May 18 2021
Matt Rogers

Values, Focus, Fresh Ideas: Advice for Founders from Matt Rogers

May 18 2021
Matt Rogers

Originally posted to founder and Activate board member Matt Rogers is a builder at heart. He started at Apple, where he was one of the first engineers on the original iPhone and played key leadership roles in developing the iPod and iPad. As co-founder of Nest, Rogers built the team that built the first learning thermostat and the leading connected home brand. Now, Rogers splits his time between and a new project he’s cooking up with some friends.

Activate Fellows are focused on addressing the greatest challenges humanity faces and we believe these science entrepreneurs have the power to shape our world for generations to come. We asked Rogers to share his advice with our community of founders.

Matt Rogers, Activate board member and founder at


What piece of advice would you share with Activate Fellows or other first-time founders?

  1. Be resilient in the face of failure. Lots of things will go wrong, especially when you’re trying to solve hard problems worth solving. Lots of people will tell you “no” because they may not understand what is possible. You must have the perseverance and focus to carry on.
  2. Build relationships for the long term. The world is too small for short-term, transactional relationships, and anyone can support your mission. You never know who will be able to help you on your journey and when.


What role should a founder's values play in building an organization? Is there a need for founders to bring their values into their work and organization?

It is imperative that the founder clearly and loudly bring their values into their work and organization. Because actions speak louder than words, the founder cannot simply draw up a culture document and call it a day; the founder must live out their values in every discussion and every decision. And the team needs to embody it. Especially as the company grows, the founders can’t be the only stewards of those values—every member of the team becomes one.


If you could give yourself advice prior to your first experience as a founder, what would you share? 

Focus, focus, focus focus. And focus. It’s natural and healthy to dream big, but dreams don’t matter unless you can win one step at a time.


What does the team look for when deciding to work with or support a founder? 

We look for great people—from all backgrounds—with fresh ideas to create waves of catalytic change throughout an ecosystem. We’re not interested in incremental solutions. We want to support the big, bold ventures that make the world better. And we have a strict no assholes policy.


When considering the network of Activate Fellows and alumni, what is most exciting about their journeys and potential impact? 

Activate’s network is a group of people who aren’t afraid to do hard things. That gives me hope. We need more people like the Activate Fellows and alumni who aren’t easily satisfied and who won’t give up. Especially when it comes to climate science, I believe the Activate Fellows are, right now, playing a hand in saving our planet.

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