter. The density of media innovators in this city creates the conditions for intentional serendipity at a massive level. Matter is the independent hub that can bring them all together.

This is also an opportunity for our entrepreneurs to truly “go to the gemba” and work elbow-to-elbow with their customers in their environments. About half of our portfolio is focused on B2B media customers while the other half is building its own platform. For the B2B startups, we’ve just unlocked need-finding heaven. Almost every media player in the industry either has its HQ or a significant outpost in NYC. Entrepreneurs need to be close to their customers. With Matter NYC, they’ll be a few blocks away and have the connections they need to get in.

The best relationship between large customers and entrepreneurs is not a vendor relationship. It’s a close partnership. Entrepreneurs are immensely talented and driven. Large media companies have deep pockets and big problems that need solving. By forging a close relationship between the two, Matter startups will have access to the real people and problems facing the industry and media companies will have access to talented, visionary teams unencumbered by the status quo.

And speaking of partnerships with incredible media companies, we can’t wait to share who’s rolling out the welcome wagon for Matter in NYC. The enthusiasm from media executives, investors, and entrepreneurs is palpable, and we’ve got some exciting media partnerships coming together. But we move faster than most, and our partnership agreements are winding their way through legal departments. So, in the spirit of rapid prototyping, we couldn’t wait any longer to get the word out there: NYC, we are coming!

How we’re going to pull it off

In the process of designing the interwoven model we also discovered a way to improve our weekly program structure AND enable our team to be in two places at once as we get NYC off the ground. In the past, we’ve had intensive Matter-led programming every week. And while this pushed our teams, we received feedback from our alumni that it might be better to alternate between a “heads up” programming week with a “heads down” building week. This would give entrepreneurs a little more concentrated time to make progress between feedback sessions and make it possible for teams to travel, if needed, without missing any essential programming. The best ideas always come from your customers, so we’re going to run with this one.

In fact, this programming insight gave us our “aha” moment on how to operationally ensure that our culture — our most important asset — would be successfully kindled at Matter NYC. By shifting the SF and NYC programs by one week, so that when SF is in “Flare” (heads up) mode, NYC is in “Focus” (heads down) mode, it means that I can always be on the ground for all the Matter programming weeks in each city. I’ll be readily available to all 12 teams every other week in person and for all of their critical moments. And I’ll always be available via our growing Matter Slack community. Importantly, I’ll also be there for my growing team in each location, constantly coaching and training our talent, laying the groundwork to keep scaling our impact through our people.

So NYC, get ready for me. I’ll be living bi-coastal this year — constantly seeking to create intentional serendipity between Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley.

Come build the future of media with us.

Be a part of our growing community in SF and NYC by being a startup in our next cohort, being a mentor, being a media partner, or joining the Matter NYC team.

Stay tuned to A Matter-Driven Narrative as we unite the Innovation Capital of the World with the Media Capital of the World….

Grow Matter NYC. Invest in innovators.

Grow Matter NYC. Invest in innovators.

It’s official. Matter is expanding to New York and launching our first class starting June 13. We’ll select six NYC-based start-ups and six SF-based start-ups for our intense 20-week accelerator program that unites design thinking process and early stage entrepreneurship to build the future of media that matters.

We are looking for a NYC Associate to run our first Matter NYC accelerator program alongside Managing Partner Corey Ford and to help us expand our efforts to source, select, and support entrepreneurs building the future of media through our start-up accelerator. Apply now.

This is an excellent opportunity to expand your knowledge of design thinking, early-stage entrepreneurship, media innovation, and venture capital. By joining our small, growing team you’ll have a back stage pass to what Inc. calls one of the hottest start-up accelerators in Silicon Valley — now also in New York City.

We have been scaling the ways we make this impact, including doubling down on our SF accelerator, expanding to NYC, and bringing on new industry partners.

Under the direct mentorship of the Managing Partner and in collaboration with our San Francisco Associates (meet Pete and Lara), the new Matter NYC Associate will work with the SF team to run the Accelerator Program in NYC, help source, select, and support both accelerator and seed companies, and develop investment hypotheses and thought leadership.

