"Hoping, planning and dreaming are nothing if you fail to take action"
Matthew Colletti is a born-and-raised Floridian entrepreneur. Having already spent 5 years innovating sales tactics and recruiting, training and developing sales people, Matthew returned to college in 2012. He graduated from The University of Tampa in 2015 magna cum laude as a Bachelor of Science in Finance. During his time in college, Matthew worked as an Investment Advisor for a firm which directed over 500 million USD in assets, while consistently maintaining full time status at the university. In late 2013, Matthew went on to found TalentedHuman, a social media platform which attracted users from over one hundred countries within the first year, and was privately valued at over 2.25 million in its seventh month of doing business. Following the sale of TalentedHuman in 2016, Matthew went on to Found NextScrum, a software development firm who helps entrepreneurs bring their ideas to fruition. Matthew is presently employed with the world’s leading IT research company, Gartner Inc. Matthew remains an entrepreneur at heart, and to this moment is working on his next venture. To learn more about Matthew or make contact for business opportunities, contact page, or view his LinkedIn profile.
My journey to entrepreneurship was unlike the average “success” story. I started my first year of college at 25 years old, with five years of professional experience under my belt. I got a sales job in local health club straight out of high school. I rose to the top performer position inside of year one, which translated into assistant management and eventually, I was the General Manager. Not too bad for a 22 year-old with zero college education huh? I truly believe it was my entrepreneurial spirit that drove me to constantly innovate my marketing and sales tactics. This touches a key point I preach regularly- entrepreneurs are born, not created. Entrepreneurship isn’t something you can create if it is not already internally present. Now this previous statement isn’t to undermine the value of education, experience or self-improvement, but to highlight the fact that entrepreneurs have character traits and innate values that are imbedded into who they are.
The idea for TalentedHuman came to me while sitting in a local coffee bar I frequented near the University of Tampa where I attended for my bachelor’s. Like any other day, I got my latte and said hello to the barista Chris. He told me about how insanely awesome his band was and how they are trying to “get the word out there to get more gigs.” I agreed this seems to be the path to music success. Then he just randomly blurted out, “I f****** hate Facebook man.” I laughed, as this was unexpected. He elaborated further on how it used to be easy to grow a following on Facebook, have people share your content and grow your “friend” base large enough to make a difference. This all was demolished over the years as newsfeed algorithms, friend limits and other restrictions were implemented. This was the epiphany.
I am not joking when I say that within fifteen minutes of that conversation, I was purchasing the domain talentedhuman.com and writing down everything about the concept and how it will work in my ever-faithful OneNote tab named “Good Ideas.” I still use this tab daily (including that I just starting building matthewcolletti.com on WordPress where I write this currently). Within a two-week period, I told all my classmates that I was going to build the next monstrous social platform, and I deeply believed this to be true. This quick dissemination of my idea is what led to me meeting with Jasem Meqwar, our Co-founder, who approached me and said, “before I return home to Kuwait after college I want to start a business here; I can’t think of anyone other than you.” He then simply said, “let’s build the social media platform you were talking about the past few weeks.”
In just a few short months we had interviewed a dozen software development firms and made the choice to get started. We perfected the logo:
This was quite a long process. When you want perfection and have no idea what you’re doing, simple things like forming a logo become tribulations. In six months we had a website that received hits from over a hundred countries, we were on the local news and getting blog interview after interview. We really had a good thing going. Immediately after this pop of users, we added a mobile app and received a 2.25-million-dollar valuation! I know the stories of other platforms and although nothing near Facebook or Instagram, a couple million inside year 1 is a great start. What we immediately failed to recognize (as two finance students with minimal software/server knowledge) was that the local company we contracted for everything, had built easy solutions that didn’t scale well. They must have not imagined two random, local students gaining international attention. We fired the whole team and had to rebuild EVERYTHING from scratch with new developers, and never really bounced back from this short term intermission. The eruption of fun had come to a mere fizzle by 18 months, even with the outstanding new software we built with the new team.
