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Matt Braun of Magnate Interactive

Meet Matt Braun, founder of Magnate Interactive, a mobile software design and development firm.
What is Magnate Interactive?
Magnate Interactive is a mobile software design and development firm specializing in iOS applications for the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Apple TV. In the past, Magnate has also been a web design collective and a Rich Internet Application developer for the Flash platform. I try to stay ahead of the technology curve and skate to where the puck is going, to paraphrase the great Wayne Gretzky.
How did you come up with the idea?
I think the genesis of the idea to start Magnate Interactive came from an early fascination with the power of programmable computers, and then the discovery of the World Wide Web when I was in something like the sixth and seventh grade, then reading about Steve Jobs and NeXT in the mid-90’s, and being influenced by the success of the small id Software team. There was a confluence of factors in the 90’s that served to influence a lot of young technology entrepreneurs in their businesses today.
When I was graduating high school, the dotcom bubble was just beginning its expansion, and I decided to go to school for computer science engineering, and spent every spare moment learning about graphic design, routinely checking out several of the weighty Graphis annuals from the library. At the time, the Internet wasn't the best place to study high-resolution design pieces. So I think I've always had this interest in how programming and design can work together. And even though the dotcom bubble burst, making well-designed software is still a huge growth industry.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
The biggest surprise was how much is taken care of by an employer. I worked at a few creative-focused outfits [ad agencies, and an e-learning company] before venturing out on my own. The other big surprise is how much income goes to paying taxes. It's something you can't truly appreciate – if that's the right word – until you've started a business.
Where did you find your first employee?
My first employee was actually a contractor, a recent graduate of Bowling Green State University in Ohio. I've had more than a few contractors who are BGSU graduates. They have one of the best digital art programs around and some really smart people come out of their visual communications program, too.
What does a typical day in your business look like?
My business day has changed a lot since I first started my business, primarily due to the arrival of our children. When I started, my office was in my home. And for the past year and a half, I've had an office suite about 10 minutes driving from where I live. I've recently taken to trying my best to avoid email in the morning, because something I read recently made me aware of what a productivity killer it can be. The morning is, for many people, the most productive part of the day. So lately I start my day by reviewing the task list that I put together the evening prior, rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Toledo?
Aside from a lower general cost of living as compared to what one would think of as technology regions, we also have the advantage of season changes. Certain times of year are better for working at a computer and certain times of year are better for getting out for some fresh air. Appreciating the need to work hard during the late fall and winter so you can enjoy the spring and summer is sort of the opposite of the way things worked for what used to be a mostly agrarian society in this part of the Midwest.
What resources or organizations in Toledo did you take advantage of and how did they help?
I'm a member of the Toledo Chamber of Commerce, and one of the ways they've helped is for the access to a certain type of health insurance. There are other advantages to being a chamber member, like being able to meet other business owners.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
I'd say the most amazing part of running my business came about 10 months after making my first app, MASH, for the iPhone. It was featured by Apple in one of their App Store essentials lists, which set in motion some really explosive growth. At one point MASH reached the top 25 games, and the network effects of that initial surge still appear to be driving downloads of the app.
What inspires you?
I can think of a lot of things that inspire, but beautiful things, like netsuke and glasswork have always been an inspiration. Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, I think we have a greater than average appreciation for glass.
One of my design clients sells amazing chromatic glass for architectural installations that changes color depending on the angle you look at it. It's almost interactive, simply by changing your point of view.
What founders do you admire and why?
Although this one is probably obvious or cliché to a lot of people, Steve Jobs was an incredibly inspirational person. And it’s not because he was successful early on, or because he was successful later in life.
For me, he's influential because of the growth that occurred for him while he was in exile, as it were, from Apple. His second act was more impressive than the first, because his character seems to have been shaped for the better in his time away. I've been in a transition away from certain types of work toward other types of work for about a year, and I think the things I'm learning in the interim are going to be of huge benefit for what's next.
What’s next for you?
I've been working for the better part of this year on a party game for the iPad and Apple TV called SketchParty TV. I'm focused on improving the product and marketing it. I have some really cool stuff planned, but I can't go into details just yet. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, the game plays like Pictionary with the iPad displaying a word for you to draw, and your drawing appearing on your HDTV in real-time for your team to guess. SketchParty TV is really fun, has been getting great feedback, and I'm just getting started with it.

Interview by Joe Baur

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