Helping Students Create Meaningful Impact Businesses with Matt Gira

Academia and entrepreneurship always seem to clash. But not for Matt. He leveraged his entrepreneurial skills gained in college to develop course curricula for other students. He now heads up FounderCo, a company helping students build startup companies that make meaningful impact.

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Transcript

Cliff Duvernois: [00:00:00]  Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the call of leadership podcast, where we interview people from our Michigan community who answered the call of leadership. We’ll hear their powerful stories and get their advice so that we can be better leaders for ourselves are our family and our community. I am your host.

Cliff DuVernois and today’s guest, got his start in entrepreneurship. Believe it or not in college, he has since gone on to create multiple entrepreneurial programs in various colleges, sharing his real world experience with other students. He has started multiple businesses. One of them garnered him the top spot on Kickstarter for the state of Michigan for raising over $200,000 for one of his ideas.

He is the founder of the founder coal company and the founder co podcast. Ladies and gentlemen, please. Welcome to the show, Matt Gira, Matt, how are you?

Matt Gira: [00:00:58] I’m doing well. Thanks for having me.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:00] Thanks for taking the time out to speak with us today. Why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about where you’re from?

Matt Gira: [00:01:04] So I am originally from McComas again on the East side of the state. and now I’m living in grand Rapids, Michigan, after living in Holland and going to hope college for college,

Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:14] and where did you go to high school at?

Matt Gira: [00:01:16] I went to the Unica Academy for international studies, which is an international baccalaureate program for you to cook community schools.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:23] Awesome. And when you graduated high school, where did you go to college?

Matt Gira: [00:01:28] I went to hope college in Holland, Michigan. It’s about what three hours away. So.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:32] Why did you pick hope?

 Matt Gira: [00:01:33] I picked hope mainly because it was, so at the time when I was in preschool, I was really looking forward something in the sciences,  whether that was med school or Dell or interest I had, I was like sustainability and material science and hope had a really strong offering for both.

and I was looking for a smaller school. had more like a family feel to it, with strong sciences and hope kind of checked all those boxes. So, Kind of reluctantly actually originally visited and reluctant to actually go visit, visited, loved it. and kind of, I was like, Hey, this is my place where I need to be.

So I ended up going there and, yeah, I studied chemistry and got a degree there with chemistry.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:02:08] Now, why did you decide to study chemistry of all things? Cause I’ve actually gone through a couple of chemistry classes and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. You gotta be smart to be in chemistry. So why did you decide to study it?

Matt Gira: [00:02:19] So I studied chemistry mainly because one of the most, like in terms of like the, I guess the versatility of the sciences, like physics, biology, all of that, it was the most versatile one cause I had, it makes me really flexible and what I could be able to do. You know, going forward in my career because you can do material stuff, you can, you can kind of tap into physics stuff, which is actually, my lab was actually researched and it was actually a physics lab, technically doing some chemistry research and then we can always tap into bio obviously, cause they’re a little bit they’re correlated.

So, that was a big, one of the biggest reasons why I went to chemistry just because it was really versatile. I’d be able to adjust for I needed, and not be like pigeonholing, which is probably why I’m doing what I’m now doing. Being really adaptable.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:02:59] you know, and it’s interesting that you mentioned about being adaptable and we’re going to, we’re going to talk a little bit more about, your journey into entrepreneurship, but what I’d like to talk about first is you mentioned it before about getting a degree in chemistry, but actually it was in your junior year.

That you actually decided not to pursue chemistry as a career. Why was that?

Matt Gira: [00:03:23] Yeah. So it was really weird and like right at the very, very, very end of like high school, like literally like maybe like the last week I was there. I was kinda like thinking through ideas for some reason. I don’t no idea where they came from. They just kind of popped in my head. And I started talking about them, with classmates and teachers and things like that, and kind of spent the summer before college thinking through, okay.

Like, is there something that I want to, you know, Build or like, you know, do entrepreneurially. I don’t even know what the word entrepreneur meant, to be honest with you. I’d had done, I spent the whole summer not knowing what that word meant.  I thought more of myself as like an inventor type place.

