Matthew Ramirez is an educator, serial entrepreneur, and investor, as well as Forbes 30 under 30 alumni. He worked as a writing instructor at UC Berkeley before he grew and sold his first company, WriteLab, to Chegg (NYSE: CHGG) in 2018, where he worked for three years as Director of Product Management and overseeing AI products. He is now the Founder of Rephrase Media, which develops cutting-edge AI applications for creators, such as a paraphrasing tool that helps students practice ways of articulating themselves through writing. He also sits on the board of Mathpix and advises a number of EdTech companies.
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Thank you so much for giving us your time! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and take us through what exactly your company does and what your vision is for its future?
Matthew Ramirez: For the last eight years, I’ve developed free and low-cost AI products to improve literacy in minority communities. The first product I developed, called WriteLab, gave automatic writing feedback to students, particularly in community colleges, where most do not have access to extensive tutoring or mentorship to help them practice clear and effective communication. My most recent product, Paraphrase Tool, provides writers with an opportunity to see multiple versions of their own thoughts, so they can optimize for clear, simple, diplomatic, or academic writing, to give a few examples of the fifteen free writing modes we offer.
The question I’ve repeatedly gotten is why try to enact change through industry rather than through teaching since I started as a writing instructor at UC Berkeley. My answer is very simple: the need to improve literacy at scale is urgent and complex, and the fastest way to iterate through complexity is to proceed in a bottoms-up fashion, listening to feedback to users, making changes, and working to better serve them.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO/entrepreneur when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get where you are today?
Matthew Ramirez: Growing up I wanted to be a writer, and I was well on my way to doing that when I started teaching and became even more interested in helping others to better articulate themselves. As with many things, there is a tradeoff with scale and quality in this problem, but as technology advances, it is becoming possible to scale higher quality solutions to help students and others practice and improve their writing. That is something I love being part of.
Tell us something about yourself that others in your organization might be surprised to know.
Matthew Ramirez: Once upon a time I was a licensed massage therapist.
Many readers may wonder how to become an entrepreneur but what is an entrepreneur? How would you define it?
Matthew Ramirez: An entrepreneur is someone who assembles a few core components to build a business: a product or service, a channel through which customers can find you, and a model for monetizing that usage. If there is a clear demand for a product and general awareness that such a product can exist, this whole process is simpler but requires significant hustle in acquiring customers to your specific solution. If demand and awareness are less clear, there is a risk that they may never materialize, but more potential upside if can facilitate them along with a unique and well-protected solution.
What is the importance of having a supportive and inclusive culture?
Matthew Ramirez: If you don’t have a supportive and inclusive culture, your teammates will not be able to perform as their best, most confident selves and achieve a sense of fully attentive ‘flow’ in their work. Without this total engagement, you will find people unmotivated and looking for other opportunities.
How can a leader be disruptive in the post covid world?
Matthew Ramirez: The best and soundest way for a leader to be disruptive is to deliver overwhelming customer value, and we’ve seen this kind of disruption accelerated with covid as firms have rushed to win a share of consumer attention and consideration.
Leaders are usually asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is your most useless talent?
Matthew Ramirez: I have voluntary control over the muscles that move my scalp, which few people can do. Doing it startles people, but otherwise, it’s really quite useless.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. If you wrote a book about your life until today, what would the title be?
Matthew Ramirez: “How to Succeed by Failing Often”
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Matthew Ramirez for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Matthew Ramirez or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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