Business development / Philadelphia

Why Matt Monihan left RJMetrics to do his own thing in NYC

The Drexel grad and early RJMetrics hire is moving to Queens to kick off Voyager Scientific. Here, his parting thoughts on the Philly tech scene.

Matt Monihan speaks at a Walnut St. Labs meetup. (Photo courtesy of Benjamin Bock)

As you may have heard by now, that tech startup called RJMetrics we’ve been writing about for years is no more.
This week, the company announced it would be acquired by a large ecommerce company out of Silicon Valley called Magento. A week before the big news, one of its first few hires — developer Matt Monihan — left his job and set up shop in Astoria, Queens, to give the entrepreneur thing a fair shot.
“Matt had more side projects than just about any employee we’ve ever hired,” RJMetrics cofounder Robert Moore said. “With all the changes going on, Matt’s long tenure with the company and his desire to work from NYC, this was a very natural time for him to go off and start his own venture.”
Monihan admits he’ll miss the hoagies and the nightlife but he’s leaving nonetheless, and we set out to find out why in this installment of the Exit Interview series.
(This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)


What was the key factor in your decision to leave, and why NYC?
I’ve spent nearly all of my life in Philadelphia, and after doing two of my Drexel co-ops in NYC, I had always wanted to go back and spend more time here. It’s been a lifestyle decision and not necessarily a career move. New York is an intense and overwhelming city for most, and I’m drawn to the kind of people it attracts.

The best way to make Philly's tech scene better is to make the city better for all.

And what about this new project you have going on? 
I’ve started a new company called Voyager Scientific. We build enterprise workflow applications, and provide technical guidance to companies that wouldn’t otherwise have a full-time chief technology officer (CTO). We identify processes that are currently done on paper and then analyze whether the market already offers a solution and implement it, or we build what’s necessary. I wrote a guest post for last year about my philosophy: SaaS navigation.
Any fear of not fitting in at NYC? 
Ha, I’m not sure anyone fits in in NYC. And that’s what I love about it.
What’s your history with the city?
I spent two of my Drexel co-ops [in New York]. I lived with NYU film students who were generally pretty crazy people, so I think I got a unique experience of living in NYC early on. We lived in an apartment we dubbed “the submarine” because, instead of bedrooms, we slept in tiny cubbies with little port holes that looked into a tiny living room. A few of us adopted a polyphasic sleep schedule and would wander around Central Park at 3 a.m. some nights. We were broke, and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had.
What will you miss the most about Philly? 
Living in Germantown next to the Wissahickon trail. Italian hoagies from Sarcone’s (it’s just not the same here!). Jazz, both at Time and Chris’ Jazz Café on Sansom Street. And soup dumplings at Dim Sum Garden in Chinatown.
Everyone’s been talking about the growth and vigor of the Philly tech scene. Was that also the sentiment when you started?
I started freelancing to pay rent while at Drexel around 2009. If I remember correctly, Philly had just gotten started, and that’s how I came to be aware that there was a tech “scene” at all. The difference between 2009 and today is night and day. I think it’s because Philly in 2016 is simply a better place to live than in 2009. There’s more to do, it’s safer, and from that you have more young, smart people who want to live there. The best way to make Philly’s tech scene better is to make the city better for all.

What would you critique of the Philly tech scene?
There are a lot of comparisons made to other cities and I don’t think that’s productive. For example, NYC is drastically different just because of sheer scale. The area where I live now is as large and almost as dense as much of Center City Philadelphia, and that’s only a fraction of the NYC metro area. So, when we talk about the number of VCs, or of funds invested, it’s always going to be way smaller than a city that’s almost six times more populated.
I would also critique our definition of “tech scene” versus “every other business.” We need to think of technology as a feature of a business in an existing industry, and not an island separate from a business. But there’s change happening. People in their thirties who’ve grown up used to software experiences like you’d get on Facebook or Amazon or Netflix are finding themselves scratching their heads as to why business software is so bad, and so expensive. That means that entire industries that were formerly hostile to new technology will soon be embracing it. That’s where Philly has a major opportunity.

Companies: RJMetrics

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