I regularly remind myself that every single successful entrepreneur I have ever heard of has failed anywhere between 10 and 100 times before their big break. This kind of success on attempt one was simply a crash course in running a company that requires constant attention. The experiences of managing the company’s books, planning and executing marketing plans, handing PR, working to understand the entire legal atmosphere needed to sustain such a mechanism of business, working on detailed user workflow planning and application design, and lastly, bringing an idea to fruition with over $300,000 in seed funding can never be taken away. This is the type of learning experience that takes the foundation of the entrepreneur and fine tunes him for the future. The stories of entrepreneurs failing so much before we knew them makes a lot more sense now.
This is a short version of my journey to entrepreneurship. While I remain gainfully employed in the financial industry, I am learning the basics of coding so I can develop software. My aspirations are to be able to build anything I dream up, while helping other entrepreneurs built their passions (you know, skip the problem we had). The journey itself is so invigorating that the thought of helping others through it seems natural. This is in no way the end, just the ending of a particular venture.
As an entrepreneur and founder of a few tech start-ups, it’s safe to say I have a fairly diverse background. When such a background is built upon 5+ years of pre-college work experience, it provides unique insight on what common sense and intelligence really are. I graduated with 3.95 GPA after consistently juggling full time school, work and my start-up. I have work and school experience, but more importantly I have common sense. What I wish to discuss is why common sense is actually uncommon, and how this relates to the workplace.
Disclaimer I’m referring to the bachelor- level when I use the term “education” in this article.
We have all heard the “C’s get degrees” statement from students and others. I want to start with this statement because some live under the misconception that “average” students are more successful than honors students in life because the smartest students lack common sense. Not only is this wrong, but citing an internet billionaire (Zuckerberg) as your example is not helpful for those who know that admission into Harvard doesn’t make you average. It is true, C’s can produce a degree, and in some cases so will D’s. In my opinion, this speaks volumes about the individual. The grading scale is used to gauge performance intellectually and personally, not just one.
I would bet the person who missed those late nights and weekends on the water to study will be more successful in life, ceteris paribus. This is not because they are smarter, but because they have a stronger work ethic, common sense they act on, and a drive to be above-average. I’ll cite myself as an example- on paper I appear to be the student that did nothing but study. I had/have great relationships with faculty and staff, and I was an honors student for every semester spent in college. What’s the real story? As a returning student I was mature enough to understand the value of education, and the relationships with professors in the long run. I didn’t even know how to study when I started college, but I spent a great deal of time reading my textbooks and never missed a lecture, because I knew the value of a GPA for grad school selection. My secret weapon was common sense and tenacity, not intellect. Now this is somewhat a paradox about whether intellect and common sense are the same thing, I know, but my time in the workplace highlighted the relevance of all that I learned and I did what seemed to be logical- do it properly.
The second statement I want to examine is the “so and so was a college dropout” statement. Guess what? Larry Paige and Sergey Brin dropped out of a PhD program at Stanford, Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard, and Jobs is the most legitimate dropout from Reed College; but did so with self-taught programming skills, common sense and an entrepreneurial mindset that took him where he demanded to be. He was sharp enough to be placed into a programming job without the college degree or certificate of approval; this must be recognized! These individuals were "dropouts" at high levels at prestigious institutions, and dropped out because what they were doing had already taken them beyond the collegiate level. In all of the commonly cited cases, the billionaire was well-educated before reaching their initial success. Comparing this to dropping out of high school or a local community college is inherently flawed and unwise.
To think success cannot be achieved by people without book smarts or “education” is an equally incorrect perspective. These are the people who operate on common sense, street smarts and heart. This too allows the individual to operate beyond the average person. The average person is happy with food, shelter, safety and consistency in life. This is not bad, but it doesn’t create the names noted by Forbes or history books either. These street-wise people comprise many of the self-made millionaires we have never heard of, and a few we have. This article from Forbes sheds some light on this very fact, and is only a small example of the names you have heard of.
Today there is a considerable number of employers who cannot or will not look at GPA’s when considering candidates, which is alarming. It seems two equal levels of experience and education with one candidate having a 3.8, and the other a 2.9 should produce an obvious direction to lean in. I encourage all employers to consider the GPA. After all, the market is competitive and only the fit shall survive. These people proved to be the fittest in college. This may be because of brains or because they put more effort into their studies; either way, isn’t this exactly what you should want? As my personal ventures grow, and I become lucky enough to consider hiring help, the GPA will be in the top 3 things we look at as most important (for recent grad hires). I want to work alongside those who are willing to get their hands dirty, while navigating the basic technological environment comprising the age of information. I also wish to work alongside those who will outwork others for what they desire, because they know working smarter AND harder is possible. I cannot imagine I’m the only one who thinks this way.
