#18 – Joe Scanlin: Launching a tech startup and solving business problems. The premiere episode of Season 2! We welcomed Marine veteran, entrepreneur, and founder/CEO Joe Scanlin to the show to discuss the entrepreneurial journey.
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Aaron Spatz 00:05
I’m Aaron Spatz, and this is the Veterans Business Podcast. A podcast centered around the stories of US military veterans, and their adventures in the business world following their time in service. Its stories of challenges and obstacles, and an inside look at how veterans find their life’s work, their purpose, and their post military lives. Welcome to the very first episode of season two of the Veterans Business Podcast. I’m so excited that you are joining me today. This is the audio version of the podcast so you may notice a slight difference in the audio quality. However, it is a very impactful show. And I’m very excited for you to listen, if you want to see the entire episode in full video, please jump over to my YouTube channel. Easiest way to do that is going to youtube.com in in the YouTube search, just typing my name Aaron Spatz. And you will see the video episodes. So anyway, I’m excited for you to hear from Joe Scanlon. He is the CEO of sky analytics. And you’ll hear a whole lot more about him in this interview. So here we go. Well, welcome to the Veterans Business Podcast. We’re so honored today to have Marine Corps veteran Joe Scanlon just Galen is the co founder and CEO of sky analytics. And so we’ve been privileged to get him on the show. And we’re going to spend a little bit of time with him diving into his background into business. So Joe, thank you so much for making time today.
Joe Scanlin 01:33
Yeah, thanks for having me excited.
Aaron Spatz 01:35
Yeah. So. So just just real quick, take us through a little bit of your little bit of your story, like, share with us, you know, what, why did you join the military? And just tell us a little bit about what you did when you’re in service?
Joe Scanlin 01:47
Yeah, so, you know, joining the military, and specifically the Marines for a few reasons, one, you know, at the time, meaning my agent didn’t join right out of high school or anything, I actually had about half of my first year of freshman year of college under my belt already, and so, didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do at that point. But I knew I wanted to serve. And, you know, at that time in my life was probably I guess, 1919 years old, years old. You know, it was good time, you know, figured that I probably, you know, I had some ambitions to do some things outside of the military. So I knew I wasn’t necessarily going to be a lifer. And so I wanted to get in my time. So part of it was, you know, truly just wanted to give back to the country and wanted to get that that experience. And then one that I sort of speak less about, but it was important to me to was, there’s something really unique about the Marine Corps, specifically, how not much has changed from a programming perspective, of course, every, every time there’s a new generation, and then it’s, of course, the last generation of software, and then, you know, then yours, but, but the idea is, like, you know, there, there are two places you can go to boot camp, the programming itself, you know, the length of it, the sort of rigor of it, the design of it has, has remained, you know, as I understand it, very similar to how it has been for, you know, over 200 years. And so, was interesting to me, it was that, you know, they over that period of time, they take in a whole bunch of different types of people, so it doesn’t matter, really, when you went to boot camp, I think everyone can, you know, share the experience that there were, you know, wealthy kids, poor kids, smarter kids, not as smart kids, you know, in shape out of shape. So all these sort of random numerators, and they go through this common denominator of, of Marine Corps boot camp, and the typically, the result is, you’ve got a strong, you know, warfighting, you know, the Marine, whatever your MLS is, wherever you want to go with it. So that was really interesting to me, because, you know, businesses don’t last that long, you know, there are businesses that can say that they, I suppose, have the same programming done the same thing, or have the same core values for for a long period of time and remain at the top for hundreds of years. So part of that was also just I really wanted to observe, you know, what, what was it about the Marine Corps specifically and in more globally, the military that sort of produced that that level person so that’s kind of my story, and I did you know, I went to Pendleton and, and still to this day, have, you know, some of my closest friends, even if I haven’t seen him in years are guys that if I was to get married tomorrow, I’m already married, but I’m ready to get married. You know, there’ll be at my wedding. So yeah, the great experience
Aaron Spatz 04:45
that I think that’s one of the things that I wasn’t really prepared for, in a good way, is just recognizing that the veterans community and I think specifically the Marine Corps community, so supportive man like there’s guys yeah, that I serve with Seeing them in 10 years. In fact, I was just on a phone call with one just earlier this week, and had seen the dude in like eight years. But it was like, it was like, he never lost a beat. You know, you’re just you just keep on going, you know, so yeah,
Joe Scanlin 05:13
it was, you know, at that time when I went in, and I had done, you know, I, when I was through high school and into the couple of summers into college, I, I had, you know, had a, like, a landscaping company or something. So I sort of experienced the entrepreneurship thing and or that I caught that I had the opportunity to bug I suppose, like, very early on. So to me, it was also interesting was, like, you know, going into the Marines was the whole opposite of that in some, in some senses, right? Like, you’re, it’s very regimented. Do you, you know, you you’re told, at least in boot camp, and otherwise, like, what to do, when to do it, how to do that type of thing. And so, yeah, part of me figured, you know, if you could survive those two environments, meaning like, full freedom via entrepreneurship, which has its own, you know, scary in its own right, and then, you know, the Marine Corps, then, I guess, in my opinion, it helped, it would help me understand how I could work with a wide array of different people, which is, had been proven true since starting a company I now run as well as, you know, what I did before the Marine Corps and during it,