That’s the way I took it. cause I think the way I’ve always seen it and maybe this is like a 2008 thing, but the word entrepreneur meant like unemployed. And so,  I think it took it that way. And then by the time I got to intern engineering person, hope, or you get to like dabble into like different types of engineering and different products in this lab.

and there’s one of them, one of them I was playing around with and had an idea for. so I went to the engineering professor, you know, he’s the head of the department actually, you know, and I taught the course with me or taught the course for it. And so I talked with him about like, Hey, what if I create a business out of this?

Like, is it doable? Like, what are your thoughts? And he’s like, Matt, he’s like, yeah, like, I think this is really cool. You should pursue this. And he’s like, I think you should go talk to this guy named Scott, Brandon eco, who is the founder at ring cam. And they made engagement ring box cameras. So basically you could propose and have like their live, like the.

Your spouse is a lot like live reaction, like right from the camera of the ring box. Like you have the Reeboks that you’re proposing with. And so I actually ran it like, it was like an afternoon meeting. And then I remember like that very night, extra end of the Scott in the engineering lab of all places, he was actually working through rink camp stuff.

so I wasn’t able to actually, I didn’t actually talk to him in person and that night, cause he was busy doing his thing and I was busy doing my thing, but  Then I actually just thankfully like with, you know, helps email system, you can get at anyone’s email. So, I found his email emailed him that night and I said, Hey, you don’t know me, but I know you.  and he’s like, yeah, I love to it look like when we did. And he’s like, you need to go get involved in this entrepreneurship program. And I did, and just got really hooked onto it.  so spent like, you know, this more and more time doing entrepreneurship things. And then all of a sudden, you know, you got one idea leads to another and.

Then, by the time junior year, junior year hit, I was working with a couple of you guys,  on a different idea of called style and we made underwater drones. And that came out of just me, just kind of hanging out with the right people at the right time.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:05:40] That’s really awesome. And it was also during this time, too, that you had an opportunity to study at Yale.

Matt Gira: [00:05:47] Yeah. So I had a really cool opportunity. So it wasn’t me is that, you know, I was working on a different idea or I was actually making like Mason jar speakers. I was like my very first, like, I guess, like maybe real business, but I really wasn’t that real cause I wasn’t like trying to live off or anything.

 so, I was working on that idea. And then, why was that like, yeah, fathom came about after living with a, with a few guys and, I was really feeling like I had tapped out hopes, resources, and like, how’s that make us hope has a really, really small entrepreneurship program or at least at the time it did,  we didn’t have a lot of resources and I was like, okay, like where can I go learn about like, how to actually build a company, getting a network that’s like shorts while like all these things.

And,  literally the next day I got an email from. The director of the program and he’s like, Hey, would you want to potentially go to Yale for the summer? I was like, what? Like, how is that even a thing?  and he explained it all to me. He’s like, yeah, he’s actually like the director of cooperative research at Yale, John Soderstrom.

He’s actually a hope alumni and actually started like hell’s entrepreneurship program called the Yale entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurial Institute and he’s like, yeah, he’s like, John’s willing to how you like live. You can live in his house for 10 weeks and go through the entire Yelp as an intern. I was like, yeah, this is a no brainer.

So, Yeah. I went to Yale for live with him for like, for 10 weeks, which is one of the best experiences I think I’ve had ever in life. Cause he just learned from, you know, people that are shooting for greatness,  learned a ton from him and the way he works, but also just learn a ton from the like the yellow network.

Yeah. And just really just met some really amazing now their colleagues and friends and really good people to know.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:07:11] and it’s actually, I think it’s really cool that you decided to go off and study at Yale simply because of the fact that it kind of gets you a little bit out of your bubble and exposes you to a lot of. Different people from a lot of different, I was just gonna say States, but actually different countries, because it is Yale.

What was, what were some of the key points that you took away from the program at Yale that you actually brought back with you to Michigan?

Matt Gira: [00:07:42] Yeah. And I think I’m still kind of beating this drum a little bit. Cause I think,  Michigan, maybe it’s a Midwest thing. I’m I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Cause I know I’ve been talking to other people about it too, but we’re kind of in this bubble of like, You know, entrepreneurship, isn’t really that big of a thing.