Common sense is a lever that seems to be disproportionately more powerful than education. Education without common sense doesn’t seem to get you much beyond 50K a year and a cubicle. Common sense without education can lead to life of hard work with the occasional leap into middle-level management; it may also allow one to rise above the herd and demand the world. A combination of both seems to be the most relevant factor for successful entrepreneurs. Having an education, common sense and drive is the formula for success. After all, if success was easy we all would have it.
Thanks for listening,
As an entrepreneur I have crossed paths with a large array of people here in Florida, as well as bright minds around the globe. What never fails to amaze me is that these once "rare" individuals people keep surfacing. I think we've convinced ourselves the world is comprised of the closed-minded, media-fed masses. Over the past few years I have come to really understand entrepreneurship and what these bold men and women really do to quite literally change the world.
When most rest in the evenings and on the weekends, entrepreneurs are still working in some way on some project they are involved in. They will never settle or be satisfied because they are constantly trying to grow and improve themselves, their businesses and society. When most tell themselves "It's ok to take a break, you work really hard," they think to themselves "what else can I do right now to grow my business and get more exposure?" I wish to clarify that I think resting is normal and expected, but these individuals prefer “work” over fun because what most consider work, they find fun. It’s an innate outlook and desire to constantly learn. A real entrepreneur is an amazing person, and we have all benefited from their dreams. Many people hold half or more of the characteristics of an entrepreneur, but are scared of the risk or refuse to leave their bubble of financial guarantee. More often, some just settle in with their current life and find a respectable peace in it.
To examine the contrary, an article by Neil Patel of Entrepreneur.com called 6 Signs That You're Not Cut Out for Entrepreneurship, lists some interesting characteristics of those who may not make it in this self-starter dominated world. A few of these include, “you get along with everyone in life,” and “you feel mainstream (and you love it).”
The latter traits are key. Those who just go with the flow undoubtedly lack the innate drive to want to create new and unique things. They also could never feel that feeling of wanting to rise above the nine to five, and control a business which commands the attention (or dollar) of millions. This is too much work, right? The first trait, “you get along with everyone in life” is essential as well. It actually goes perfectly with the satisfaction of being mainstream.
Being mainstream means going along with pop-culture and allowing these trends to influence your thoughts, decisions and spending (the whole economic pie). Being an alpha-type leader means you will inevitably bump heads with many. This includes those who accept technology, fashion, etc., as fine (the pop-culture people). In many cases people who you will clash with include those who cannot grasp why you want to take risks (i.e. the 9-5’er who feels safe in their bubble with their house, dog and yearly vacation). Like it or not, entrepreneurs have a drive towards success because they wish to live a life that others cannot. To earn this, they work smarter and harder than others are willing to work. This reinforces some of the concepts I have mentioned thus far, and helps drive home the foundation of what an entrepreneur truly is.
Most importantly, the reader should learn a little about what entrepreneurs have done to shape your world. To name only a few:
The list can go on and on, but the above are a small sample of a large group of men and women who have revolutionized the world. This demonstrates that entrepreneurs are not only responsible for creating large powerful companies, but also for changing our world; the world we experience daily.
Entrepreneurs brought us the device your reading this on, the network it's connected to, and just about everything else we have come to use on a daily basis in the age of information and technology. Currently, we have entrepreneurs expanding what we use to power our lives, bring the internet to areas of the globe that haven’t had it, and changing the way human beings connect and express themselves. These bright minds are changing the world rapidly, and I have come to find that many of these analytically brilliant individuals are entrepreneurs or in direct partnership with one. I write this not to suppress or elevate one's career choice or nature-granted skill set, but only to ask that when you run across that young entrepreneur (who you may find as an erratic dreamer), be sure you listen carefully, because they may very well be the next Jobs, Musk, Branson, or Oprah.