Aaron Spatz 06:19
so yeah, let’s, let’s take a quick trip down your, your entrepreneurial path. So you, you mentioned briefly that you you were in business prior to going to the Marine Corps, and then Then afterwards, tell me a little bit more about that, like, what did that look like?
Joe Scanlin 06:32
Yeah, pretty standard. When I was in high school, I wanted to work and at the time, I think it was before, you know, I had my maybe my driver driver’s permit, but I didn’t have my driver’s license. And so it was difficult to, you know, find even a summer job because I couldn’t actually drive myself so. So that sort of turned into you know, okay, well, if I can use my parents, you know, lawn mower, and go down the road, I can, you know, mow lawns, do this. And so that sort of started the whole idea of, you know, having my own or I guess, controlling my own destiny, if you will, and at a young age was really interesting to me, because it even though I, you know, I’m certain that I didn’t make any money, actual money, when I was in high school mowing lawns, and, you know, doing landscaping, and all those types of things, it was more about the experience of, of, you know, having someone put enough trust in You, however, small, you know, it started with mowing lawns, but, but we actually eventually did, you know, some more intricate things like building ponds, and patios and all that. And so I think it was more of the, the, the feeling that I got when it was someone willing to among, you know, a potential sea of opera options, choose to work with, you know, myself and the company that I built to, to do something for them. That that was really inspiring to me, and just kind of gave me an energy that I guess I didn’t ever really experienced before. And so again, like, you know, those early days, it was, you know, learned all learned everything by doing it wrong. First, you know, when it was when it came to, like, you know, how could I win that contract, it was just ball, just give them a much lower price or something, you know, not doing all the calculus with respect to, you’re going to lose money if you give them that price. But you know, it was worth it. And luckily, I have, you know, had a great family growing up and everything. So they, you know, sort of encouraged me to go down that path, even though, you know, if we were to look at the books that probably be like, you know, you’re not actually making money, but, but that was great. Like, it grew to, you know, probably 10 of us and, and I’d say at least half of those were just guys I went to high school with and we’re working together and summers, and, you know, sunup to sundown type of thing. And so it was great experience just kind of starting there, because, you know, I learned it wasn’t like I was necessarily super Passionate About Landscaping specifically, but I learned that I was passionate about, you know, in part, like, how to figure out how to get the next contractor or what, what pricing meant, or how to do some important things like even how to collect, right, like, you know, you’re 1617 year old, and it’s pretty easy to say that the checks in the mail or something and, you know, get it and, you know, you’re kind of like, what, what do I do here and so, you know, a lot of good experiences there that, that were helpful. And, and then, you know, after that, going into college, I knew that I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to study. So I kind of was across across the board, but wound up studying some some management courses, which were, you know, again, inspired by some stuff that I’d done before and more specifically in organizational behavior. And again, knew that I wanted to eventually start something of my own again, but make it more of something that would be all encompassing of of a number of the, I guess domains that I was truly interest Did in which parents medically that was always for me data, I was always interested in sort of what you can do with with numbers and in a way of, sort of, they always numbers always sort of painted a picture to me, other than what was just, you know, on the, on the paper on the screen. And so, you know, again, when I mentioned that I’d done, you know, freshman year of college and then went to the Marine Corps that that was sort of around that time where I was, like, well, if I, you know, if I was gonna do this, I’ve got to do it now. And so I did that, that was great. I was a machine gunner. So definitely didn’t do, you know, are definitely I guess, got the experience of the whole, you know, Grunt thing that I that I didn’t want to go through, you know, sort of want wanted to go through that whole process and be able to apply that afterward, as well. But, you know, in the Marines, I also got exposed to just what you could do with limited resources. So, you know, a lot of people watch movies. I mean, you’re probably a bunch of veterans laugh at some of the movies, not not just like, how they clear houses and stuff, which you can certainly, you know, scrutinize a lot of certain movies with that, but, but also just like, you know, I think a lot of people think that if you’re, if you’re in the military, no matter what you’re doing, you’re you always have access to, like, crazy technology, that that people don’t, other people don’t have, and are other. And, to me, it was it was interesting to see what we could do by you know, observing how things and, and, you know, people and things behaved historically, and, and how you, you know, even in the Marines, when you didn’t have that much that much resources, you could sorry, you’re hearing my two year old daughter.
