Interview: Matt Alexander, CEO of Need

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Matt Alexander is the founder and CEO of clothing e-commerce companies Need and Foremost, together known as The Edition Collective. He’s also an influential figure in tech, a mentor, a creative, and an overall stylish guy. In this interview, he shares the gear he uses to run his businesses, and gives advice for those aspiring to start projects of their own.

What’s in your everyday carry?

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View Matt Alexander’s Full Everyday Carry

First and foremost, I carry an iPhone 6 (Space Grey 64GB). I run a significant chunk of my business(es) from it, whilst also spending a lot of time dabbling with photography.

I’ve started wearing an Apple Watch (42mm Stainless Steel with Black Sport Band) recently, too. As I live on my iPhone, the Watch has become exceptionally useful as a means to cut down on the amount of notifications and activity that’s happening on my phone everyday.

I have a Louis Vuitton Florin Wallet which carries my credit cards. I try not to keep much more than the day-to-day financial and identification essentials within.

I always have my keys with me. I have my car key, apartment key, office key, apartment entry fob, and a fob for WELD (co-working space) attached.

I’m currently wearing some Shwood Francis Tortoise and Ebony sunglasses. And I often have a Neff beanie (grey or blue) or snapback hat (Jiberish or ONLY NY) with me, as I’ve recently shaved my head and am rather conscious of the elements on the other side of that decision.

Beyond that, I’m always carrying my 15-inch MacBook Pro (2014) with me in a Hard Graft Folio Sleeve. It’s rather cumbersome, though — and I’m currently traveling at least once or twice per month — so I’ve got a 512GB MacBook (silver) ordered. It ought to arrive this month.

I also sometimes have a Hermes Ulysse notebook for taking physical notes. (And usually a non-descript pen.)

And, if I’m traveling, I’ll have a pair of wireless Beats Studio headphones and a Retina iPad mini (32GB with LTE) with me. Usually in an Amos backpack.

Entrepreneurs tend to wear many hats. What’s your role at your companies and what does your day to day look like?

I’m the founder and CEO of Need and Foremost. Together, these projects represent my vision of how fashion — and, more broadly, e-commerce — ought to be handled.

When I founded the company, I was the only employee. So, my day-to-day used to be divided between shipping, customer service, sourcing, and so on.

These days, I’m mostly known to be skateboarding around the office, whilst chatting on the phone. (I can’t sit still during phone calls.)

As with most people who are building things, it’s fairly difficult to get out of your own head. You can’t escape something that fundamentally inhabits you.

So, I try to do little things for myself each day. Whether it’s making a Chemex of coffee each morning or riding my bike around town, I tend to gravitate towards activities that prohibit me from looking at my phone for any extended period of time.

When you’re building new things, where do you find the inspiration to innovate?

I’ve always had a policy of not having lunch by myself. Whenever I have the chance, I’ve made a habit of meeting with interesting, passionate people.

We talk about all manner of things. Whether it’s their craft or their business or their experiences, I love hearing people talk about things for which they fundamentally care.

I tend to think these conversations provide a great deal of context. Although these people aren’t in my industry, for instance, they’re all grappling with a variety of issues and challenges. And hearing about those experiences is deeply illuminating at useful.

It’s not that I want to emulate their path. Quite the opposite. I just think of building a company or idea as contributing to a larger conversation. And this is a very straightforward way of experiencing that on a day-to-day, low-level basis.

At the end of the day, I’m inspired by people. I care about their stories. And it’s not for anything more than simple curiosity.

Do you have any hobbies or interests that help you “get out of your own head” as you put it?

At a very high-level, I like to keep up with — and remain somewhat immersed in — contemporary culture. From film to literature to comic books, I consume a great deal of media.

As with most other people who deal with things on the Internet, I’m also increasingly becoming a fussy coffee person. I love the act of making a well-made cup of coffee everyday.

Aside from that, I skateboard, run, and ride my bike from time-to-time. Basically, for all of this, I’m an enormous startup person stereotype.

Why do you EDC?

I’m comfortable in the knowledge that I don’t ever carry too much with me. For me, though, I find paralysis in the feeling of over-preparation. I’m always at my best when I’m unencumbered by superfluous items and belongings to account for all manner of situations.

I gravitate towards the exercise of working out what I truly need to keep my life and business moving each day. And the fewer items I can have on my person, the better I’ll be at achieving those goals.

What gear do you want to add to your EDC next?

As I mentioned, I’m very excited about the new Macbook. Although it’s “underpowered” and whatnot, I really don’t think of technology as being dictated by specifications any more. I don’t buy an iPhone for its processor. I buy an iPhone for its design and its simplicity.

Laptops are increasingly being seen in the same light. We’ve reached a certain point of advancement at which most rudimentary tasks are accomplishable by everything on the market. It now becomes a matter of practicality and design.

As I’m beginning to travel a lot, the new Macbook is increasingly alluring. I can do true work (sorry, iPad), without worrying about having to bring a larger bag for everything.

For all of these words, it represents an opportunity to cut down on the amount I’m carrying with me, whilst also drastically reducing weight. And the less weight, the less I’m thinking about it. (Which is the ultimate goal.)

Do you have any recent accomplishments or interesting projects in the works that you’d like to tell us about?

In terms of professional activities, we just launched Foremost, whilst also working on a new version of Need. It’s been an exciting/exhausting time. We’ve merged the companies and we’re in the midst of a significant round of funding from a variety of prominent people in the US and abroad. We’ll be exciting that over the next few months.

On a more personal level, I’ve just found out I’m a finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Which is gratifying! (And, apparently, I’ll be the youngest to be included. They made a special exception to the rules for me to even be included, so it’s all been rather surreal.)

Aside from those two, we’re hard at work on our iOS app. I’m increasingly considering it more as a third brand than it would be a portal for Need and Foremost. And that’s a really exciting prospect.

Given your profession, what advice, tip, or secret would you offer to our readers?

Many, many people spend far, far too much time over-thinking things.

For instance, I receive email all the time from prospective founders looking for advice about starting out. They all tend to ask when it’s going to be the right time, how much diligence they should do, and how long their business plans ought to be.

Although those are valuable questions, the truth of the matter is that, regardless of how much preparation you have, your plans will change. And, although you might’ve done a lot of research, you still fundamentally do not know what you’re doing.

The world changes. Projects change. Markets change.

Excessive planning only serves to halt your intuition and ability to make quick decisions.

Read more from Matt at his blog, OneThirtySeven, and follow him on Twitter for more updates.

Photos courtesy of Matt Alexander

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