As an entrepreneur and founder of a few tech start-ups, it’s safe to say I have a fairly diverse background. When such a background is built upon over 5 years of pre-college work experience, it provides unique insight on what common sense and education really are. I graduated with 3.95 GPA after consistently juggling full time school, work and my start-up. I truly understand the effort it takes to achieve Magna and Summa Cum Laude status. This blog post will examine my personal experiences with college students and business professionals, in an effort to understand those with high levels of education that seem to under-perform in the workplace.
I'd hazard to say that anyone with over five years of experience in any field would say their journey has molded them into a well-oiled machine for that field, while providing some fundamental understanding of business in general. It is even safer to say that most of these people have some form of college education. In contrast, there is a rebel breed in the workplace, a breed born in an era of the real "American dream." They were injected into a post war economy that thrived, and that showed the boomers hard work, punctuality and tenacity could get you to the CEO desk. There is no doubt that the world has changed since then and that the standards are higher; but that callused, self-made crowd is ever present. This being said, there is a smaller and smaller place for such work in the age of information and rapid, technological advancement. I would say a bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma, and the sea is just too rich with grads. The density of fresh grads is because it is easier than it's ever been to buy yourself a bachelor’s degree, but that’s not for this discussion.
This problem provides a unique advantage for those with experience and/or all the above. For many of those coming out of the economic crises with degrees and re-entering the workforce, the average entry level position hardly beats a serving or bartending job. On the other hand, the positions that require 3-5 years of experience are significantly better offers financially, with a glimpse of upward mobility. Now this logic may or may not apply to everyone, and the field of reference may change this (slightly), but overall experience in business is not a guarantee for quick job discovery, it just increases the probability depending on how much experience the candidate has. The important thing to note is that business experience from 3-5 years might very well replace the practical knowledge of a bachelor’s degree, and help someone compete just as readily. When staying within a relevant field or a subsection thereof, a résumé with the relevant experience and no college degree will often outshine a degree with no relevant experience.
The latter is really the focal point of this post. Work experience molds the individual to not only know the information, but put it to practical use in the business environment. A college degree gives you actionable information, hopefully a resume, a monthly debt payment (for those of us who do not qualify for any of the millions worth of funding), and in most cases a descent network to build. After this the school says, “best of luck!”, and pats the student on the back as they stroll off into the corporate wilderness. This is no longer the American Dream the baby boomers grew up in, and the best way to succeed (for you recent grads) is to arm yourself with as much as possible! This includes:
As an entrepreneur I have met many types of business owners and self-made individuals. I came to find two prominent personality-types in these driven business owners. There are those who live and breathe the business, wholeheartedly believe in the concept, and would frankly go bankrupt to get the business off of the ground. In comparison is the logical, analytical, checkbook-balancing type of owner. My question is- how do to such people get to their level of success? I going to share some experiences and opinions, and try to analyze the outcome.
The passionate owner is something special. This is the type of person anyone would like to spend time with. They always have business cards on hand, and love no conversation more than one that revolves around their industry or business. What brings this person to success? Sometimes passion breeds risk-taking behaviors, but such behavior often brings above-average return, so where is the balance? I have seen two things that may answer this:
The extrovert has the more logical, analytical and balanced partner that keeps their head focused on the current day/week, while they constantly dream about and work toward the future. The second is that this passionate person has just enough logic to not take on any unrealistic risk, but enough passion to pursue the dream and achieve the above-average return! I would imagine most entrepreneurs (including me) would like to say they are the latter. This is not always the case.
The analytical entrepreneur has a skill-set that enables a certain thought pattern, which when mixed with a moderate level of business acumen can outline a very easy cost-profit pattern. This person is amazing as well. They can boil down a business to the cost of a staple, and do so more quickly and effective than others. This is the type of person we all need around. These owners know every detail of their business top to bottom, and thrive best (in my opinion only) in the manufacturing landscape.
Analytical people can go far in the financial field if they have enough passion to sell (but that's for another blog). They become successful because when presented with the capital, concept and demand, they just execute a function. I have found that this type of person does not need the passionate partner, but can benefit greatly from the slight increase in risk-reward profits the abstract mind may bring to the table!
Moral of the story? Many different people can be successful in business. What I have learned is that one should consider who they are and how they operate, and hire/associate with those who compliment their traits to help grow.