Client Spotlight: Q&A with Matt Alexander of Edition Collective
By Vela Wood
Matt Alexander, founder of Need and Foremost, has been all the rage lately as he was recently featured in D Magazine as an emerging “titan of industry.” Matt talks with VW during our Q&A session to offer some of his best advice for startup success based on his experiences.
|What made you want to start Edition Collective?
After graduating in 2010, I immersed myself in the world of startups and technology. I was fascinated by the prospect of contributing something altogether new to an older conversation. In 2012, I started my first company and, within a few months, had gotten an up-close look at a significant portion of the companies I’d respected. From the outside, they all appeared shiny and compelling and good. But from the inside, they were often fractured — their business models predicated upon odd business practices or enormous valuations. So, when I found an opportunity to start Need and, later, Foremost — Edition Collective —it was my chance to build something fundamentally good and sustainable. I wanted to contribute material and immaterial value for people in a manner that did not require us to sell our soul as a company.
Can you give us examples of some unexpected obstacles?
The greatest obstacle, I think, has been myself. When you have a great idea and decide to pursue it, the last thing on your mind is the fact that you’ll have to be immersed in Excel spreadsheets or heading up your own haphazard HR department at some point.
The learning curve that goes along with that growth and maturation is not an easy one to follow.
For me, the solution is — and always has been — to surround myself with people much smarter than me. Whenever there’s a clear obstacle, I can call upon a number of people and we can collectively surpass it. There’s a significant amount of time and effort that must be devoted to get to that junction, though.
What is your approach to finding investors?
I tend to gravitate towards people who I’d like to have a drink with from time to time.
And, to that end, I’ve always had a policy of saying “no” far more than I say “yes.” Whether that philosophy is applied to design or working with investors, I think it’s a great philosophy to hold close to mind.
At the end of the day, you have to communicate with these people all the time. And if you’d be fearful of sharing both good and bad news with them, it wouldn’t be a particularly healthy relationship.
And, as a piece of more practical advice, people should never ask for meetings to discuss potential investments. People should ask for meetings with people for the sake of conversations. And, often, those will end with the most likely prospective investors.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start an e-commerce/retail business?
There’d be a few steps. Some of them would apply to any business, really.
First, establish the values of your company. Those values will inform so many of your decisions for years to come and will keep you on track with where you started. (And, whilst on this one, don’t dwell on exhaustive blueprint-esque business plans. Afford yourself some creative and operational freedom.)
Second, establish how you’re fundamentally different from others on the market. With Foremost, for instance, we produce affordable clothing, but it’s all made in America and it’s presented as a monthly video editorial with a variety of prominent people. And, with Need, we only sell 10-15 things per month, alongside amazing editorial photography and story-telling. Knowing what sets you apart will keep you on track.
Third, invest significant money in your brand identity, design, and social presence. Knowing your story and being able to articulate it will set you well apart from the crowd.