Aaron Spatz 11:43
So good, man, this is the world we live in now.
Joe Scanlin 11:45
That’s right. And we and we actually had a, we have a son who’s a weak, weak old today. So we Wow, congratulations. Very different time for us. But so anyway, yeah, like being able to see how you can observe those things and sort of apply models, and then be pretty good at predicting how those things behaved and how they might behave in the future. So that that kind of, you know, definitely, for me cemented my interest in data and what you could do with it. And so that’s why afterward my my focus after the Marine Corps was completing my undergrad in organizational behavior. And then, and then I focused a little bit on applied neuroscience, which was a bit of a, you know, how can I apply what I’ve learned across the military, but also the some of the stuff that I did with data prior and apply it to a big, you know, a big opportunity in the civilian world? And that’s kind of what Analytics, which is the company I run now is sort of was born at the intersection of those things. Wow. No,
Aaron Spatz 12:53
that’s amazing. And there’s so many different directions that I want to go with this. So if we can just real quick let’s you meant, you mentioned earlier, we’re gonna take a small step backwards. And then we’ll then we’ll jump forward into post Marine Corps, but you did mention your family in your environment growing up. So it share with us a little bit about, you know, Where are you originally from? Like, what was your What was your home environment like? And were your parents? Were they business leaders? Or was it just something like you pursued on your own and they just supported you?
Joe Scanlin 13:24
Yeah. So I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, specifically, wonky town called wonky. We actually right on Lake Mendota for anyone who’s who knows Madison well. And so my mom is a has sort of had a meandering career in health, but has always been, you know, emergency health. So she’s been lighteners and Medflight, as well as disaster team nurse and an emergency emergency room nurse. And so, you know, I, I do, I definitely think that the part of me that kind of got that urge to serve was was from her is, you know, pretty, pretty obvious. And then my dad among a number of different things. So he’s worked for he’s retiring actually, in the next couple months, but he’s worked for a company called PPG. So auto paint company for for as long as I mean, I think forever and and so he’s been you know, he’s been in sales. And so you know, I got a lot of, I think, the natural sort of just ability to communicate with with certain audiences in a way that doesn’t come across pushy from him but but I also think that my entrepreneur blog was certainly from his background as well. You know, growing up it was less less trips to you know, Disney World and more more trips to whatever investment property we had that were like flipping a house or, or helping him flip a car or whatever it might be. And so I learned a lot from him on just the the Again, that that, that good feeling you get when you kind of, you know, start with something or take something and, you know, add value to it and then get value out of it in that transaction. And so I know I got a lot of that from him. And then yeah, on my mom’s side, her her grandfather was, you know, he got into a lot of different things. He was a, you know, a musician, a doctor, he had his own color blind, he had a bunch of other things. So there’s a lot of, you know, restaurants did a lot of things. So a lot of that type of, sort of, I guess, Renaissance activity in my family. But But yeah, I’d like to, I’d like to think that I am a, you know, some some interesting blend of of my parents.
