Matt Gornick

When to say no

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on February 19, 2012
When does Oral-B determine that their $1 toothbrush is not enough, not MVP, not meeting customer demands?  When does a toothbrush need to have an LCD screen and cost $130?  When do they say no?

When does Apple say that MP3 players suck and what exists isn’t enough?  When do they say no to disk drives, CD drives, and ‘Intel Inside’ stickers?

It is easy to say yes to those who are vocal about what they want.  Even if it is what you believe, it is hard to say no.


Experiments with local outsourcing and saving 6 hours of my life

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on February 5, 2012

“The sole purpose of money is to not do things you don’t want to do” – overheard at ORD Camp 2012

In January, I started an experiment aimed at giving me more time to work on my startup as well as increase my happiness.  I started with locally outsourcing two tasks that could be done asynchronously without me around and would make my life easier.  I weighed the following tasks between how much I wanted them completed and how much time/energy it would cost me to do them.  This made it easy to settle on an acceptable price to have the work done.

1. Apartment Cleaning – Having a dirty apartment reduces my productivity and puts me into a bad mood; however, spending 3-4 hours cleaning is hard to justify when I could be using that time to focus on my startup.
2. Hanging Shelves – I’ve had a series of shelves that are time consuming to hang and thus remained in boxes since I moved in to my apartment in September.  After 5 months of not having these shelves hung, it was time to have them setup, but spending an afternoon hanging them and making them look right was always at the bottom of my list.

As luck would have it, a great Chicago cleaning lady advertised in my apartment and had a very competitive rate to clean my apartment. I called that night had scheduled her for the very next day.  

The stats on ‘Apartment Cleaning’:
Total time spent organizing the task: 10 minutes
Monetary cost: $50
Time saved: 3-4 hours

That same night, I was recommended to TaskRabbit, which is a web board for posting tasks and chores then people will come to your apartment, complete the task, and the payment would happen through the website. I had a referral code so I saved some money off my first task and spent around 15 minutes typing the post for someone to hang my shelves.  Within 10 minutes, someone responded with a great price and then came 2 days later to hang all those shelves, perfectly aligned and level.

The stats on ‘Hanging Shelves’:
Total time spent organizing the task: 15 minutes
Monetary cost: $36
Time saved: 3 hours

I’ll be continuing these experiments to see where I can optimize my time.  Post in the comments if you have any other tasks or work that you outsource to someone or a virtual assistant.

In my post, I used a referral link above for TaskRabbit where you’ll get $10 toward your first task and I’ll also get a $10 credit.  If you don’t want the $10 or to give me $10, you can signup through a non-referral link:

If you live in Chicago and are looking for someone to clean your apartment, I can email you the contact info of the lady I used. She did an great job for a very good price.

Tools and services that I’ll be experimenting with:

Quantified Self at ORD Camp

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on January 25, 2012
I gave a talk at ORD Camp 2012 on ‘Quantified Self and How to hack your body’.  The group was amazing and we captured a great list of tools and tips for tracking and improving oneself.

Below is a list of tools, gadgets, and services that we use:

  • 23andMe ( – genetic testing company that provides heath, disease, and other wellness information based upon your DNA.
  • Nest Thermostat ( – tracks your habits and learns what temperature to maintain in your home.

You are a brand

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on September 4, 2011
“If you were a brand, what would your tagline be?” via @abinoda

Guess what folks? You are a brand. Every person you meet, every card you hand out, every tweet you post…

Remote Work

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on September 4, 2011

Working at a startup (and notes from WashU talk)

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on March 4, 2011
This week I had the opportunity to speak with some great students at Washington University in St. Louis.  As apart of "Alternative Career Week", they brought in Aaron Papermaster (Moxie) and I to talk about starting your own company while in college and working for a startup once you graduate.

I've noticed that I keep referencing the same books, videos, and people so I decided to make a page to have all of this information in one place.  