Or like, you know, we talk about it or it’s more like, Hey, it’s still has somewhat of that vibe of like unemployment and. That’s a really bad negative connotation and, or, you know, at Yale, like, and on the East coast, like the Silicon Valley, especially like, no, and just like everyone wants to do that.

Like, you know, that’s the cool thing to do. And, you know, there’s, there’s, you know, there’s cons to that too, but, I think there’s like a really cool, like people just shoot for greatness and shoot for really big things and just keep going, their big dreams that they might have. And, Really even taking that mindset, I think over here.

And like, I think the more you get, like it takes, you know, it’s that whole like create your tribe and keep you just build a culture. I think we’re starting to do that here in West Michigan, especially we’re starting to get like, as a little crowd, it’s like starting to think bigger and bigger, and it’s a tiny crowd at the moment, but you know, I think the more we do it, I think the more we talked about it and the more we are willing to grind stuff out, like the better and there’s that.

And I think it was also. You know, a lot of like the curriculum at Yale was amazing too. Like I was learning really hands on stuff and,  really just learned how to network, how to actually think through different problems. And I think I like just naturally brought that over. I didn’t, I don’t know if I like purposely like all that over butters that, and then the only thing I know I purposely brought over it was like how they structure their program and how they actually, you know, go through, you know, build an entire entrepreneurship program.

Like I’ve learned a ton about how they’ve done that and brought that over to hope. And then over to grand Valley a little bit too.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:09:16] so what was it that cause, cause I know that. The, the director there at the college, you know, reach out to you and asked you to start building out, and entrepreneurial program. Why did you think that was important to do.

Matt Gira: [00:09:33] Yeah. So really, so basically, yeah, I got back from Yale and, I, it was my, it was going into my senior year coming back. And then at the, I was just about to graduate and they, they got a new director at hope and she came up to me and she was like, Matt. She’s like, I don’t, I’ve never built an entrepreneurship program, but you’ve been around these programs.

And I’m like, you’re building a company with fathom and fathom was, had some momentum at the time we were starting to, we’d just gotten on BBC. We had got all this big press. And so we were kind of the secret hot shots, I guess, on campus a little bit. But once we felt that way, I think a little bit, So we were, you know, she came through, she’s like, man, like, can you help me build this program?

I was like, yeah, that’d be fun. Like a little part time gig.  so I did that and then we ended up, I ended up pouring in more resources and time into that. And I thought I ever would. I was there for three years and really started building like this really awesome program and hope for entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship.

And we were doing, you know, 10 companies a semester and really just pumping out some really amazing, talented people like in having them become successful entrepreneurs in some fashion.  and then I ended up leaving hope at the end of 2018.  And basically, you know, I got to April, we had, we’re just shutting down fathom.

And, so I was kinda like in this limbo and, the director of, GBSU entrepreneurship program,  had I known her through hope, obviously working together on some, on a few projects and, she’s like Matt, like, can you come build a similar program that we’ve been wanting to do this similar permanent you just did at hope and like, would you be willing to come build it here at grand Valley?

And I was like, yeah, that might be a cool opportunity. I’d love to, you know, I love doing it open, you know, what it’d be sweet to do at a different campus. So, yeah, just a really cool way of giving back. And I think what’s really important, I think especially is that, you know, a lot of entrepreneur ecosystems rally around these college programs, No, as much as like these small towns, like how I’m like, you know, hope, you know, it gets, it gets going again, entrepreneurship.

You’re going to see, I mean, a ton of really talented young entrepreneurs to start doing big things.  and that really fuse into everything. Then they graduate and they just create a lot of noise usually. And with that, you know, it comes price. It creates jobs, potentially. If they start creating a company, that’s going places and.

 you know, these different organizations, you know, like star vantage, dark garden, you know, they can all really rally around them. So, and even like, you know, if you look at Boulder, Colorado, and New York and San Francisco, they all have some really strong university partners in them somewhere.  you know, and I think those really pump out and really are a big reason why I was entrepreneurial systems are really strong.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:11:56] Yeah, I completely agree with that. And do you, obviously you think this way, but I’ve heard other people say that entrepreneurship is really something that can’t be taught. It has to be something that’s based on experience and basically the school of hard knocks. Do you think that entrepreneurship can really be taught?