The timing couldn’t be better to make an impact.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Accelerator Program — Co-lead, manage, and constantly improve Matter’s 20-week start-up accelerator program. Coach and mentor Matter entrepreneurs and connect them to the right people and resources in our community. Learn how to teach and coach design thinking process as applied to early stage entrepreneurship under the mentorship of the Managing Partner.
  • Investment — Source, evaluate, select, and close investments in early-stage media ventures for both the accelerator program. Investment includes (but is not limited to) sourcing promising early-stage media entrepreneurs for the accelerator program while representing the Matter brand, reading and evaluating applications and pitch decks, conducting initial interviews, participating in semi-finalist and finalist interviews, analyzing ventures and writing investment recommendations, presenting at deal flow meetings, conducting and managing the due diligence process, and managing the deal closing process.
  • Thought Leadership — Develop investment hypotheses and thought leadership by synthesizing deal flow data and trends, staying on top of industry news and research, conducting interviews with experts and industry leaders, contributing to the Matter Medium Collection, and sharing insights via a professional social media presence.
  • Portfolio Support — Help support, mentor, and connect Matter’s growing portfolio of 36+ ventures. Collect, monitor, synthesize, and communicate the progress, performance, and needs of portfolio companies.
  • Ecosystem Development — Proactively grow Matter’s community of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, and partners by networking, attending events, researching experts, and generally building good karma by helping others in the ecosystem. Expand the Matter ecosystem in NYC.
  • Supporting and collaborating with the Managing Partner and Matter Team as needed. Other tasks as needed.

Skills & Experience:

  • Professional Experience — Must have professional experience and expertise that would establish the NYC Associate as a helpful and credible mentor to our early-stage media entrepreneurs. This experience can range from being an experienced start-up founder, to leading product design, to teaching and coaching design thinking process, to sourcing and evaluating investments in a previous role in early stage venture capital, to experience leading innovation at a media company. Think about what unique superpower you would bring to our start-ups. Bringing a strong, relevant New York-based professional network is a plus. Experience working on small, collaborative, scrappy teams in a fast-moving environment. Undergraduate degree required. Masters degree, such as an MBA, is a plus but not required.
  • Skills — Must be able to source and evaluate early stage start-up investment opportunities. Excellent written and verbal communication skills, including writing investment memos, blog posts, and emails, making and presenting decks using Keynote, and interacting with key stakeholders such as entrepreneurs, investors, and executives. Excellent public speaker. Experience coaching and mentoring others. Previous teaching experience a plus. Familiarity with user-centered, prototype-driven design process. Ability to quickly model businesses and size markets in Excel a plus. Tech savvy.
  • Personal Characteristics — Passionate about supporting early-stage media entrepreneurs to learn, grow, and achieve their dreams. Intrinsically motivated to help and coach others. High EQ. Ability to inspire. Excited to apply a human-centered, prototype-driven approach to helping build Matter. Creative problem-solver with entrepreneurial drive and comfort with ambiguity. No job below you and no job above you. Hungry to always be learning. Scrappy.

Salary based on experience and qualifications. We offer a competitive benefits package including health care, dental, vision, 401K with a 4% employer match, commuter benefits, and other perks.

This position will work full-time out of our future office in New York City. Some night and weekend work required. Occasional travel required.


Excited to join our team? We’d love to hear from you.

Part I — Fill out our Applicant Information Form right now.

Part II — Compose a cover letter describing why you are an excellent fit for this position and what superpower you would bring to support and mentor our entrepreneurs. Compile your cover letter, resume, a writing sample, and 3 professional references into one pdf named “LastName_ FirstName.pdf” and email it to [email protected] with the subject “NYC Associate.”

If you stand out to us we will follow up to learn more. We look forward to meeting you!

Get ready for Matter’s 100 Days of Summer.

Get ready for Matter’s 100 Days of Summer.

With a bigger Matter team and a simpler application process, the dates are now set for the next Matter class. Are you in?

100 Days of Summer. Well, 99 to be exact. 99 days to accelerate your media start-up from what you think might be a great media venture to one that is actually on the path to becoming a great media venture. That’s the opportunity in front of you.

We’ve built the only place in the world that is set up specifically to help you achieve your dream of building the next great media institution. And we’ve done it by focusing on building a culture of experimentation, a community of 150+ mentors, and a structured 20-week program that constantly pushes you to get out of your head and into the real world — accelerating your path to product-market fit in a way that you just can’t do on your own.