This information can be found at:

Customers hate surprises

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on December 23, 2010

Law 1: Tell your customer what you're going to tell them.

Law 2: Tell them.

Law 3: Then tell them what you told them.

Today I went to the barbershop for a quick trim for the holidays.  My hair wasn't long, but just needed to get cleaned up.  I told the barber to take just a touch off the length and trim me up.  He smiled, agreed, spun me around (away from the mirror), and proceeded to cut my hair in complete silence… not a word.  20 minutes later, he spun me back around and I promptly figured out that this wasn't want I asked for.  He tried his best to correct the butchery of a haircut, but as the ancient proverb goes "measure twice, cut once".  There was nothing he could do to fix the haircut.

This is an important lesson because it is a perfect example of what businesses do and try to meet customer demands and expectations.  All too often, you are on the phone with a supplier/vendor/sales person and they can barely contain their excitement to get going, install software, and sell you hardware without truly understanding your needs.  There is a disconnect between what they want to sell and what I want because they aren't communicating with me.  

Going back to my haircut, the barber should be constantly communicating with its customers.  "Trim here, hows that length? Did you see the game last night?"  Without communication, even a seasoned expert can deliver something completely unexpected and unwanted to the client.  Obviously, unexpected and unwanted results are the last thing a paying customer has in mind.

Even Apple Computer who is known for secrecy, telling the customer what they need, and surprising everyone also plays by these laws although a bit differently.  First, they do an insane amount of research (read: listening) to determine what people's problems are with technology.  People are "communicating to" Apple and Apple is doing a great job at listening.  Before a product launch, there will be banners, rumors, faux product pictures, etc. but these are likely setting up the expectation of what they Apple will tell us (Law 1).  The anticipation leading up to the launch brings us to Law 2, where Steve actually tells us they are releasing an iPhone/iPad/etc.  Law 3 is the rest of his talk where he basically makes everyone on earth want to purchase this new gadget.  Law 3 is subsequently reinforced by other people (media, friends, etc) telling you what Steve already told you (e.g. "you need to by an iPhone because it is the greatest achievement bestowed upon mankind").

That being said, we need to either be more strategic (like Apple) or more active when communication and listening to customers and their needs.  Communicate early and often.

Happy Holidays!

Recommendation engines are pretty smart

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on November 18, 2010
Yesterday, I decided to buy a book on Amazon I have always wanted to read.  Amazon kept recommending other books and topics that "I might like"… and oddly enough they were right!  Amazon recommended several books that I've heard and wanted to read, but had since forgotten about.  Needless to say, I walked away with a slightly larger bill than expected. 

I've been using Amazon and Pandora for a while now and they both seem to know what products I want to buy, books I want to read, and music I want to listen to.  I think there is something to be said for these engines and that they might very well be the norm in the future. 

I don't know the all inner workings of these technologies and collaborative filtering, but I interested in learning more about them.  Time to reread the old lecture notes from CS410 at UIUC.

Why don’t US students take a gap year?

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on November 9, 2010
I have heard some of my friends doing a "Gap Year" where they take a year between college and the work force to travel the world, volunteer abroad, or study topics that are interesting to them but didn't get time to focus on in school.  A few years ago, I would never have thought of a gap year, but after talking with some friends I'm starting to think it is a great opportunity for our generation.  It is natural to follow the paths of others, but seemingly difficult to try something different.

Here are some of my ideas of a good gap year that I think would be a huge learning experience:
1. Work on or create a startup company
2. Spend 8 months in Italy learning the language and cuisine
3. Live the life of a rock climber and travel through the cliffs in North and South America and learning the culture and dedication of the sport along the way

Why companies engage customers (via Twitter)

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on November 8, 2010
I recently wrote an article about getting Schwab and to work so you can keep track of your budgets online.  The next day I got a tweet from the Schwab Twitter account (@SchwabService) with a short "thank you".  I feel like more companies should do this and reach out to their customers.  Most communication is one way from customers to companies.  It is refreshing for it to go in reverse.