Matt Gira: [00:12:17] Yes. And no, I, I think there’s a combo. I think there’s a combination that exists.  cause I think, you know, like you didn’t, you can’t just, you know, I think it’s kind of like everything in life. Like if you’re just trying to like figure it out on the fly, I think, you know, yes, you’re going to learn a ton and you’re going to break a lot of things. But,  I think what what’s really usually lacking, and this is what I’m really passionate about is how do we actually teach it in an experiential way?  because there is a, there’s a good combo there. It’s just a, more of an art rather than a science and, Cause like, you know, how do we, how do you build a financial model where you can’t just like, do that on the fly?

Like you actually get to learn that. And like, where do you learn that though? Like, no one really teaches that super well.  how do you build a, you know, a pitching deck that took me two years to learn, like really before I even got taught that really well. how do you actually raise money? It was like, you know, a question I always had and, you know, we ended up with fathom.

Like we tried raising money for forever. It felt like for like a year with like, Barely any luck. And like, we go through Techstars and Techstars. It’s like, here’s how you actually raise money. I’m like, Holy cow. I wish I had this, you know, 18 months ago.  so, you know, yeah. Like we, we went through like, I’ve gone through the experiential piece and, you know, school of hard knocks, but at the same time, I think we can,  speed some of that up if you actually teach it right.

And teach it in like experiential way and not just lecture at people, it’s gotta be, you know, going through the motions and actually feeling like you’re doing it before you actually do it.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:13:35] and speaking of Eric, experiential learning, which I’m a huge fan of, by the way, in the courses that you created, on, on average, how many companies were you guys creating every semester?

Matt Gira: [00:13:46] Yeah. So we were really, I mean, these programs were pumping out. I mean, cause we had usually had hope we had an entrepreneurship class and we did, and we also did, an incubator program and I did, I kind of, I mostly spent most of my time on like the incubator program.  And I guess, I think maybe the two semesters of classes, I think maybe from a right.

And, you know, they’re really like hands on. Like, you’re actually like, Hey, here’s, here’s a problem that like, that you’re want to solve and go figure it out and build a business around that. That’s literally what we did every time. And then the incubator program was,  Similar, but they ever come in a little more developed, but we were doing, I mean, the class was doing maybe like four or five companies a semester.

And then the incubator programs were doing about 10 this semester. So, and then, you know, the thing is with this stuff too, is that if you get some really young entrepreneurs, like if they’re freshmen, sophomores, Well, they’re, they’re sticking with you. They’re not really leaving. Like they don’t really leave for a few years.

You can have like these weird, like they kind of hang out. They know most of the stuff that you’re about to teach what they’re like, they get back, they’re helping all the things. You’re doing a lot more one on one coaching with them rather than like, you know, Hey, like this is the group time.  So like, you know, I remember like, I think our last cohort and hope was like maybe like 15 students.

Like we were pretty big compared to what we had in resources.  and we were always able to, I mean, if we didn’t have 15 in the room, they were either doing something else they’re in meetings. Maybe they traveling, like we had people all over the place by the end of hope.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:15:05] that’s excellent. And for the, so some of the members in the audience who might not know, briefly define what an incubator is.

Matt Gira: [00:15:15] Yeah. So an incubator, you can kind of think of it as like a coworking space kind of, or there’s a place where you like where you can kind of rub shoulders with other entrepreneurs. What’s interesting about like these college incubator programs, like at least that’s what they call them or the comm college accelerator programs.

 is that the kind of a tweener, like by definition, like they’re actually like a tuner between an accelerator and an incubator and accelerator is usually a three month program. They give you a bunch of money. That’d become like an ambassador in you and they just kind of give you, like, they kind of give you a sprint where like these college programs are kind of an in between.

