Everyone could see the problem.
Matt Anderson sits back, quietly listening as plans, demands and ideas are recited in a chorus that would become his newest project.
It was spring 2015, and Anderson had just joined Venture Strategy Solutions, or VSS — a UC Berkeley consulting group that works with high-growth startups — and had already been handed a unique challenge.
Lumio, a company specializing in luxury lighting, had given VSS a laundry list of requests, including creating a blueprint on how the startup could expand internationally, increasing the product’s accessibility and finding a target demographic.
But VSS was struggling to locate these consumer bases. How was the team supposed to market a high-end luxury item that had spent most of its shelf life within the sterile walls of museums?
Anderson was tasked with finding an answer to this very question.
“That’s the stuff I like to do, as far as taking a product and figuring out how to get it in more places,” Anderson says.
A week later, he returned to the group, solution in hand. Anderson proposed that this product, a lamp innocuously disguised as a hardcover book, could be marketed to home stagers and builders — customers whose aim was to highlight the aesthetic of a space. Who would better fit the niche customer base of a pricey lighting system than those who needed that very opulence?
“That was pretty out-of-the-box thinking from him, and it really moved the conversation forward,” says Rahul Ramakrishnan, Anderson’s project manager for the semester. “He also has connections in that area, so that really opened the door in terms of where the product was.”
If all of that went over your head, he understands.
“I know people find that kind of stuff kind of dull and don’t get interested,” Anderson says. “But to me, that’s super fun, to find the next thing that’s going to go up.”
To most, the realms of finance and business consist mainly of jargon and pie charts, limited to the hasty CNBC news crawl and unpredictable Wall Street Journal headlines.
To Anderson, Cal football’s starting kicker and a student at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, that unpredictability is part of the allure of finance.
As a middle-schooler, Anderson found everyday discussions with his dad, Alan Anderson, speckled with questions about General Electric stock and the current economic climate.
“He’d hear something on the radio and come home and say, ‘Hey, I heard someone talk about stock — what do you think about it?’ ” Alan Anderson says. “We’d have a lot of dialogues about what the strengths and weaknesses were of different companies.”
These casual conversations developed into a more concrete interest after Matt Anderson sought the insight of his uncle, Steve Anderson, who had worked at an investment bank and then moved to managing a fixed-income portfolio for a Fortune 500 insurance company.
The more he listened to his uncle tell stories of his glory days on Wall Street, the more Matt Anderson realized that the mystique of working in finance — wholly unknowable to some — bore a certain appeal to him.
“I’d say literally at 10 years old or so, he was thrilled with the competitiveness of it and the ability to prove yourself,” Steve Anderson says, “the ability to bring a smart approach to the game.”
Matt Anderson stared at his computer screen, clicking tab after tab, watching as the scraggly lines continued to swim across the page. Up. Down. Up. Down.
A senior at San Ramon Valley High School, Anderson had just been assigned a project in his economics class. With an imaginary $10,000 budget, the class was charged with selecting a few stocks to invest in and track for several months. But while this was an assignment disregarded by some classmates, Anderson found that managing a portfolio both piqued his interest and reinforced his desire to pursue this career track in the future.
“Finance is really fun in the sense that no one knows 100 percent what’s going to happen,” Anderson says. “It’s almost like a game. You have to sit there, and you need to figure it out.”
His interest in finance had been solidified by this point, but choosing a college would not be based solely on the best professors or which school offered the most challenging courses.
Anderson also happened to be the No. 2-ranked kicker in the nation.
Anderson had begun kicking his freshman year of high school when his mom, Mari Anderson, took him to a kicking camp for his birthday. Anderson began playing for his team his sophomore year and found himself highly recruited toward the end of his high school career.
“I think he had a goal of kicking in the Pac-12, but he frankly could’ve probably gone Ivy or some other direction,” Alan Anderson says. “But he realized that football can be fleeting.”
Matt Anderson was determined to find a school that would suit his needs both on and off the field. He chose UC Berkeley, drawn to both the storied Cal football program and the lauded faculty of Haas, widely considered one of the best business schools in the nation.
Weekly headlines are checkered with stories of athletes who didn’t prepare for life after their playing careers had come to an end. Anderson refuses to be one of them.
Staying on the avenue of eventually working in finance provides some degree of security. But Anderson also knows the importance of managing what he’s earned.
After having done a significant amount of acting and modeling work, Anderson became eligible to join the then-Screen Actors Guild several years ago.
“He was earning money back at 11 years old at a very high daily rate,” Alan Anderson says. “We talked about how to manage it.”
With his grueling schedule, Anderson has taken a step back from the acting and modeling industries, at least while the unrelenting cycle of football season, Haas classes and VSS continues to rotate.
Balancing this trifecta during the season has proved difficult, but Anderson welcomes the challenge. It’s a labor of love. While football and Haas consume most of his days, he sees them as sharing his time rather than splitting it.
Two summers ago, he interned at UBS Financial Services Inc. in Walnut Creek, California, working in the wealth-management division. This summer, he decided to vie for the Bears’ starting job instead.
“He has a good, maniacal focus on what it is he wants,” Steve Anderson says. “My line that I’ve told him is that ‘you work hard to put yourself in a position to get lucky.’ ”
And after all, Matt Anderson won’t accept failure.
“Being a kicker, or any athlete, it’s ingrained in you the entire time. No one wants to fail,” Anderson says. “I think, being an athlete, we experience failure more than normal people. We experience people telling us we’ve failed more.”
It’s two hours before kickoff.
With the faint noise of the building crowd producing the soundtrack to his weekly pregame ritual, left-footed Matt Anderson readies to put on his uniform.
Right sock. Left sock. Right cleat. Left cleat. The same order for every game.
“Something about putting the left cleat on after my right makes my left foot feel a bit lighter,” Anderson says.
This is the only pregame ritual Anderson has. He doesn’t put too much credence in their effect. After all, he’s there for one job: Either the ball sails through the uprights, or it doesn’t.
The downside to being a kicker is that all eyes are on you. The upside to being a kicker is that all eyes are on you.
“Kicking is very black and white. If you don’t hit it between the posts, everyone knows that you messed up,” Anderson says. “It’s definitely very matter of fact.”
It’s not necessarily that he craves the spotlight but that he can appreciate the innate pressure that comes with it. Whether it’s the moment before his holder receives the snap or the one before his next VSS presentation, Anderson wants to be the one with the answers.
“He’s always trying to make himself better,” says Anderson’s brother, Michael Anderson. “That applies to things in the classroom but also on the football field.
“He’s always trying to be better than the person he was yesterday.”