Matt Shobe
Product leader, UX raconteur, EV and Aviation enthusiast
Background
As a kid, we moved a lot.
It's made me a bit restless ever since.
Born in Indianapolis. Moved to Milan, Italy; Miami; Dallas; Midland, Michigan.
And that was all by the time I turned 10.
I became a lifelong learner partly through a Montessori education, partly by nature, maybe mostly through frequent changes of scenery. I love trying new things out. But the best sandbox for the curious and creative that I could possibly imagine didn't exist until the 1990s: the web.
I immediately knew it was going to be where I spent my professional time. And I wanted to be 'at the glass' — designing and building user interfaces where all that ☁️ computing power needs to be distilled into just-the-right words and symbols that help someone get through, get by, get over whatever challenge you've decided to help them with.
Product design, management, and user experience are the disciplines that my teammates have trusted me to be responsible for as an IC or leader. Often both at the same time.
I relish the research, design, build, launch, iterate lifecycle. But I live for moments like when you get your first really positive (and really negative) feedback. Both contain equally useful energy, because the worst thing to launch is something nobody cares to write to you about at all.
Actual inbound email about our Spare5 gig work app in 2015. 238K likes on Tumblr.
I like to lead by the example of doing, of contributing directly. Startups demand it, but all size companies benefit from it. The most savored moments of my career were always spent in the company of my teammates, sharing in elation and exhaustion. No hero ball. Do the work, because if you don't you are just letting down someone to your left or right.
Approach
To highlight key examples from my career that should help you get to know what I can do for your team, I'm borrowing my friend and former Xoogler co-worker Jenna's Product/People/Process approach to framing work.
Take 'em in any order - just click to expand each aspect. 👇

Product

"Every team has to have a mission. If you haven't articulated it, the team, your organization, and your investors are probably operating under wildly different conceptions of the mission, and that will lead to failure." —Chris Vander Mey, Shipping Greatness My most valuable contribution in the early stages of startups and larger company projects has been to deeply understand the customer and their goals. Then, I transform this understanding into a compelling mission that galvanizes my team's motivation to ship a well-understood product. As circumstances change, I communicate to make sure everyone understands as we evolve the mission. I've crafted missions by writing initial PRDs, hosting structured discussion sessions (more on design sprints in ), and working cross-functionally to evangelize the mission-defining deliverables to sales, marketing, operations, and product design and engineering. Two Mission Examples Mission as company-wide elevator pitch At Rebellion Defense, I applied a process called "StoryBrand" to help everyone in that fast-growing company be prepared to describe the entire company mission the same way. Story Brand uses the classic formulation of the hero's journey to help employees position the customer as the hero of the story you might tell about what the product does. I led the company through an online (2020) exercise in collaboration with marketing and sales team leaders. The result was a capsule description: "Rebellion Defense builds AI-enabled products that allow our warfighters to understand, decide, and act faster and more accurately against national security threats." Mission as sales enablement At Mighty Ai, we started as a "gig economy" app that paid consumers to complete small tasks on their smartphones. These tasks cleaned up, organized, or gathered human feedback on enterprise data of many kinds. The company eventually focused entirely on generating labeled training data for autonomous driving (customers like Bosch, Daimler, Uber, Denso, and Valeo signed up). In 2016, "training data for AI" was a novel concept. I created the following sales enablement video both for our team in the field and to help focus the entire Mighty team on our pivot to this focused new mission: Vimeo Video (2:30) (Consider me for your next voiceover? 😬) Even with a strong mission in place, it's still possible to ship an incomplete and/or faulty product due to unexpected customer demands, market pressure to ship faster than the competition, and other real-world economic and regulatory gotchas. (GDPR, anyone?) To minimize risk, my product leadership approach is to tie desired business results closely to metrics measured during build, testing, and then launching the product, and to relentlessly communicate progress and challenges those measures are tracking. Also, I always have a take - even if it's based on super-rough data or mostly gut feel from reading the room - because a product leader must have a recommendation to confront doubt and hesitation that comes with the ambiguity of go-to-market adventures.

People

One of the best parts of co-founding multiple startups is each opportunity you get to carefully assemble your team. I have internalized the bedrock value of "hire slow, fire fast" — and have gotten much better at both (thankfully with far fewer fire-fasts). You also learn how to scale individual talent carefully, offering mentorship where your accrued wisdom can apply, but also how to let go and trust in the skill and accountability of others. In my 20s, I felt like if it needed to be done right I had to do it entirely myself. Big, exhausting mistake! All of the above applies to empowering and enabling talent in any company. I learned better interviewing practices at both Google (big) and Rebellion Defense (startup) because each took a culturally-specific approach to the process. Both concentrated on anchoring non-technical questions on themes driven by company values. Every company has values that guide its decisionmaking and determine its outcomes. I think you have to write them down, publish them, and authentically refer to them in conversation and debate. If you can't do all three, you are far less likely to be a successful organization based on a shared worldview. On product design: don't treat it as an ivory tower, whose practitioners are the only permitted, opinionated tastemakers. Make design cross-functionally inclusive. It'll lead to better products and better team dynamics. How do you do this? John Zeratsky and I outlined our FeedBurner and Google-influenced approach at Google I/O. The first five minutes hits the high notes:Google I/O 2010 - Creating positive user experiences

Process

"I don't mind 'just enough' process." — Lots of people, probably It might seem odd for a startup founder to have a "Process" section, but I think it's important! Every brand new startup has a highly repeatable playbook it must follow for getting off the starting line: Have a strong theory or (better) some proof of product-market fit Assemble your build environment (source control, build/stage/deploy, analytics, DevOps, MLOps, etc.) Accumulate SaaS stack (office apps, chat, payroll, ATS, design, user testing, product support, etc.) Write down and publish company values Create an onboarding routine that captures 1-4 for every new hire …there can be more, but this is a start. Process is not a dirty word. It doesn't have to be a hindrance to innovation. Properly applied, it's an accelerant. OKRs are well-documented as a goal-setting approach for cross-functional alignment. I found them very helpful at Google, both individually and to help myself position within the company. But I think they're impossible to apply responsibly during at least the first year of any startup. Too much upheaval. For startups, you are better served applying process 'products' like the Design Sprint to validate new product designs quickly and at low cost (I've facilitated sprints at every company since AngelList, 2014). Additionally, identify your superusers early on, and make them part of an inner circle. Give them added access to your team and feature roadmap. Send them t-shirts and other swag. They may help save your business several times over. For larger companies, the Design Sprint still applies! But the process I am likely to bring to a larger organization is how to apply my instincts for crafting a compelling product mission to an existing organizational culture by selectively complying with and, when opportune, challenging conventional wisdom. The innovator's dilemma does die hard.

Career Highlights
Distilled from my resume, these are the key outcomes from throughout my career. My TL;DR sizzle list.

Each venture-backed startup I have co-founded and where I’ve led product design has featured positive ROI for investors, with a combined ~$185M in closing value across 3 exits to Google, Uber, and 724 Solutions.

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Passions
Alpine Skiing
The perfect run is probably like the perfect wave
Distance Running
8-time marathoner, trail runner, podcast-walker
EV/Automotive
Learn more about the Fiat I have hilariously/tragically converted to EV power

Let's have some good chat. ★ matt@shobefamily.comLinkedIn