Because they’re not doing the three month sprint, like they’ll do in a semester, but usually like you’re sticking around for at least a year. So it gets a long term. It’s a marathon too. So, you know, we call it an incubator. I you’ll see things. And you know, I just always, you see like Institute, you’ll see, like that’s what y’all call it.

You’ll see a lot of different names where they’re kind of like most of these college programs are in between, between an incubator program and accelerator program.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:16:08] excellent. And when you were designing the curriculum for the entrepreneur program, what would you say that the balance was between let’s say theory versus real world experience.

Matt Gira: [00:16:22] Yeah. I mean, it’s kind of like, you know, I think what we really try to do at hope and attended at grand Valley too, is like, you know, it was never me. I always try to limited most. I want to talk ever. It was 10 minutes at a time.  because no college kid, at least most on student entrepreneurs, especially, they don’t want to be left for two.

Like no one wants to sit there and be lectured to you most of the time. Like they actually want to do hands on stuff, but at the same time, you still gotta do a little bit of it. So,  The way, I mean, we ended up doing it this way. It was that like, you know, it’d be me talking for 10 minutes introducing a concept and it’s like, okay, like now I go sketch it out and actually go do it for 10 minutes and then come back and we’ll share out and like critique each other.

And like we work through stuff together. And then like, maybe we teach another concept right after that potentially depending on what it is.  so it was like super hands on super community-based. So you’ll see, like these cohorts that we had at each of the programs, like they’re usually really committed and like really, they, they create like lifelong friendships.

Because of it because they’re grinding it out together and they’re building businesses together and that’s, that’s an experience you don’t get.  and other other subjects, I don’t think you get that a little bit in the labs, but not to this extent. Cause you’re trying to build your dream and that’s not something that comes easy.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:17:26] no. And, and speaking of not coming easy, you shared with me in the pre interview that roughly about 60% of the students will drop out or fail out after six months. Why do you think that is.

Matt Gira: [00:17:39] Yeah. So I don’t know. I mean, it wasn’t so like dropout fell out. Like, I don’t know if that’s a negative connotation, I think.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:17:46] Or leave the program. Let’s, let’s put it that way.

Matt Gira: [00:17:48] Yeah, no worries. Yeah. I think you have more help in the audience here, but I think, you know, I think right. I think with entrepreneurship, I think it’s. Especially with support organizations like, you know, these calendars or, you know, these different incubator programs.

Like everyone just wants to see, like, they’re like what they call it, success rate or like active rate be really high. and that’s actually like, you know, it’s a great, like, yeah, you want businesses to survive, but they’re not the right fit. And they’re not a good business. Like we don’t want them to survive.

We don’t want

Cliff Duvernois: [00:18:13] yes.

Matt Gira: [00:18:14] And I think that’s what we did really well. I think we’ve done really well at grand Valley that this new 77 ID lab. And I think we did that pretty well. I think we’d be there too. Cause, you know, if the, if the students, like most of the time with students, like I went through this too, like your first idea is not the business you’re gonna stick with.

 it’s not going to be like, you know, you’re one, you know, it’s not going to your overnight success as they call it. But, it’s usually like your second or third business idea that you actually stick with and you’re really passionate about and you actually want to do, and, you know, we kept that in mind every time.

And so we just pushed into the brain cause like, Hey, like, cause I think, you know, there’s a roller coaster of emotions in entrepreneurship. So,  we were just trying to get them to, you know, we’re kind of working really hard and these incubator programs we had built in weeks. I like, we know like, Hey, this is going to be overwhelming.

And I tell them like, Hey, this is going to be overwhelming. And I expect it. And I’m like, Just be ready for it. And some of the students come out, they’re like, you know what I like, I’m not really passionate about this idea. Like, I don’t want to do it anymore. Like, cool. What’s another idea you want to do.

And sometimes that second idea is like, where did that even come from? And it’s amazing. And they’re super passionate about, and that’s kind of the beauty of it is like a lot of entrepreneurial minded people. Like they’re not stuck to one subject or anything they’re really innovative and they want to think creatively and go solve problems.