Aaron Spatz 15:47
Yeah, no, no doubt you are. And I think that’s really cool. You know, just how much they supported your, your, your pursuits? I mean, I think it’s, especially at a young age, right? It’s like, you’ve got these crazy ideas. And like you mentioned earlier, right, they probably didn’t make money. I mean, I remember I had a lawn and gutter cleaning business. So I grew up in the state of Virginia. So it’s leaves and pine needles everywhere. And, and so I remember very similar, it’s like, I’m probably actually losing money. But just Yeah, but but that that thrill that you get, right? When someone says yes, and you go, and you actually deliver on a job, and they like it, they pay you and you’re like, wow, like, I can actually get I can actually make some money doing this.
Joe Scanlin 16:29
Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s unlike, it’s unlike many things, at least, that’s been my experience. Yeah.
Aaron Spatz 16:36
No, it’s super cool. Tell us quickly about your, so I just saw that your, your, what is the entrepreneur in residence thing with Microsoft, like?
Joe Scanlin 16:45
Sure. It was a, it’s a partner that there are partnerships that they did. So Microsoft ventures had a program where alongside American family ventures, they identified companies for sort of a an accelerator type program, where they brought in, you know, myself in, I think, five or six other companies that basically anything to do with the Internet of Things space, so Microsoft, obviously has interest in that space. And then American family, the, you know, Wisconsin based company that has always been sort of frontline of innovation. And, and so yeah, so we, we brought the company there and actually located, you know, on Microsoft campus for, you know, five, six months or so, great experience, you know, work got to work with not only, you know, Microsoft and Microsoft leadership, but also got to work with other CEOs that were across the country, across the world are few companies out of Israel as well. And, and, you know, it’s a, it’s, it’s an interesting energy that you get, you know, when you’re around other other other people, other CEOs of the companies, especially in tech that are building something, in a world of absolute uncertainty, and even more, so now, you know, today’s day. And so yeah, that was a good experience that led to a lot of, you know, again, long term partnerships and relationships that we have today as a company, as well as personally with a lot of the other CEOs. And entrepreneurs are part of that.
Aaron Spatz 18:21
Yeah, I can’t imagine what that was, like, like, being in an environment with people, you know, similar to you in terms of just, you know, your work ethic, your curiosity. I mean, it’s like, whenever I’m around people like that, or, you know, like me, like us, it’s like, you get you get, like, for me, I get such a buzz, like, I get, like, you get, like, I get so excited, because it’s like the the creativity and the ideas to start kind of just jumping one off the other and you can, you can really like iterate ideas. I think faster. Yeah. And environment. Right.
Joe Scanlin 18:51
Yeah, totally. Yeah. And I, I’m the type that, you know, being around folks who are comfortable, you know, with, I guess, with uncertainty in general, but just not letting that kind of stop them from moving forward type of thing. Because, you know, again, there’s a lot that that we don’t know, we can’t plan for that we you can’t put on a, you know, business plan or anything like that. So yeah, being surrounded by those folks, as well, as you know, some of them or ones who have had had, you know, experienced a lot of success in the business world in the technology world prior. One of my close friends out of that program. Jerry Callahan was the founder of blue Rhino Propane Exchange, which is, you know, ubiquitous, if you go anywhere you see, you know, there’s so that was really cool to see, you know, he was working on, you know, another company doing something from scratch and was going through the program with the same lens that all of us were, which was like, Hey, I think I can learn a lot more from all the people that I’m surrounded with, irrespective of what my background was, which for him, you know, someone like him, he could have argued that he had had a lot of success and built a big company before and So yeah, it was a great group of people
Aaron Spatz 20:01
that that, that’s really cool. There’s one thing that you said, dealing with uncertainty. And so as an entrepreneur, and I’m just thinking for those that may be watching us or listening to this later, but, you know, some of that some of the traits of successful entrepreneurs, people that are just continuing to stew and and, you know, you’re thinking through ideas, and you want to quickly develop them. But I think there’s also right, you’re dealing with that uncertainty. So like, how have you coped with that? And would you do you think that that’s just a very important trait to have? In the entrepreneurial space?
