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Matillion founder: Think like an athlete to prevent burnout – Fi5

Matillion founder

Matthew Scullion is the CEO and founder of Matillion, an integration platform for cloud data warehouses.

Founded by Scullion in 2011, Manchester-based Matillion became a tech unicorn after a Series D funding round last year gave it a $1.5bn valuation. It has a dual headquarters in Colorado, Denver.

The company’s platform is used by businesses to “convert raw data into actionable, analytics-ready data in the cloud”. Its customers include the likes of Amazon, Cisco, IKEA and Travis Perkins to integrate disparate data sources and use them to extract business insights.

In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, the Matallion chief explains how being a founder “isn’t all glamour”, why entrepreneurs should think like an athlete to prevent burnout and why businesses should make diversity and inclusion a priority in the same way as winning customers or raising capital.

1. What funding advice would you give to a first-time founder?

Matthew Scullion: It’s not always easy to admit, but not every company is a venture-backable business. So many entrepreneurs are drawn to the prospect of raising money, but you need to think carefully about whether your business model is designed to need and secure venture capital.

If you do choose to go down that route, capital is one thing to consider but not the most important. There’s a good chance you’ll be embarking on a long-term growth journey with the investor(s) of your choice, so establishing mutual trust and a shared set of values with them should be the priority. It’s the best way to set you both up for future success.

2. What are the best and worst parts of your job?

MS: The best part is getting to work with talented people. The sense of achievement I get from making my own small dent in the universe by working with such brilliant minds is something that I’m hugely proud of.

On the other side of the coin, being an entrepreneur and founder isn’t all glamour; it’s brutal and all-encompassing. Not that I would change my experience for the world! But if you’re not careful to strike a balance, it can eat into your family and personal life. I’m fortunate to have a family and wider network that keeps me grounded and supported.

3. How do you prevent burnout?

MS: You almost have to think of yourself as an athlete; if you want to perform at your best, you have to keep yourself physically, mentally and spiritually healthy. I have a personal training session a couple of times a week, which I block as a meeting in my diary and dedicate my full self to.

Seeking out advisors is important, too. Preferably individuals that don’t have a stake in you or your company. I have a number of people who I can share problems and obstacles with, and help me maintain that balance between work, family and myself. In my experience, a lot of founders forget that last one.

4. What’s the most misunderstood technology?

MS: Big data is still a source of confusion for a lot of businesses. Every aspect of how we work, live and play is being informed by data, but many leaders find it difficult to get the most out of the masses of data at their disposal. It’s something we call ‘data productivity’.

When many of us think about data, we think about the dashboards, the algorithms and the drill-downs. But 70% of the work to make data useful is getting it analytics-ready, transforming it from its raw ‘iron ore’ state into the ‘steel’ and using the genuine insights you extract from it to inform great products and services. That under-the-hood element isn’t widely recognised.

5. What’s the best way to promote diversity in the workplace?

MS: Ultimately, you have to make clear why diversity is important. It’s undoubtedly the right thing to do on moral grounds. But there’s so much evidence that teams perform better when they’re diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, age, neurodiversity and so much more.

Like anything in business, outcomes are correlated to effort. So you need to make workplace diversity and inclusion a priority, in the same way you’d make winning customers, developing products or raising capital a priority. If you set concrete goals then your business is more likely to hit them, and your people to benefit from your efforts. Even if you don’t tick every box straight away, the results will be tangible and help you move in the right direction.

Founder in Five – a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative startups, scaleups, unicorns and public tech companies – is published every Friday.