And that’s what I love doing it. And,  There’s that. And I think a lot will, we talked about a lot of hope was, you know, are they in the right car? You know, we, we thought about us that way. It’s like, is the, is the driver really good or is the car wrong or is the car really good? And the driver’s not very good, you know, the car being like the business and the, the driver being the entrepreneur itself.

So, we would always play that game a little bit. And if there’s a, you know, You want to get the, you know, the driver’s amazing. The cars are amazing, but usually these programs, especially with really young entrepreneurs, like one or the others, not right. That’s what we spent a lot of time with. And, you know, you can develop both of them.

And so you have a spending a lot of personal development time. I actually a lot of entrepreneurs at this level.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:20:01] so for your engineering program,  speaking about being tough. What was your toughest challenge in creating the entrepreneurial program?

 Matt Gira: [00:20:13] I think that, I mean, especially, I think it’s still going on. I, I, because I think the harder, the more further away I get from being a college entrepreneur, I think the harder it gets. Cause I don’t always remember what that feeling is like, you know, I think,  Yeah. At some point I’ve been to, I told him, mentor this not too long ago, like at some point, like I’m just not gonna be able to relate to any of this.

 cause I’m just going to a different place in terms of like, you know, life and, just being a different type of entrepreneur too. So, it’s a lot different being a student entrepreneur versus like, you know, 10 years out and now I’m what four years out. And it’s a lot different. So I, like, I think it’s getting harder and harder to relate what they’re going to like.

I don’t, I haven’t been in a college class in four years, so,  you know, it’s hard to sometimes remember that. So I think that’s been the hard part in like creating, you know, making sure you can kind of, cause I think the biggest part, which I. Yeah, all these programs just kind of managing emotions and personal development.

That’s probably the hardest part I usually have to deal with. And, you know, if it’s a midterm week, like, you know, you can’t push them that hard. Cause you know, if they’re focused on,  especially if we’re going to the end of the semester, like they’re working on final papers or working on final projects, like,  there’s a lot going on.

So there’s, you know, you kind of have to build around that. And that was always a tricky part. And the grand Valley had a harder time with that because. No, I wasn’t at grand Valley student. I didn’t know what those, like, you know, the culture was there necessarily. I had some ideas, but,  I was learning on the fly, like, you know, the heartbreaks with hard times, like, you know, every school’s got their different vibe.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:21:34] sure, definitely. And I know that we talked before about when you were designing the. The curriculum. And I do want to circle back to this. You were, you actually covered how to put together a pitch deck, which is something that if you need funding to get your idea off the ground, you would put that together and go present to venture capital firms.

Kind of like what we see on shark tank. So why don’t you talk to us a little bit about, your experience with that?

Matt Gira: [00:22:04] Yeah. So really, I mean, pitch stocks are interesting concept because actually majority of us has never need them, which is interesting thing.  so yeah, I mean, we, I mean, I learned a lot, I got my, kind of my good primer at Yale. They taught that quite a bit. They actually spend like three, four weeks at Yale just teaching how to pitch,  So that was a really good primer.

But then I think where I really learned how to pitch was a combination of like, you know, my yellow stuff. And also just at tech Techstars too. Cause tech stars, I mean, they rate those companies raise money, like no, like no problem.  and they teach you like really well, like how to actually have an investor meeting and all those things.

So,  No. I really recommend, you know, looking through like, you know, there’s the Anne Cuddy and her research. I think it was really interesting for pitching, there’s the Nancy Duarte hurt. I mean, using some of her concepts that we use allows a lot in pitching. Like I love the TG. I learned that at Yale, ever since I learned that I’ve been teaching that and how to pitch to, So, I mean, then there’s a, you know, there’s great books out there.

Like, you know, there’s a pitch, there’s actually a book out there called give back.  and that book is fantastic. If you want to see some great pitch stacks and how to build them out. so I’ve been kind of relying on those different resources and kind of tying them all together and how to actually pitch.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:23:11] awesome. And you actually had some of your students prepare some. some, pitch talks, pitch decks, and go out there and actually present to venture venture capital firms. And what was some of the results of that?

