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3 Under 30: Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman is a surfer, photographer, and entrepreneur who has been such a big part of our Waiakea Ohana for the past couple years! To kick off our 3 Under 30 series, we wanted to share his story -- we covered everything from GNARBOX, start up culture, and how he made the jump from this stable 9-5. 

matthoffman.jpgTell us about Gnarbox and your role there. Who came up with the concept and how did your involvement in photography/the surf scene play a role in Gnarbox?

I am one of the original members of a tech startup in Los Angeles called GNARBOX. GNARBOX is a rugged hard drive for camera users who prefer to travel without a laptop. Unlike other portable hard drives, we offer a mobile application that offers an end-to-end professional workflow, including easy back ups, quick edits and social sharing. Within the organization, my focus primarily falls within marketing initiatives. Two friends of mine approached me with an idea to design a new way to create content over 3 years ago. I think my involvement in the surf world as well as being a photographer was what attracted my buddies to bring me on board. It sounded like a great opportunity to focus on something I was passionate about! 

You quit your 9-5 in real estate to pursue a dream. Were you nervous in making that leap of faith, or did you not think twice?

Yes, I was totally nervous about my decision to leave my 9-5. I was doing well and learning a ton. I bought a cool car, a house and joined a country club but I remember going to bed at night thinking, “this isn’t me.” It may be something I see myself doing in the future but being in my 20s, the idea of a startup was so intriguing and I figured, why not! I tried not to think too much about the decision and follow my heart, but in all honesty, it was a calculated leap - I had to make sure it was worth it! And I am beyond stoked I made the decision I did. 

What's the best part of working at a tech startup in Silicon Beach? What's the worst?

There are a ton of great benefits to working at a startup. Simply put, it’s exciting! Everyday is different and because of that you learn a ton. There’s no margin for error, so every decision is important and really makes you approach projects in a new perspective. Another great thing is our team. All of the individuals I work with are super smart and very motivated. It definitely rubs off on me! I think the hardest part is building the product to a market standard that is accepted by a large majority. People are so quick to shoot down a product or idea. What works for a few people doesn’t mean it works for all so building a product that offers all of the features and functionality that we set out in our minds to create has been a wild ride. And with GNARBOX 2.0 coming out in the near future, I think we greatly increasematthoffman3-1.jpg of chances of satisfying a larger part of the market we are in. 

What does work-life balance look like for you? 

My work-life balance is pretty simple. Some days and weeks feel really long and can be stressful because there are so many moving parts, but if I know swell is on the way or a trip is on my calendar, it makes everything seem easier. I’m all about short term goals and little rewards. It keeps me motivated and moving forward and before you know it, those small goals set you up to accomplish major milestones. 

What is one piece of advice you'd give someone looking to start their own business?

I highly encourage it! You will have good days and bad days but in the end, it’s an awesome experience and you learn a ton. It’s do or die and if that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will! My advice, as I mentioned before, is - make sure it’s a calculated decision! There’s definitely some risk in starting your own business but you can control more than you think sometimes. 
Want to stay updated with Matt? Check out his Instagram. If you want to learn more about GNARBOX, check it out here