Posted on
December 9, 2023

Nate Matherson

Nate Matherson
Co-founder
Nate Matherson

Nate Matherson has been a startup founder for over 10 years. In this interview he openly shares the pains of startup life and making one of the hardest decisions ever; to pivot in a different direction when things weren't going well. Dive in and learn about the challenges of overcoming a hard pivot, and life as a startup founder.

What is your company doing, and what was the pivotal moment that led to the creation of your business?

We are building Positional, a modern toolset for content marketing and SEO teams.

We actually pivoted to get here. We had been working on a very different company called ContainIQ, which participated in Y Combinator’s S21 batch. Ultimately, things weren’t going well for ContainIQ, and we decided to hard pivot to Positional on 2/1/2023. I’ve wanted to start Positional for a number of years now, and post-pivot, I feel back at home with what I know best.

I’ve been building large organic search (SEO) strategies for most of the last 10 years. I really fell in love with the channel when starting our first company. However, we found that our content and SEO teams were always using between 4-5 point solutions to do their jobs. And that the work they were doing (driving more traffic) was very disconnected from conversion (driving more revenue).

At Positional, we are building the toolset we’ve always wanted. Positional includes a number of tools that we know content and SEO teams need to start and scale their channels. And Positional also includes several very unique features solving for pain points that we’ve had ourselves.

How do you identify and prioritize new growth channels?

We are largely focused on inbound marketing for our inbound marketing toolset.

We regularly publish new content on our blog, and we actively repurpose a lot of that content to other channels (ex Twitter, LinkedIn). We also have a weekly content and SEO podcast called Optimize.

We are experimenting with a number of new growth channels now, including email and influencer sponsorships. And we’ve seen some early signs of success there.

Which tech tools, software, apps, etc. do you use religiously in your business?

Positional, of course!

We also use Riverside for podcasting, Zoom for meetings, Slack for communications, and Webflow as our CMS.

What is that one opportunity that had a significant impact on your company's growth or direction?

Making the very hard decision to pivot was a big one. After about two years of making no progress on ContainIQ, we could have given up and thrown in the towel. But we decided to make the hard pivot late in the game (our seed round), and we committed to building Positional very quickly. About a month after pivoting, we launched the first version of Positional to a handful of very early customers.

On the GTM side of things, launching our weekly SEO podcast stands out as an important decision in 2023. I’ve never hosted a podcast before, and Zachary on our team had never produced a podcast before. But we knew there was an opportunity to have interesting conversations about the changing organic search landscape. The podcast has really brought together all of our other GTM motions and channels.

What are some of the challenges you’ve come face to face with on your entrepreneurial journey? How did you overcome them?

I’ve been in startup founder roles for the last 10 years, and I’ve found that it really doesn’t ever get easier. I think early-stage founders like to think that it gets easier, and some things do get easier, but generally, it is always a really hard job. The problems just change over time.

As far as challenges we’ve dealt with at Positional, there have been a number of them in 2023. For one, given we pivoted fairly late into our seed round, runway has been a constant concern for us. Fortunately, we did manage to sell the core assets from ContainIQ, both our code base and our blog, which helped us extend runway in a really meaningful way at a critical time in our business.

Of course, there are always challenges with employees and investors. But fortunately, our employees and investors have been fantastic to us throughout our pivot.

I’ve been working with my Co-founder/CTO Matt since 2014. We’ve seen our fair share of challenges over the years. And thankfully, he is the best supporter and co-founder to work through any challenges.

How many hours per week do you work on average?

I work about 70-75 hours per week. I typically work from 6AM to 7PM Monday through Friday. And then I’ll typically work one day on the weekend too.

Rapid fire questions 🚀

Favorite morning ritual  ☕

Taking my dog, Jasper, for a walk.

Favorite book/s 📕

I recently read “Caddie Tales: A Looper’s Search for Lost Golf Balls and What He Found Instead”, and I enjoyed it. And “The Hard Things About Hard Things” is always one of my favorites.

Your leadership style in one word 💼

Accountability

Cats or dogs? 🐈

Dogs.

Mountains or beach? 🏖️

Beach.

Morning person or night owl? 🦉

Morning person.

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