Almost Famous: Sprout's Matthew McNeely

A feature wherein All Things Digital looks at up-and-coming and innovative start-ups you should know about.

This week: A virtual visit with, some questions for and a few pertinent stats about Matthew McNeely and Sprout, the build-it-yourself Flash tool that lets anyone create customized Web site widgets.


Who: Matthew McNeely

What: VP of Engineering, Sprout.

Why: Sprout is a Web-based, WYSIWYG Flash editor that allows individuals and businesses to build customized content that can be embedded on their own sites. Sprout’s creations (known as “sprouts”) are also frequently incorporated into social media campaigns.

Where: (corporate bio); San Francisco, although Matthew says the team is “truly distributed,” as he lives in New Hampshire (analog); Facebook Fan Page (Yes, you can write on its wall); @Sprout (Twitter).

Who else: Slide; SlideRocket. But, “not too many that focus on branding the way we do.”

Five Stats You Won’t Find in His Facebook Profile

Worst Job: I grew up in Indiana, and, in the summers, I would de-tassel corn.

Has a Geek Crush on: I’m gonna get letters from all my Apple (AAPL) friends for saying this: Bill Gates of Microsoft (MSFT).

Gadget of the Moment: I finally got an iPhone, but I got it for $50, refurb.

Tech Wish: I wish I could build a sprout for my iPhone, but that means it would need to run Flash.

Fails at: I’m not a very good communicator, and every once in a while I catch myself closing up and not communicating with the [Sprout] team the way I need to.

Bio in 140 Characters

Shares a hometown w/James Dean. Picked corn until he got his first computer. Was a software engineer/consultant before moving to Sprout.

The Five Questions

What does Sprout bring to the table that others don’t?

At the most basic level, it’s about the speed. Before Sprout, you really needed to understand Flash and the sort of movie metaphor that it puts out in order to use it. Now, it’s much faster. If you know PowerPoint, you can use our product.

We also have a big push in the social networking space. That’s unique to us. If you are looking to put out a really rich media campaign on a social network, there’s no better service. You can also change things on the fly. Someone in the ad department can say, “Hey, this ad isn’t working.” And you can change it in five minutes, and it’s back up.

Who isn’t using Sprout, but should?

I can think of two examples. One would be, say, a yoga instructor who was also tech savvy. She could build up a quick shell of a Web presence with Sprout and sell it to other yogis who just want to give classes, but still have a nice, clean, updated Web site.


The second thing would be a porn sprout. That’s one industry that could really benefit from our technology, but just hasn’t yet. I mean, imagine, video clips and little libraries. We’ve seen some slightly suggestive things come across the bow, but no one has really gone all the way yet. I really hope you print that.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A Sprout spokesman wanted to make sure readers knew that McNeely was kidding here, of course. Sprout’s terms of service forbid such a use of its technology.]

Is there a formula for an attention-grabbing Sprout widget?

It’s different in every industry. Overall, a little animation and really good-looking graphics help. But, when it comes to engagement, we do have some idea.

It has to be contextually relevant [in the social media space], your friends should be fans of this Facebook page [for it to become popular], stuff like that. I mean, with good design, you can get someone like this guy from Des Moines who has basically cornered the market on real estate widgets.

Who should buy Sprout?

You mean besides Google? Seriously, though, we do work with Google (GOOG) quite a bit, and I’d love to see us become the small- to medium-size business ad-building tool for them.

Most real geeks have memories where they saw something new and said to themselves, “Dang, I love living in the future.” What’s yours?

My brother and I got this old North Star computer at this garage sale or something, and I programmed through the night to get this thing to predict, you know, randomize lottery numbers. I never won anything, of course, but I was just so enamored by it.

That kinda got me hooked into the notion that you can work on something and lose yourself in it.

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