Matt Shobe's Daring Adventure

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Matt Shobe“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” These eloquent words by Hellen Keller have influenced the life of Matt Shobe, an MSTC alum and very successful entrepreneur. Since graduating, Shobe has made his way from the central Usability Group at Microsoft to his current position as a Senior User Experience Designer at Google, leaving in his wake a string of startup companies that certainly cannot be called ‘nothing.’ As Shobe’s LinkedIn page reads, “myself and three other colleagues... created, nurtured (and in some cases, survived) various Internet startups in Chicago.” This spring, the College of Engineering recognized Shobe’s accomplishment with a Diamond Award in the “Early Career” category.

The College of Engineering Diamond Award recognizes the outstanding achievements, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship of all engineers. HCDE, one of the smallest departments in the College of Engineering, has been honored with two Diamond Awards in two years; BSTC alum Donna Sakson won a Diamond Award in 2008 for Distinguished Service.

Although Shobe’s award is for “Early Career” achievement, he already has over ten years of career experience tackling design and ease-of-use challenges in web-software design. In his own words, Shobe’s mission is “to create enticing yet hassle-free user experiences through observant evaluation and design.” One of Shobe’s first designs was called Spyonit, a web-based alerting service that Yahoo! Magazine ranked in the “Top 50 Most Useful Sites” in July of 2000. Spyonit provided seeds for concepts that ultimately launched FeedBurner, the latest and most famous startup of which Shobe was officially named Co-Founder and Chief Design Officer.

FeedBurner provides tools for everyone from individual bloggers to major media outlets, letting them measure their audience, then distribute and earn money from their content published online. Its purpose is to make feed-based content more accessible to end users and more effective for the publishers that provide it. Shobe is deeply committed to cultural value in his business, and it shows. As stated on his LinkedIn page, he “maintains an unwavering devotion to the FeedBurner fan club. If publishers and advertisers want it, his team brandishes the t-squares and slide rules required to make it happen.” He himself continually communicates with FeedBurner’s million-plus publisher base, providing technical support, giving advice, and conducting interviews.

FeedBurner was acquired by Google in June 2007, but Shobe’s ‘daring adventure’ doesn’t stop there. Shobe continues to work with Google, spearheading various efforts to incorporate the key parts of FeedBurner’s capabilities into the Google product mix. He has also earned his FAA pilot’s license and completed the Chicago Marathon—twice! According to Shobe, “FeedBurner’s success has inspired a few others here in Chicago to try to make their own startup plans and execute them in the Midwest, realizing that you don’t absolutely have to be in the Valley to build a web-based product that makes people happy and has a daily impact on their lives.” --by Tiffany Rooney