At the tender age of 31, Matt Lautz has been an entrepreneur half his life. Brevient Technologies was his first software company, founded when he was 16. Among his greatest successes was Corvisa, which developed a mortgage appraisal management software in 2009. In 2010, the company was acquired by StreetLinks Lender Solutions, and now Matt is president and CIO of CorvisaCloud, which develops cloud-based voice software.
How did you identify the need for the appraisal management software?
One of our other minority owners was in the mortgage origination space, and had been frustrated by the products on the market. They had a lot of (hidden) fees, a lack of transparency. He really wanted a product that gave him what he needed and was easy. You understood the pricing, you understood the functionality, there wasn’t any hidden agenda.
Describe your “I knew we made it” moment.
[Laughing] I don’t think you ever make it .… Being able to sell a majority position to at the time StreetLinks, which is now our largest sister company, was definitely the first step toward that. There’s always the next step you want to get to. As an entrepreneur at heart, you always want to do the next thing or take it to the next level. I hope I never say I have made it, because I might as well not be doing something.
What was the greatest challenge in starting so young?
In the last 15 years (he’s now 31), I think my answer has definitely morphed. I think the answer I’d give today is, I think I made it my own issue. Nobody cares what your age is if you deliver and you have the best product. So have the best product, have the best service, deliver on what you say you’ll deliver, people don’t care if you’re 18, 30, 50 or 90. I think I made it a perceived issue, and it didn’t have to be.
Do I think that when you’re younger, getting access to capital can be a little more challenging? Yes, but I think that’s more because you don’t necessarily have as many business contacts.
What’s the best idea you had that didn’t work?
We had one in the past that was a mass-SMS-and-voice social media product. Before there were 700 of them out there. Before Four Square existed, before a lot of those. It was a hybrid of Four Square, group SMS, three or four products we know today. We had an opportunity to take it and get some funding for it, and there ended up being a disagreement on the right approach with some of the different owners of the group. It ended up falling by the wayside, and I think that could have ended up being very successful.
I still have a few of our t-shirts we made up with it, and that was one, every time I see the T-shirt, I think when I’m 80, I’m going to say … that could have been a huge success.
What primary trait separates successful entrepreneurs from the rest?
Utter optimism about everything that you do. It’s a persistent optimism that what you’re going to do is going to succeed. Most entrepreneurs, at least in your first or second venture, you’re putting everything on the line. You will have setbacks, and if there isn’t persistent optimism that it’s going to work, you would never keep doing it.
5 Questions is a series highlighting Milwaukee entrepreneurs. To be considered for an interview, please send a brief email request to connect at buildmke.org