Matt Gira: [00:23:25] Yes, we’ve had, I mean, we it’s my final year at hope. We actually saw the beauty of being in college. Number two is that there’s a lot of like what they call pitch competitions.  and there’s plenty of people. I mean, for some, I don’t know where all this money comes from, but, they, there’s a ton of free money out there and grant money for Phillies count entrepreneurs to go pitch for it.

So it’s like, I mean, it’s a lot different than pitching like around the capital, but,  by the end of my time at hope like we were winning competitions. You pretty easily. It was just sweet. That was really exciting for me. I’m seeing a student go to a competition. They come back with $10,000 check. I was like, that’s pretty cool.

And so that was really cool. And then we had some business. Yeah. Like they actually went out and they’re like, we’re going to raise around. And so that’s been really cool. And you know, now he’s a good friend now, but he just like one of the students we worked with, you know, now he’s raised a hundred over a million dollars in funding for his business, and we’re starting to see more and more of that.

And you know, some of us to one of the students next year, I’m working with, he’s really interested in actually become like going into venture capital and his finance side of things. So he’s actually been like, he just graduated like a week ago, so he’s probably gonna get involved in that. And he’s been really involved on that with some different innovation teams locally.

 so. It is really cool to see, you know, things come to life. And now we’re seeing, you know, a lot of these students, they don’t necessarily that first minutes they have like, doesn’t go anywhere. But man, it’s like that second, third business. You’re like, Whoa, like that’s everything, you know, that we want.

And they use all their experiences. They use on these programs to go pitch for VCs and all these things and go raise money and do big things.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:24:49] almost like they’re taking their experience from that first business and applying it to their second business and definitely having something really polished up by the time they get to their third business.

Matt Gira: [00:25:00] Totally. I mean, that’s exactly what it is. I mean, that’s what I mean. I remember we did, like right before I left to help, we were doing research on like, okay. Like what students, like you love, we’ll just go talk to students that we work with. Like, you know, even five years before. No beforehand. And we weren’t even in the part of the program, like when there was an art director, there’s everything.

And. Yeah, we kept hearing like, yeah, like, you know, my first idea at hope, it didn’t work out, but like I wouldn’t got a job and I’d used actually that experience to go get the job. And then, you know, I basically saved a bunch of money the first few years of that job quit and then start a new business and now look where I’m at now.

And now I’m running my own business and all these things. And,  that was just like such a proof point. And you know, right now I’m trying to see the benefits of that, you know, with the students who I work with a lot at home, like they’re just now, like, you know, they’re, they’re getting their first child right now.

For starting new businesses. Like they’re starting to do the new things right now. And that’s what that’s, what’s really encouraging for me is that you’re starting to see them,  really take all that experience that they have and really apply it, even bigger ways than they were at when I was working with them at home.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:25:57] yes, because one of the things that I talked about, I’ve had a few educators on the podcast, but the, one of the things that we talk about, which I think is, which is actually a great idea, is. You know, the academia world is, I know we talk about academia, setting students up for success, but part of that is, is creating a safe environment for them to actually fail.

You know, you can fail, you learn more from your failures and then apply that and, and move forward. And I think a lot of the times when it comes to people who are thinking about getting into entrepreneurship, they don’t take into account that their first, second, maybe even third. Idea just might fail. And it’s how you look at that failure.

That’s really going to determine if you are successful in moving forward. Cause it could be your fourth idea or maybe even your fifth idea before you tap into something that could really take off

Matt Gira: [00:26:48] Yeah. I mean most people, I mean, there’s no such thing as an overnight success and you know, everyone’s got their battle scars somewhere, whether or not you can see them. There’s always the question. You know, for me, I’ve got, this is mine, you know, I guess my second or third one is depending on how you’re looking at, it was bound Rico.

And,  yeah, and I think for me, I was lucky enough in high school, they had a different, grading scale of the normal for most of my classes. Like, you know, you could go fail something like a, fail, a question or something like that, or fail part of your exam, go retake it because you failed and you could take shots.

 and that’s where I didn’t quit. Really, I think maybe, maybe that was the start of things for me. Cause I’m, I mean, I’m usually not afraid to go take chances and yeah, it sucks when you fail, but I think I, I, you know, it’s kinda like you do it and rather than like, Oh, I didn’t do that and regret that.

