Up Close and Personal with Matt Galligan, cofounder of Circa and Socialthing

August 28, 2012

1:00 pm

Tech Cocktail is excited to be introducing Tech Cocktail Sessions to San Francisco on August 29th (tomorrow). We’ve lined up a pair of exceptional entrepreneurs, Matt Galligan and Howard Leonhardt, who will be sharing their insights on the topic of “Turning Ideas into Action” <register here>.

Tomorrow, you’ll get the chance to learn the secrets behind their successes. But what about the individual sitting on the CEO’s throne? Who is the entrepreneur behind the businesses?

Today, we ask: Who is Matt Galligan?

Matt Galligan is a San Francisco-based entrepreneur and the CEO and cofounder of Circa. He cofounded the company alongside Ben Huh and Arsenio Santos in 2011. Circa is bringing news to the mobile age. Rather than trying to shoehorn existing content into a new environment, it’s creating the first born-on-mobile news experience.

Prior to founding Circa, Matt founded two other companies. In 2007, he cofounded and was the CEO of Socialthing, a service that made it easy to keep up with friends’ activity from multiple social networks. Socialthing was acquired by AOL in 2008. After his time at AOL, Matt and Joe Stump went on to found SimpleGeo in 2009, which provided a geolocation infrastructure-as-a-service for developers to easily add location-aware elements to consumer and business applications – a process that they learned is extremely difficult when they began as a location-based gaming company several years ago. SimpleGeo was acquired by Urban Airship in November 2011.

Tech Cocktail caught up with Matt to learn more.

Up Close and Personal with Matt Galligan

My favorite Bay Area brewery and beer is…

Magnolia Pub and Brewery (image courtesy sfgate.com)

Magnolia Pub and Brewery

Matt Galligan: That’s easy. Magnolia Pub & Brewery and their fantastic English mild-style ale called Sarah’s Ruby Mild. It’s only 3.9% but packs a ton of flavor. It’s my go-to whenever I’m at Magnolia.

In the past 10 years I have lived in the following cities, and I will ultimately end up in…

Galligan: 10 years ago, I had just graduated high school in my home town of Williamsville, Illinois, and moved to Jacksonville, Illinois, to start college at Illinois College. After Jacksonville, I moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to start working at Network Solutions as a web designer and eventually started my first company there called Socialthing. My partners and I then moved to Boulder, Colorado, to be a part of the inaugural TechStars class. I stayed in Colorado for three years, after which I moved to San Francisco, where I’ve been today for two years now.

The Boss

The best concert I’ve seen in 2012 is…

Galligan: The best concert I’ve seen so far in 2012 has to go to Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band for their performance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I’m not even a big Bruce fan, but the musicianship and energy on stage just blew my mind.

My favorite part of the startup life is…

Galligan: Being able to create something that’s never been done before and letting it loose in the world. It’s fascinating to see how different people use a product that you thought up.

The first time I realized I was an entrepreneur when I…

Galligan: I don’t know that there’s a specific time and place that I can point to. From a very early age, I liked to be creative and tended towards leading when I was in group settings. When I was 16, I went to work for a company near my hometown that did restoration after a disaster like a flood, fire, or tornado as their “IT director.” I was completely underqualified but it taught me to think on my feet and learn quickly. My boss there was a massive inspiration for getting into business, and ended up being the first investor in my first company.

A mobile app I am currently obsessed with is…

Galligan: Path. Hands down. It’s the perfect blend of functionality, emotion, and beautiful design. While all of my closest friends aren’t yet using the app, I feel immediately more connected to those of my friends that are using it.

The best movie I’ve seen in 2012 is…

Galligan: That’s probably a tie between the Hunger Games, which was an awesome and wild ride, and Safety Not Guaranteed, which was just strange but extremely original. It was very refreshing compared to most of the crap that Hollywood puts out these days.

The best book I’ve read in the last year is…

Galligan: Rule 34 by Charles Stross. It’s near-future science fiction and completely nuts, but one wild ride.

An entrepreneur I greatly look up to is…

WordPress Lead Developer, Matt Mullenweg

Galligan: Matt Mullenweg.

Because (follow up to previous)…

Galligan: The guy is completely brilliant, extremely thoughtful, yet somehow devoid of overbearing ego. It’s hard for me to think of an entrepreneur that’s so selfless yet has a better sense of product and business than plenty of public company CEO’s. He’s continually impressing me and I’ve been extremely lucky to consider him a friend.

My superhero entrepreneurial skill is…

Galligan: Attention to detail. Whereas it’s not really an entrepreneurial skill, it’s a talent that I feel like I have that contributes quite a bit to the products that I work on.

My greatest weakness is…

Galligan: Attention to detail. The truth is, sometimes this same quality can turn into a burden. Sometimes I just can’t let something go and let it be…making sure that only perfection crosses the finish line. That’s not a productive way to be unfortunately.

And I overcome this by…matt galligan

Galligan: I’m still challenged by managing this trait to this day. I manage it by surrounding myself with people that can call bullshit on me when I start getting towards diminishing returns. Then I learn from them.

My most cherished non-entrepreneurial accomplishment is…

Galligan: While not necessarily an accomplishment, more so a great memory: having the means to bring my family to Ireland for a family vacation. We hadn’t vacationed together in over twelve years, none of them had ever been to Ireland, and my dad had actually never even been out of the country. It felt so great to spend some quality time with them in a place that our ancestors came from.

Want more? Check out Matt’s talk on “Turning Ideas into Action” at the upcoming San Francisco Tech Cocktail Sessions.

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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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