Entrepreneur of the Week - Matthew J. Howard

Pictured above: (from the left) Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Steve Case, Matt Howard, and Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey.

An experienced and successful software entrepreneur, Matt Howard founded Reston, Virginia based ZoomSafer in September 2008 following a distracted driving incident in which he nearly killed a nine year old boy. Together with his co-founders Matt developed ZoomSafer into an award winning and patented software platform that promotes safe and legal use of mobile smartphones and tablet computers while driving. ZoomSafer was acquired by Vancouver, British Columbia based Aegis Mobility in November 2012. Matt is now Chief Marketing Officer at Aegis.

Recognized nationally as an expert on employer risks due to mobile device use while driving, Matt has been featured on Oprah and FOX Business News and in The Wall Street Journal and TIME Magazine and is a co-author of: Distracted Driving: Understanding Your Corporate Risk and Liability and Beyond Telematics: Extending UBI Data to Include Mobile Phone Use while Driving. Matt and his team at ZoomSafer are recipients of multiple awards including: 2012 Connected World Innovation Award; 2011 Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association Big Idea Award; and 2011 Frost & Sullivan Product Innovation Award.

Prior to ZoomSafer, Matt was co-founder and CEO of SMBLive, which was acquired by Reach Local (NASD:RLOC) in Feb 2010. Matt previously served as VP of Business Development at Groove Networks (acquired by Microsoft), as VP of Business Development at USinternetworking (acquired by AT&T), a General Manager at WinStar, and as a consultant with Booz Allen & Hamilton.

Matt has a Masters in Telecommunications from George Mason University and a Bachelor’s in Political Communications from The George Washington University. Matt lives in Leesburg, VA with his wife and three children.

CIT: Tell us about your current venture:
Matt: My company ZoomSafer was acquired in November 2012 by Vancouver, BC based Aegis Mobility and I am currently serving as the company’s Chief Marketing Officer.

CIT: What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
Matt: My mom and dad were both born into the great depression. Together they raised 9 kids (I am the youngest) and they instilled in us a work ethic and a discipline to own responsibility for the things we wanted to achieve in life. Based on professional experience and the lessons taught to me by my parents, my best advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is this, (1) Be passionate about your work. (2) Surrounding yourself with people smarter than you. (3) Be nimble, flexible and agile in your approach to problem solving. (4) Have an open mind, embrace change and push beyond your comfort zone to find new opportunities, and (5) Constantly try new things and learn how to fail fast.

CIT: What events/meetup groups are essential for startups?
Matt: I find that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of networking events that are being hosted these days. While it’s critical to get out the office on a regular basis to network with others – it’s also important to be selective about which events you attend. I am personally a member of Mindshare and Founders Corp, both of which are terrific networking groups focused on entrepreneurship. In addition, I am a big fan of developing relationships one-on-one with fellow entrepreneurs outside of any organized structure. You’d be amazed by how many people are willing to grab coffee and compare notes. All you have to do is ask.

CIT: How important is collaboration and knowledge sharing to you?
Matt: I think knowledge sharing and collaboration is a critical part of being a successful entrepreneur. After all, business is generally driven by human relationships. Human relationships are driven by trust. Trust is gained when people share things with one other.

CIT: What makes Northern Virginia’s tech scene unique?
Matt: The tech scene is NoVA is unique because there are generally two types of entrepreneurs who coexist here. Those that are working to innovate in commercial markets. And those that are working to innovate in Federal markets. There seems to be a real synergy that exists between these two worlds which makes Northern Virginia a unique tech scene on the national stage.