Founder at Clay


MatthewAchariam (Founder at Clay)

Founder and Co-CEO of Clay—a thoughtfully designed platform to manage all your personal and professional relationships

San Francisco, United States • April 16, 2024

What led you into design?

Curiosity. At some point as a child, you learn that you can repeatedly ask the question "Why?" much to the annoyance of the adults around you—I was lucky that my parents encouraged that behavior.

One such inquiry was wondering why certain objects elicit feelings of joy and while others had the opposite effect. This led to my discovery and subsequent lifelong obsession with the craft of design.

What does a typical day look like?

Working on a startup invites a healthy amount of chaos into my life, which makes having a typical day difficult. My current approach is to keep everything outside work as routine as possible.

Practically, this means having a routine I follow every day that does not deviate—including most weekends. We are a distributed team, so my day begins by parsing anything that might have happened since yesterday and addressing anything that I might be a blocker on.

I then set aside an hour to get ready for the day. It is some variant of a workout, walk or restorative practice. I used to be highly prescriptive here, but now I block the time and go with what my body is telling me.

This is immediately followed by prioritizing initiatives across the company with my co-founder, Zach. I then spend several hours collaborating with the wonderful folks at Clay.

For the last few hours of my work day, I tend to switch to tasks that require deep focus. This might be a new feature we are working on, a high-level company strategy, a new marketing initiative, or getting through as many of the little tasks that have been accumulating through the day that require my input.

After breaking for dinner, I spend more time catching up on email and preparing for the next day.

What's your workstation setup?

Beyond your standard issue MacBook Pro and iPad Pro, my setup is not unique. The biggest improvements to my output have come from adopting tools that enhance my nutrition, exercise, or sleep. Two recent additions have been a great mattress and a treadmill under my desk, which was recommended to me by several of my colleagues.

Where do you go to get inspired?

I am inspired when I travel—it resets and interrupts all sense of normalcy and routine, which in turn creates a huge amount of creative energy. Engaging with diverse cultures and experiences serves only to deepen my empathy and wonder.

The two places at the top of that list for me have to be Japan and Hawaii, for very different reasons that could be a whole essay unto themselves.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

I deeply admire the work of Naoto Fukasawa. He recently collaborated with the Danish brand Hay to create the Pao Lamp. It is one of the cleanest expressions of a light source that is both beautiful and timeless. It is striking and inviting at the same time.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the work we do every day at Clay. It is the most challenging and rewarding endeavor I have ever been a part of.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

We are often wading into uncharted waters with our problem space. There has not been any innovation for years, the status quo is rife with complexity and even hostile design patterns. Our challenge is to continually question that and see if we can bring clarity, simplicity & innovation to everything we create. I am lucky to work every day with a remarkable team who treat the craft of software design with great respect.

What music do you listen to while designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Broaden your definition of design. Spend your early career going deep on a practical level but the moment you feel mastery, fight to expand into other fields. You will gain a massive advantage not only of improving your practice but it will allow you to wield tremendous influence in shaping your career.

Yes, pixels are great, yes craft is important, but engineering, economics, communication, sales are all equally important to understand. Seek to learn the underlying principles of everything you possibly can.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

If you have not signed up for Clay, I would love to warmly welcome you to join! You can find me on most social platforms at @achariam and my personal site at