Since our last cohort, our team has grown from 2 to 6, and we’ve been hunkered down making plans for how we will leverage this larger team to expand Matter’s impact on media+tech+entrepreneurship in 2016. We’re done planning and we’ve got some big announcements coming soon. But the announcement that we are starting with is the one media entrepreneurs have been clamoring for — the dates for when we are starting the next Matter class.

Get ready for Matter’s 100 days of summer. The next Matter cohort will start on June 13, beginning a 20-week journey to Demo Days in NYC and SF in late October.

Our applications have been open for a while (we have a rolling process) but we now have a clear path to our Finalist Interview Round, which will be held May 2–13. We’ve streamlined our application process to make it easier to apply (don’t worry — if you’ve already applied using the old process we’ve already got your materials!). We’ve moved away from AngelList and are now taking applications directly. All you need to do is send us your pitch deck and answer some basic questions about your team, product, and venture. No more essay questions. No more videos. Everything you’ll send us should be materials you’ve already put together if you are serious about your venture. (In fact, why don’t you send them to us right now?)

Here’s the headline: With our dates finally set, we are really starting to dig into the application process right now. So if you want in, now’s the time to get our attention. Applications are open until March 15.

For more on the program and the application process, keep reading below. (And stay tuned to A Matter-Driven Narrative. I promise there will be a few more interesting things coming from us in the next few weeks…)

The Program

At Matter, we provide intensive mentorship, space, and a $50K investment to help you build a scalable media venture through a human-centered, prototype-driven process rooted in design thinking. Our secret sauce is our culture of embracing fast experimentation and our community of entrepreneurs, media executives, and investors who help push your venture forward along the way.

We support you through a 20-week process that kicks off with a bootcamp and then consists of four one-month sprints to Demo Days in SF and NYC. At the end of each sprint is a Design Review that enables your team to get actionable feedback to implement in your next sprint. Each week you are supported through speaker series, mentor office hours, internal workshops, one-on-one coaching from the Matter team, and the intentional serendipity that occurs by working at the heart of a community of media innovators.

We encourage you to learn about Matter through our alumni’s eyes.

You can also follow the stories of our founders, team, mentors, and partners in our new Medium collection, A Matter-Driven Narrative. Read the reflection that Jesse Shapins, the CEO of a startup that was acquired by Buzzfeed, wrote about what he learned while in Matter’s first class.

To find out more about what we look for in the startups that we select, read “Here’s What We Look For.” To find out more about the application process, keep reading.

The Process

To start your journey, it’s simple. Just add your pitch deck and some readily available information about your team, company, and product here.

We’ve ditched the AngelList application questions and videos in order to make sure that everything we are asking for will be useful (and necessary) for you in all conversations you’ll be having with potential investors about your business.

That aligns with one of our core principles— that we should always design our application process to make sure that the application process itself helps accelerate your venture. We’ve been told on multiple occasions that our project in the semi-final round had advanced applicants’ ventures more in the 8 hours of the project than they have in the past 6 months. We’re now bringing that same principle to all stages of our process.

In essence, the application process is Act I in your acceleration.

Once you’ve sent us your pitch deck, we’ll set multiple eyes on it. If your deck piques our interest, we’ll invite you in for an initial 30 minute pitch session.

If we like what we see, things will start to get more serious. We’ll want to see how you go about building your business and test whether you can navigate the fog of entrepreneurship. We’ll give you a mini-project that lets you experience what it’s like to be in Matter by quickly testing the desirability, feasibility, and viability of your venture. You’ll complete the project and then share the results in a one-hour deep dive with our team.

If you make it past that stage, we’ll ask for due diligence materials to prepare for a final investment decision and we’ll invite you to have a coveted slot at our Finalist Interview Week in early May. (It’s 2 hours for you, a week for us.)

After that week, we’ll select at least six media startups to form Matter Six. If you are one of the “lucky” (aka “scrappy” aka “make your own luck’) teams, then you’ll do what it takes to prepare yourself to start the program in San Francisco in June.

It’s a competitive process so you need to bring your A game. Last class had a 2.5% acceptance rate. But there is one thing we guarantee: if you fail, you will fail forward. We’ve intentionally designed this process so that each step accelerates your venture, regardless of the outcome.

Take the first step on your Matter-Driven Narrative now by heading over to the Apply page on our website or if you know you’re ready, go ahead and fill out our application.

Your acceleration start now. Good luck!