So,  so I’m always, you know, Hey, let’s just see what happens is, you know, worst thing that happens, I, it fails and we, you know, we pick up somewhere else. So,  I think that maybe it just, it was ingrained in me in high school with that.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:27:40] sure thing. And you mentioned this before, but you you’ve since left academia,  and you’ve gone off to found or to start a founder co and the founder co podcast. Talk to us a little bit about that.

Matt Gira: [00:27:55] Yeah. So really? so yeah, I’ve gotten really passionate about entrepreneur education, obviously. And,  Well, we shut down fathom with underwater drones. I was like going through mentors and kind of kicking around tires. Okay. Like what do I want to do next? And if I want to do watch mentorship for a bit, and I was like, yeah, we’ll do entrepreneurs.

I’m still in love with this thing. And, but I didn’t know really where that was going. So, But I knew I was also passionate about like building assumes and not like this education side of things. So,  we ended up just getting founders gathered like biweekly and apartment with, you know, great organizations like wake star vantage, and also start guarding grand Rapids.

And I was just teaching like biweekly at these different places and, you know, bringing entrepreneurs together and. It was really cool. We’re getting about 10 to 20 founders, every, you know, every other week.  I was given the opportunity to just like build companies with them, which was exciting.  and now it’s kind of turned into like, okay, like now we’re actually creating entrepreneurial content.

through, we started a podcast we’ve started like we experimented about October the last year, remember. Right. and then we just launched a podcast called founder feedback, which has me talking to other experienced entrepreneurs who are, you know, been there, done that. And we ask them. Founder related question.

So if it’s anything like, how do you actually raise money? How do you actually build a team? How do you do these really practical questions? And you get to see, you know, founders who have been there, done that, and really answer them thoughtfully and authentically, which is pretty unique. Cause usually when you see these entrepreneurs, like they’re giving their PRS feel or like they’re given, you know, they’re not giving you real answers unless you’re talking to them privately.

So we’re kind of taking those someones conversations, you know, and bringing them public and you can see how really good founders like think through the different problems and. I’ve been lucky enough. We’ve got some really amazing founders, you know, we’ve gotten Chris Hively, who’s the founder of map class a, we just had shoot the shot.

It was a co founder of move loot. they were a big time, startup in San Francisco and out of Y Combinator. So yeah, just have been really thankful to have these entrepreneurs are as willing to share that experience and really just help other founders too.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:29:42] that’s absolutely awesome. And as somebody who has a podcast, I think what you’re doing is absolutely cool. Yeah, no problem. But awesome. So, I know you’ve got some good things cooking for a founder co and for founder feedback. And I won’t ask you to divulge, those big secrets, but if people want to follow, you learn more about what it is that you do or find you online. What’s the best way for them to do that.

Matt Gira: [00:30:08] Yeah, so you can go to Foundry code.org and that’s our website. You can look us up on the podcast apps too. if you search Foundry code or it will pop right up, it says founder feedback by Foundry coasts, you can just type in founder. Keller will come up. I’m a founder code.org has everything. We’re launching some new stuff in June, actually we’re launching another podcast and actually about two weeks or so.

And then we’re going to be doing another big event or big, it’s probably a bigger product than probably the biggest we’ve ever done already announced that in June, sometime. So, yeah, there’s some big things we’re really excited about and we’ll see where things go. But, yeah, it’s been really cool journey with this thing so far.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:30:43] Sweet. And for our audience, we will have the links to those various things in the show notes down below Matt, it’s been awesome. Having you on the podcast today.

Matt Gira: [00:30:54] Yeah, thanks for having me. This has been a really cool opportunity. 

About The Host

About The Host

Cliff Duvernois

Cliff is the host of “The Call of Leadership” podcast.  He has published over 500 short stories over Facebook, Medium and LinkedIn.  He is a passionate lifelong learner, marketer and philanthropist.  He currently lives in Reese, Michigan with his fiancé Sherry and her two children.

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