9 People Who Helped Me Get Started in Startup Land

Mat Sherman
Aug 30, 2017 · 7 min read

It’s easy to look at someone and think they are an overnight success. Elon Musk. Lebron James. Sam Altman. Where in reality, it took a lot of time and a lot of help from others to get them to where they are today. I am nowhere near where I want to end up in life, but I am a lot farther in life than I would be if I never got help from some friends.

The truth is, as it is for everyone, there was a point I had no idea what #yesphx was and I didn’t even know the difference between a startup and a business. I’ve come a long way, and here is a list of people who helped me in the very very beginning. Before “Mat the Writer” and before “PubLoft”. Before everything.

Here they are

Mike Alonzo

It all started with Mike.

Mid May 2015, I got a startup idea. The idea was an app that let people in real life play zombie apocalypse. Anyone could be a zombie and could chase anyone else who was a human in the app. People running around while staring down at their phones as they chase other strangers. Great idea, right? Well, I asked Mike if he could develop this for me at his agency at the time, User10. He suggested I pick a simpler idea and that I stay in touch.

Thank you Mike — for taking the phone call and giving me potentially the best advice I have ever received…to keep going.

Justin Mulligan

In August 2015, I was really looking to learn all about startups and at the time, Justin was the president of Startup Village at the ASU Polytechnic campus. He loved my energy and I loved his passion for startups. He helped me get connected down at poly and gave me a community of people who were also interested in startups to hang out with.

Thank you Justin — for seeing my potential before many others did, and welcoming my energy into startup village.

Blaine Light

As someone I’ve known for a while, but not well (and still not well), Blaine impacted my journey more than he knows. At a dinner I was attending, I got to sit next to him. Knowing he was an early employee of Uber, I asked him a bunch of questions about startups. The last question I asked was what was the one book I needed to read to learn more about startups. He said The Lean Startup. I thought the book was about not spending any money. I was wrong.

Thank you Blaine — for telling me about the book that taught me how to start a startup.

Sidnee Peck

I tell her this every time and I never know if she believes me, but she gave me the best advice I’ve ever gotten while I was working on Schmooz. I feel like I hear a lot of fluff but all of her advice is actionable. Also, she was one of the only people who encouraged me to apply to Y Combinator with Schmooz, when everyone else thought I was a bit nuts.

Thank you for Sidnee — for showing me what great advice looks like and that dreaming big was possible in Phoenix.

Zach Ferres

Zach met with me at Cartel coffee to talk about Schmooz with me before it was anything… before I even had a developer. We worked through the model, and he spent an hour hashing it out. But none of that is what I remember most. When I asked him how I can help Phoenix the most, I’ll never forget his answer.

Thank you Zach — for showing me that no one is above a cup of coffee with a random kid in Phoenix and showing me what #GSD actually means in practice.

Erika Feinberg

Erika helped run the ASU Open Pitch Spring 2016. I pitched Schmooz at 3/4 ASU campuses in the span of one month; Tempe, Poly, and West. I got to the finals each time, but never won the audience vote. But she believed in us and saw our potential and wanted us to keep pitching even after we lost 3 times. So, I pitched for the 4th and final time at the Downtown campus and won. I was the only student who pitched at all four competitions.

Thank you Erika — for showing me how to not give up.

Kyle Thomas

I think I owe more than I think to Kyle. A little over a year ago, I came back from Boulder pissed off that Phoenix wasn’t the same as Boulder, and ripped Phoenix as hard as I ever had before. Note, this is before anyone knew who the hell I was. And this post got OUT and spread everywhere. I was being destroyed on the #yesphx Facebook group, as I should have been. It was a very very very bad post to write.

Kyle called me up, got me to come into his office, and let me cry in front of him, vent, scream, and let everything out that I was feeling that day. He just listened. We talked for a long time. He then gave me a giant hug at the end. If it weren’t for Kyle, I worry where I would be right now.

Thank you Kyle — for showing me how to love someone, even when you don’t know them that well.


We all know the guy, but there’s no way I can leave him off this list. From pitching him a wireframe of Schmooz 3 weeks before Startup Week 2016, to moving into working at the Dept., simply because he was working there, to him calling me up after one of my many posts about Phoenix and asking..

instead of “what the hell are you doing”?

He is the ultimate leader, the ultimate community organizer, and the ultimate friend. He teaches me more about leadership every single day and teaches me how to love every single day. This man deserves everything. He has been a mentor to me, a friend, someone to keep me in check, and someone to tell me what I need to hear even when I don’t need to hear it.

Thank you JC for showing me the type of leader I want to be when I grow up.


Although it’s weird that someone wants to name themselves after a letter in an alphabet, I think he can pull it off. V let me pitch him Schmooz at startup week 2016, and stayed in touch with me throughout the year to try to make it happen. He even tried to get it into another event as well. V also saw me at one of my lowest moments in my life.

It was right as Schmooz was failing and right before I was going to go into a three-week long episode of KLS. He was there for me. As time has gone on and we’ve gotten to know each other more, I see him as one of my closest friends in the ecosystem.

Thank you V for showing me how to be an incredible mentor

I am permanently in debt to these amazing humans who have given more than I could even imagine giving to someone else, although I try every day. This post was inspired by this post by JC. It’s time we make our own lists. I look forward to seeing yours :)

Call Me Mat

A collection of my thoughts on things

Mat Sherman

Written by

Founder and CEO at PubLoft

Call Me Mat

A collection of my thoughts on things

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