Founder Friday — Meet Matt from Canviz

Matt Waters

Learn more about Matt Waters from Canviz. Canviz is a digital canvas for displaying art and photography, it’s also a site for collecting, discovering and sharing great content.


What did you think you wanted to be when you were in HS?
I knew that I wanted to work in computer graphics for film by middle school. It was something of a curiosity to some people how early I was dead set on that. I’d ask my parents for 3d graphics software or books for my birthday, and my friends would make fun of me. But I couldn’t careless back then, it was the coolest thing in the world to me. I loved watching the special features of movies to get a peak at the work that was being done, and I knew that it was a small group of people doing the work. By the time I graduated from college and moved out to California there were many more people doing it, but in the late 90s it was a small industry.

What did you study in college and what was your first job?
I went to school for film and animation, a degree in the arts. I loved it, but by my 2nd year I also knew that the degree my parents were paying for was probably worth as much as the paper it was printed on. I saw graduating students struggle. 9/11 happened, and I also felt like I wasn’t doing something serious enough in a world that had just gotten really serious. I had always been really into aeronautics, space exploration and physics so I transferred to an engineering program. The first semester I had a bunch of physics and math courses to take, and I realized that pure physics is where I wanted to be. My parents were willing to pay for the agreed upon 4 years of college, after that I was on my own, so I packed my remaining semesters with classes and stayed at school during the summer months. My physics classmates were both freshmen and juniors, because I was doing the coursework at double speed. It nearly broke me, but I did it and graduated with a degree in physics and also a solid education in film/animation (I kept working in the animation labs as I was studying physics). My first job was for Sega (makers of sonic the hedgehog) of America in San Francisco.

What did you do in your previous life, prior to founding Canviz:
Since that first job at Sega I’ve been steadily moving up the creative ladder, getting closer to the core of what initially got me so excited. Each job was a dream job. After Sega I worked at Lucasfilm. Growing up I was a big Star Wars fan; at Lucasfilm I worked on a Star Wars video game, went to events at George Lucas’s Ranch, and worked amongst holy relics of computer graphics in film. After Lucasfilm I worked at Dreamworks Animation for years, a dream job if there ever was one. But I left Dreamworks to work at Activision on one of the biggest entertainment franchises in history, and THAT also was a dream job. I left Activision because I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t know what would happen with Canviz. Success or defeat I just wanted to know if what I was seeing in my head was real and possible.


What inspired you to found Canviz?
Canviz started as a side project, it was a solution for a problem I ran into. It took me a while to see it as more than just a solution for myself, it took the interest of friends around me to see that I wasn’t alone. I credit my wife for the seed that grew into Canviz, she spews great ideas and I wish we could follow through on more of them.

What has been your biggest challenge growing your company
Overcoming doubt has maybe been a common thread in what has been really hard about working independently.

What has been your biggest win?
Every 4 months or so there’s a new big win. The large positive reaction to the first pitch video I created was the first big win. Bringing Colin and Joyce onto the team was the next big win. Getting a ton of orders was another big win. Delivering our first few frames to customers and having them be pleased with their purchase was a huge win. Joining Make in LA is the most recent large win for us.


When you’re not working on your company, how do you spend your time?
Most of my hobbies stopped once I quit my paying job to work on Canviz, the things I’ve either kept doing or started doing have been to keep me motivated and to reduce stress. Everyday I went on a hike at Bernal Heights Park with my dog Tully, at sunset. The view of San Francisco there beats anywhere else in the city, and it’s heaven for my dog. I visited the Disney Family Museum a lot, and sometimes would sit down and draw in a sketchbook. Walt Disney was a great creative entrepreneur and it’s a beautiful museum. Going there felt like recharging my batteries.

Best place you’ve ever traveled to?
The UK is my favorite part of the world, but the single most memorable place I’ve been is Santorini (during a World Cup).

How would your mother or maternal figure describe your personality
Persistent. My mother sometimes says that she and my Dad have doubted each risky move I’ve made and been overjoyed to be proven wrong. She says that she has learned not to doubt me when I have the will to make something happen.

Your favorite get sh*t done quote — 
“I was born not knowing and have had only a little time to change that here and there.” -Feynman