Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Matthew Phillips of Project Transcend Is Helping To Change Our…

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Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Matthew Phillips of Project Transcend Is Helping To Change Our World

Stay the course. Not everyone stays in the pocket when things are tough — and that’s ok, they don’t have to. But you do. Do not allow other people to convince you to pivot, or change direction out of fear. No solid decision has ever been made from a place of fear or doubt.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Phillips.

Matthew Phillips is the founder and CEO of Project Transcend, a social platform focused on privacy, authentic connection, and meaningful interaction. Previously, Matt spent over a decade building a successful career in enterprise technology and was responsible for managing several hundred million dollars in revenue annually across public, commercial, and federal spaces. Throughout his life, Matt experienced insurmountable loss and then faced his own mortality in 2018, which inspired him to create a social media platform that allows us to preserve connections with those we love most. Matt hopes to redefine what it means to leave your legacy and change the way we create one.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path and point in your life?

Thank you for having me! I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.

The loss of the people I love has always been a part of my life’s journey. Along the way I lost both parents, as well as the grandparents that helped raise me.

When you experience the absence of those you care about it creates a void inside that’s hard to ignore. You find yourself wishing you were able to draw upon the experiences of those that came before you — their advice, wisdom, or ideas — as you navigate your own life. Other times you simply wish you could hear their voice again, hear a story, or hear them tell a joke — but you simply don’t have any way to do it.

About three years ago, I faced my own mortality unexpectedly and the irony of the situation hit me hard. As a single father of two young children, I realized that I did not want my kids to go through life without the love, support and guidance that I have to give them. I wanted to figure out a way to be present for them, whenever they would need me — forever.

I come from a background of emerging technology where I implemented large scale solutions for some of the world’s largest enterprises. I thought I could put those skills to work in a more meaningful way — one that could do immediate and tangible good in the world — thus, Project Transcend was born.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I remember telling my co-founders that I thought we could start this company, and build a workable product in 6–9 months. Looking back, that’s hysterical to me. I failed to grasp the gravity of just how much work would go into not only building the business, but also running agile design and development teams. I think it’s important to set realistic expectations that you can execute against.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

I feel that now more than ever people are searching for ways to connect more deeply with one another, and themselves. They are searching for a greater sense of purpose, belonging, and permanence, amongst a landscape of temporary distractions and meaningless noise. They are looking to reconnect with who and what truly matters in life.

We have built a set of tools that help you explore the moments and memories that define your life’s journey, and share your wisdom, knowledge, and story with loved ones. We believe that legacy represents the best way to ensure we leave this place better than we found it. So, we created an environment where our members can document their legacy in a meaningful way that doesn’t violate their trust or privacy. It’s an app that helps people connect with themselves and one another across time, space, and even generations to help create a better tomorrow.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

During the initial stages of building the product, I received a call that one of my best friends was diagnosed with late stage cancer and had little chance of successful treatment. She was 8 months pregnant at the time and was scheduled for an emergency c-section 48 hours later in order to start radiation. While she came close to facing her own death, she was about to bring life into the world. This hit hard.

I was shocked to hear that when she asked how she should handle all of these emotions, the hospital gave her a notebook and told her to “write letters to your son, so that he knows who you are, and how much you love him.”

She began leaving sticky-notes all over her house, in hopes that one day her son could read them, and enjoy a few laughs at her jokes, or get a brief glimpse of where he came from. This is one of the moments that inspired me to pursue building Transcend full time.

We were so inspired by this experience that we decided to create the #WeTranscend program, which is dedicated to giving the gift of legacy to those who need it most. Currently we are delivering our app to various organizations dedicated to supporting cancer, dementia/alztheimer’s, as well as our military/veteran and first responder communities. We want to ensure that we are protecting the legacies of those who need it most.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I believe that by being more vulnerable and sharing the authentic version of their life’s journey, they can inspire others to embrace a new way of interacting with social media — one that is beneficial for society.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think this might help people?

We are currently working on the experiential side of Project Transcend. The alpha and beta were built with a focus on creating the tools needed to input meaningful moments and memories. The next phase is being able to have intuitive, immersive, and interactive experiences in VR/AR. This will allow people to have deeply meaningful and engaging interaction with their life’s journey as well as the people they care about.

We could not be more excited about what the future holds in the near term.

What you are doing is not easy. What inspires you to keep moving forward?

A sense of being deeply connected to purpose is huge for me. I’m a true believer in what we are creating, and that helps keep me going when things seem impossible. I also made some promises that I intend to keep. I promised my Mom in her final moments that I would finish this mission, and find a way for my two kids to know her, laugh with her, and know who she truly was. I do not break promises.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Stay the course. Not everyone stays in the pocket when things are tough — and that’s ok, they don’t have to. But you do. Do not allow other people to convince you to pivot, or change direction out of fear. No solid decision has ever been made from a place of fear or doubt.
  2. Never forget your “why.” Along this journey you need to know that not everyone is going to have the best interest of your company, or you in mind. To you, this may be a life’s calling, a mission, or a cause you are trying to advance — while others may simply see what they can gain, or how they can make a quick buck. If you find that they aren’t aligned with your “why” then it’s not a viable relationship.
  3. Whatever it is, it will take 2–3x as long as you think. Trust me. Here we are 3 years later, and I am still working hard, chasing milestones. What I thought was a simple project is much more complex. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected, and that has also taught me to embrace flexibility. So while you are staying the course for your goal, you know you can weather the twists and turns of the process as well.
  4. Not everyone will understand your mission. That’s OK. Keep going. This may seem similar to “stay the course,” but it is different. As I have started to share my mission some people instantly click with it and are excited and passionate about it, and then there are those who don’t quite get it. I know that I’ve started a new conversation and it takes time for people to warm up to new things. My hope is that everyone sees their legacy as much more than physical assets and material things and live in a way that captures who they are and what they love to share for future generations.
  5. Seek out advice and mentorship. I know what I know and I also know what I don’t know. In developing the starter packs within Project Transcend, I tapped some of the smartest and most diverse people I knew. We talked with mental health experts, military veterans, cancer survivors, and more to build out conversations that have the most meaning to them and their loved ones.

I also knew there were people in my network who could help me build the company and platform well. I connected with former colleagues and friends and ended up with a powerful founding team committed to our vision.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would say that it’s creating an authentic legacy. I wholeheartedly believe that the power of legacy represents the single most important tool to elevate the human condition. If we could all take the time to leave an authentic legacy then no one ever has to start from scratch again. We stand on the shoulders of those that came before us, and then reach even further.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out — and we have only just begun.” — Neil Degrasse Tyson

I love this quote because it reminds me that we are inexplicably connected to this universe in magical ways that we haven’t yet figured out. It’s up to each and every one of us to figure out who we truly are, and what part we play in this beautiful universe — after all, stars had to give their life for you to have yours.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Joe Rogan. I have watched him speak with dozens of guests regarding social media’s negative effects on society, and he is always searching for answers on how it can be done better.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit our website at

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This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Matthew Phillips of Project Transcend Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.