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Meet a Spreader – Matthias Spiess

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Matthias is one of the Spreadshirt founding fathers – he joined the little shirt venture in 2002 as seventh shop-partner, because he wanted shirts for his site ‘Dotcomtod’. Ever since, he has helped Spreadshirt grow and develop. Read his interview (German version here)

Where were you born?
In the little town of Hennigsdorf, north of Berlin, in 1968

What is Henningsdorf?
I admit it is not a major tourist site. Unless you care for big machines, as there are a number of facilities producing locomotives and even the S-Bahn servicing Berlin.

What is your background?
I have studied information technology and philosophy in Berlin and Dresden.

Why philosophy?
I am a big fan of the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. He managed to combine artistic licence and striving for truth.

What was your thesis about?
Sound Suppression, – a method that helps eliminate or absorb unwanted sounds

Might make sense for our work environment too….what did you do next?
I joined Siemens for an immensely boring internship. When I left them, I tried several projects of my own, including a profile matching system that allows you to interact with people in your neighborhood, for example if you are looking for a chess addict to play with you. I also tried some commercial projects including import and export of goods. Towards the end of the nineties I joined Combox, an internet service provider. They were quite good, but they failed to focus on products rather than individual solutions. My next stop was Llynch Meta Medien, a company with a focus on CRM. I still believe it is very important to make the vast amount of customer data aggregated by the service department accessible for marketing purposes. Llynch is a thing of the past though.

When the new economy crashed in 2000, you started a little service called Death of Dotcoms=Dotcomtod. What was that about?
Well we tried to keep our readers up to date about the latest negative developments on the new economy sector.

a little cynical..
I don’t think so. It was not our aim to make fun of the parties involved. Rather, we provided some useful information for people looking for new employers. Everyone from pizza delivery services to managers used the site as a resource. I managed the site, but did not contribute any content. That was an early instance of grassroots journalism before the term was even coined.

Dotcomtod was one of Spreadshirt’s first shop-partners.
The seventh to be precise. I instantly fell in love with the idea although at that time the IT was rather shaky: after 127 sales the system just crashed. I came to change that..

Seems to have paid off..
We have completely restructured the IT platform and managed to continually open up new markets. Yet there is still so much ahead of us.. next steps are improving on load time of applications and implementing an efficient marketplace search.

Cafepress outdates Spreadshirt. Has Spreadshirt invented anything at all?
The Shirt-Designer is a tool that others have copied from us.

The story of Spreadshirt is a tale of success. Have there been mistakes too?
We should have given more attention to the importance of product managers. Too often did we meddle with their affairs.

At the moment there is a lot of controversy about ethical guidelines for printing designs. What do you think?
There is only one thing I have a hard time tolerating: blatant dumbness. As long as people appeal to me as a more or less intelligent being, I can tolerate what they say.

What are your hobbies?
I have read a lot in my youth, science fiction by Lem and Strugatzki and also literary works. But increasingly I feel that it is difficult to influence an old man at all. I want to tap my own resources, create my own stuff. I do read books about popular science occasionally. When I listen to music, it is everything from Beethoven to Hendrix. For more recent stuff I rely on Alex Kops, whose job it is to provide his colleagues with kick-ass music from his mp3 collection. I like jogging and windsurfing too.

What did your parents do?
They are both arts teachers, my brother works as a designer. Maybe I will start painting one of these days.

What is your favorite movie?
I was very much impressed with Funny Games. This is a cruel saga that tortures your sense of justice. But also a convincing demonstration of the principle of hope.

What is your motto?
Try and make yourself redundant – so you are ready for new challenges!

Thank you for this interview! Who is up next?
David from Controlling. I want to find out about the magic of numbers.