Editor’s note: This is one in an occasional Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service series on "20-somethings" in Milwaukee.
Matt McCoy always wanted to be an entrepreneur.
At age 15, he started a landscaping company with his friend Joe Scanlin and ran the business for seven years until he realized it wasn’t in his future. But the skills McCoy, now 27, learned as a teenager prepared him for entrepreneurship.
"Standing in front of someone, selling yourself — and being willing to take that risk and ownership of what you are doing and creating — is what being an entrepreneur is all about," he said. "I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s what we were doing with the (landscaping) business."
The Madison native is chief operating officer of Scanalytics Inc., a four-year-old business in Menomonee Valley that makes floor sensors that look like futuristic floor tiles. The sensors monitor how people spend their time in retail stores and at events such as the Mobile World Congress, the National Retail Federation and Madison’s Bratwurst Festival. Each sensor is two square feet and 1/32nd of an inch thick, similar to a sheet of printer paper.
Scanalytics’ first prototype was built from a "Dance Dance Revolution" mat, the popular video game that tracks players’ dance moves based on where they step. After beginning as an operation that handmade each Scanalytics mat — each one taking 45 minutes — the company has tripled its revenues and worked with top technology firms.
"We started to grow the company by knocking on doors in a sense and networking," McCoy said. "Our product has become more simple, more reliable and we are growing aggressively."
Soon after graduating in 2012 from the University of Wisconsin Madison, where he majored in both mass media and marketing, McCoy deflected a handful of career opportunities to pursue a risky business venture. Scanlin, the former landscaping partner who is now Scanalytics’ chief executive officer, lauded McCoy for choosing a much more uncertain path.
"His approach and execution on what most people would flat out run away from is a major testament to his work ethic, risk appetite and intelligence," Scanlin said.
McCoy’s penchant for taking risks comes from his father, Thomas McCoy, who left his desk job at J.H. Findorff and Sons in Madison to start his own architecture business.
"From my dad, I learned a lot about what it takes to believe in yourself, believe in your trade and put yourself out there," McCoy said. "He’s definitely been a big influence and a big part of our success."
Scanalytics began with five employees, but now has 14. McCoy focuses on client relationships, selling the product and managing manufacturing. In a typical day, he fields calls from clients and prospective buyers, speaking with people from Milwaukee to China. McCoy doesn’t have much time for hobbies and works more than his girlfriend of eight months would like.
Jeff Winzenried, who owns Monkey Bar Gym Milwaukee, used Scanalytics to analyze foot traffic patterns in and out of the business.
"Matt helped us understand our peak times better and how our clients move within the space of the business," Winzenried said. "He is very generous, outgoing, down to earth and very detailed with his business."
Damany Daniel, who described himself as "chief imaginator" for Event Nerd, a Texas based-company that plans events for its clients, also spoke highly of McCoy.
"He’s passionate about his company and his clients and loves the opportunity to work well with other talented professionals," Daniel said. "He was able to provide my clients with insights into their event and attendees in ways they could not otherwise have realized."
Scanlin credits McCoy with increasing company revenues and closing accounts with Microsoft, Qualcomm and Intel.
"I think a lot of that success was predicated on pure grit, confidence and quality relationship management post-sale," Scanlin said.
For his part, McCoy credits the people he works with. "Finding good people that you trust and believe in is what really gets a company off the ground."
McCoy has a vision for Scanalytics’ future: moving from just stores and events to tapping into the medical and home markets. "Being able to passively and actively understand how people spend their time has implications for markets far beyond what we are currently doing," he said.
Kristi Anderson, Scanalytics chief marketing officer, said McCoy is destined to succeed.
"Matt’s greatest accomplishment is his ability to inspire," Anderson said. "He’s able to identify the strengths in our people and harness those skill sets."