IVCA Q&A Profile: Matt Moog, Founder and CEO of Viewpoints Network, on the Launch of BuiltInChicago.org

IVCA Q&A Profile: Matt Moog, Founder and CEO of Viewpoints Network, on the Launch of BuiltInChicago.org

February 2, 2011

CHICAGO - “ If there is anybody who has embodied the tech and digital growth of Chicago, it is Matt Moog. The current CEO of Viewpoints Network has been involved in the evolution of the overall digital industry since starting with Microsoft in the early 1990s. His latest project, the website BuiltInChicago.org, has as its goal the connecting and resourcing of digital professionals who are making a difference in web and mobile businesses in the Windy City.

Matt Moog came from Microsoft to help direct the explosion of CoolSavings.com (the original coupon site on the web), beginning in sales and eventually ran the company as President and CEO. Matt guided that company as it went public, and then left in 2006 to start Viewpoints Network, a social technology and media company that guides retailers and brands through social commerce and marketing.

The IVCA interviewed Moog recently about the launch of his new website and the knowledge he has gained throughout his career.

IVCA: You have just launched BuiltInChicago.org. What is the origin of the idea for the site, what motivated you to get it going and what are your goals for producing it?

Matt Moog: BuiltInChicago.org was launched in response to the needs of the digital community in Chicago. Digital companies in Chicago are growing and need to hire talented engineers, great product managers, proven sales people, smart online marketers, brilliant designers and a range of other experienced professionals. I was motivated to launch the site after hearing from other founders and entrepreneurs that it was hard to find great engineers and investors to start and scale their companies. From my own recent experience building Viewpoints Network and before that CoolSavings, I knew there were great engineers and investors just waiting to work with talented entrepreneurs. We just needed to bring them together. It turns out that a focused online community like Built In Chicago is a great way to do that.

IVCA: Which community are you hoping to build with the site, what advantages will there be for participation and how will you measure success?

Moog: Step one is to get as many members of the digital community to join as possible and have them create profiles and connect with others in the community. Step two is have them join groups that help to segment the community further into specific interest areas such as mobile, social media, design or technology. Step three is to then activate members by having them organize meetings and contribute content. Then as the community grows and the activity increases, we can point to the site as proof to others that Chicago has a large and growing community of innovative companies and talented professionals.

IVCA: How do you envision the site expanding? Do you have specific goals for 5 years down the road or a general future? And do you expect it to expand to include other technology/entrepreneurial areas?

Moog: We would like to have 10,000 members and 150,000 visits by the end of 2011. At this point it is hard to see much beyond the next twelve months. We will see where it goes. We are talking to other community leaders about ways to launch similar online communities for their specific areas of technology such as Clean Technology or Life Science. I think it is important to keep the communities very focused on their specific areas, but also linked so people who have a broader interest in technology can traverse among them.

IVCA: What do you think sets BuiltInChicago.org apart from other sites that go after a specific interest group?

Moog: Built In Chicago is a truly social site. Anyone can join and contribute content. Anyone can create a group or an event. Most sites are publishing sites with limited commenting ability. This is truly a site by the people for the people. And of course focusing on the digital community, a group of professionals that are very comfortable with social platforms is a huge help.

IVCA: Regarding Viewpoints Network: since we're at Social Media 2.0, what approach is most attractive to your potential clients as far as getting a message within the network without seeming too corporate or intrusive?

Moog: At Viewpoints Network our focus is on being the best source for consumer reviews to help people make smarter purchase decisions. We have more than 1.3 million members and 4.9 million users between our own site at Viewpoints.com and the sites that we host for Sears Holdings, like MySears.com. We have found a way to blend content, community and commerce in a way that is helpful for both in-market shoppers and retailers. We attract major advertisers like Proctor & Gamble, Wal-Mart, Sears, Best Buy, Whirlpool, Kenmore, Kitchen Aid and others who are interested in reaching shoppers at - ˜the point of need' when they are actively researching products. In this way advertising becomes less of a distraction and more relevant and contextually appropriate.

IVCA: The world of social media is generational and skews younger. What have been the advantages of the youth revolution in technology and in contrast what have you observed as the disadvantages?

Moog: It is true that social media is used more by students and recent grads, but the growth among the 30 plus demographic is dramatic and significant. My wife is 43 and does not work in technology or media but communicates with all of her friends via Facebook. It would not surprise me if there were more moms on facebook than students. As the younger generation matures and goes through various life stages of employment, marriage, kids, buying a home etc, every type of business will need to speak to their comfort with social, mobile and digital technologies in general. My kids will not remember what a video rental store was. It won't surprise me if they go for years without going to a book store later in life. They will want to pay with their phone, and expect services to be natively digital, natively mobile and natively social.

IVCA: You sit on the board of the Interactive Advertising Bureau. What within the web revolution has been the most important change in the platforming strategy for advertising since 1995?

Moog: I sat on the board of the IAB for several years when I was running CoolSavings. The triple threat: search, social and now mobile are the three major driving forces of the web. The numbers speak for themselves. Six billion searches done in the U.S. every month; 58 million people in the US own a smart phone up from nearly zero three years ago; 600 million Facebook users. 70% of consumers won't make a purchase before checking consumer reviews. Media consumption has changed dramatically and behavior patterns have changed. It is a well worn cliche but the numbers don't lie, we live in a connected world moving at the speed of digital.

IVCA: We are close to the maturation of an entire generation that has been wired. What are the best guess scenarios for digital interaction as it evolves?

Moog: Everything that can does goes digital and in the process becomes social and mobile, like music, movies, books, news and ecommerce. Also brokerages and agents of all kinds, like stock, real estate, insurance, it goes on and on. Any consumer facing business will find the world to be a very different place when their customers prefer their tablet or mobile device in contrast to talking or direct mail. They must learn to communicate, influence and build relationships in an increasingly digital world.

IVCA: Your educational background includes a Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science, which does not seem connected to what you do now. What do you recommend as an educational base for budding tech savvy entrepreneurs besides tech science and business?

Moog: Being an engineer with a strong business mind is a great place to start. Political Science taught me critical thinking skills and helped me learn how to communicate effectively. These skills are important skills but is hard to argue with the fact that the largest and most successful tech companies have been started by engineers. If you are not inclined toward engineering school, I would recommend you look into user experience design as an emerging discipline that will be in major demand over the coming decade.

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