A former platoon leader of the 101st Airborne Division, Matt Jones has held a number of positions in the U.S. Army, including Operations Officer, Company Commander, Lightning Academy Commander, Strategic Planner, and most recently the Deputy Chief of Staff to a now-four star general.
Matt moved on to get his MBA at Columbia Business School and is now at the Columbia Startup Lab as founder and CEO of Resonantia Diagnostics, a company that is developing a diagnostic platform that provides clinicians with the targeted therapy for bloodborne bacterial and fungal infections in hours instead of days. In other words, the platform is increasing the speed with which doctors can diagnose a bloodborne infection and know the right dosage of antibiotics for treatment.
Read about Matt’s journey to entrepreneurship below.
How did your experience in the Army lead you to startup life today?
After graduating from college in 2009, I completed training to be an infantry officer and deployed to Afghanistan in August 2010. My company was in the rural parts of Paktika Province, where we were charged with the security of an area about one-third the size of Rhode Island.
We were given our mission and then told to go out, do it, and excel. As a young lieutenant in the Army, I loved solving problems and partnering with the Afghan Security Forces to help the people feel safer. I look back on it as my first foray into entrepreneurship.
I transitioned units and deployed again in 2012 as a staff officer charged with planning operations, but I missed being out there with people and doing things. I stepped into a more entrepreneurial mode again when I moved on to the Lightning Academy and was tasked with building out and improving the Jungle Operations Training Course.
It was a pattern: when I was working on a mission charged with building something, I was more engaged than when I was doing operations work, even though I was learning a lot in those operations roles.
Why did you decide to attend Columbia Business School and then to launch a company?
I knew I wanted to start a company going into business school: again, in the service I had really enjoyed building a team, solving hard problems, and working with high caliber, smart people and entrepreneurship was a way to continue to do that.
I took several entrepreneurship classes at Columbia, including Lean Launchpad with Steve Blank. I loved it so much that I wanted to dive deeper into the Lean methodology and so joined an opportunity at the FedTech Startup Studio. Two classmates and I were paired with a researcher at Sandia National Laboratory. The program ended up introducing us to the idea that would take the shape of Resonantia Diagnostics. We are developing a rapid identification and susceptibility diagnostic platform that combines the researcher’s work on acoustic sensors, which are capable of monitoring bacteria at a cellular level, and the insights from customer discovery that began in the Startup Studio.
What advice would you share with other veterans who are considering entrepreneurship?
Don’t devalue the skill set you’ve learned in the military: the ability to make a plan, pivot off of the plan, and have the discipline to follow through with the plan. That’s what business and entrepreneurship is all about. Also, entrepreneurship can be a lonely road, so it is good to have the perspective and experiences of the service to fall back on.