Erin and I brought Known, Inc to Matter's third class in May, 2014. Over the next 19 weeks, we honed the fundamental story of our business, learning new techniques to validate assumptions and determine concrete needs along the way. They gave us $50,000 and a new way of thinking about startups.
Matter is a values-based accelerator that funds "ventures that have the potential to make society more informed, connected, and empowered". It's the only accelerator that I would have considered bringing Known to, and I think its mission makes it unique in Silicon Valley.
It funds ventures, not projects. That means you have to be driven - as I am - to create businesses based on these values. It's not good enough to build an interesting software platform; it has to be something that will attract investment or be able to grow through real revenue.
If that's what you have, Matter doesn't end at Demo Day. This last Friday, Corey Ford and I took a walking meeting around South Park. This isn't something that happens every few months: he and the Matter team have been there for us when we've needed help and advice every single time. When we began, I couldn't imagine the support we'd still be receiving almost two years later. (When we joined, Matter was a two-person startup in itself; Corey and Lara Ortiz-Luis have now grown into a much larger team.)
What's not immediately obvious when you read about Matter is the community. I've picked up the phone and called founders who went through the program years ago, and they've been happy to share their time and expertise with me, no questions asked. I could ask a question right now and four founders would give me advice before I've finished my coffee. More importantly: I consider them all friends, and the community persists even for the founders who have exited or closed their companies.
Here's another reflection on why Matter is different: half of Matter Three and Matter Five's CEOs were women. Two thirds of Matter Four's CEOs were women. Two thirds of the Matter team itself are women. I haven't seen that mentioned anywhere, but given the current Silicon Valley climate, that is certainly worth highlighting.
The partners are also awesome. We've enjoyed a close relationship with PRX and KQED in particular. Since we joined the community, Google News Lab, the Associated Press, Belo, Tribune Publishing, CNHI and McClatchy have all joined - and the Knight Foundation, one of the most important forces in American journalism, is a founding partner. They've joined because they see media changing, and they want to be a part of the future. These aren't small opportunities.
I wasn't asked to write this post. If I'm effusive, it's because I'm grateful. As a values-based entrepreneur - I've dedicated most of my career to building open platforms for media and education - I appreciate that Matter even exists. This is a firm that counts Wael Ghonim among its portfolio founders. It's not just an accelerator, and while that $50K seed might be a carrot, it's the least of its value.
So I'm writing this post because of that. I know lots of people who follow me are working on mission-driven ventures. You might be looking for partners, but need to find the right kind of community to protect the value of what you're building. All I'm saying is: Matter Six is open for applications, and it's worth your time.