Joe Scanlin 20:38
Definitely important, I think, again, like, I’m usually pretty transparent about, like, you know, when I started, the companies I started are the things that I do a lot of a lot of the, like, willingness to face uncertainty is rooted in sometimes naivete like sometimes it’s just like, I don’t, I don’t spend time thinking about the, you know, 1000 different ways that could fail, because you, you could come up with 1000 ways, right, you know, fail at something totally. I try to, I think about it. And I’ve given this example to, to some, some people in the past where I think about it, like, you know, if I’m at the top of, you know, fear skier, or snowboarder, and you’re at the top of a hill, and you’re next to a 12 year old, like, physically, you know, I should be, you know, hopefully, especially post, you know, Marine Corps boot camp, I should be more physically capable of doing, you know, let’s say, a backflip off of a jump that’s in front of me. But because I have, let’s say, 15 or 20 more years on a on a 15 year old or 14 year old or something that’s on the top of the hill, I am naturally going through, even if even if subconsciously, I’m going through all of the ways that could go wrong, just because I’ve had more time on this earth, and I’ve had many more failures than presumably a 12 or 15 year old would, but then you look and, you know, the 12 year doesn’t even think, right, he or she just goes down the hill does a backflip, and it works. Right. And, and, to me, that that’s sort of the way of thinking about it, is that, you know, a lot of a lot of the The unfortunate thing of when a lot of I think business leaders speak post success. So after they’ve had however you measure success, you know, they forget about, I think the survivorship bias where like they’ve made it, so it’s a little bit easier for them to, you know, speak to what went well, or didn’t or what they learned. Versus like, you know, if you were to ask them that maybe when they were struggling and and when you, you know, the imposter syndrome is like, a massive thing that, you know, a lot of entrepreneurs however confident, I think have. So yeah, that is that’s the way I think about this uncertainty to me is is is is equal to our opportunity. And I, you know, it never comes across to me, like, you know, if a big company isn’t doing it, or if the big companies tried and it didn’t work, that to me isn’t an indication that it isn’t possible, or that someone’s smaller, more agile could do it. It’s more like, you know, okay, they had restraints and obstacles that I if I was just starting off, don’t have so how can I leverage those before that becomes an issue in the future? So that’s how I think of uncertainty. However, you know, again, I again, I’m speaking, oftentimes, it’s also just, I’m not thinking about all the ways it could fail. And if I did, it might be more paralyzing them than it is for me.
Aaron Spatz 23:38
Yeah. Like, for me, I see it as a balance of okay, there’s there there’s a, there’s a degree of risk that I know about very clearly. And I’m going to mitigate that risk to the best of my ability. But then at the same time, just like you said, right. It’s like, if you sit there and you plan, and you do like an entire, like risk assessment on every possible way, this thing could crash and burn. I mean, you’d be there for days. And, and there’s got to be a time when you just like, okay, got it. I’m going to try to like, mitigate these risks, but we’re going to drive on like, and I’m sure you’ve seen that, because you’ve been I mean, you’ve you’ve you’ve been in the game for a while. I mean, you’ve I mean between, like, I’d love to hear some of your some of your experiences from like, navigate labs. That to me, yeah, I could be wrong, but that looks like your first post Marine Corps co founded company.
Joe Scanlin 24:27
And so another thing is like the whole like, it gets resiliency factor, which is something that I think a lot of veterans don’t give themselves credit for having like it’s built in typically, no matter what service you went through. Resiliency is something that trumps oftentimes not every time but Trump’s you know, intelligence Trump’s resource Trump’s it’s just can you you know, it’s cheesy. It sounds like Yeah, can you keep Can you just keep going and and it’s just Just, you know, if you a lot of people don’t realize that they have a second man, right, because they, they stopped before it. And so that’s a big thing that I think I got, certainly or maybe it was sharpened through the military was was just the resiliency factor. Yeah, so for navigate labs, scandal inch was the sort of officially the first company outs out of that, but navigate labs have been going kind of as a stealth thing for a while where it’s it’s pretty tangential to, to scan analytics, in the sense that it’s, you know, it’s not in IoT or anything, it was actually something that I had been working in the sort of studying not Not, not formally academically or anything, but studying computational linguistics and natural language processing. And in part because I was interested in how we could use, you know, how we can, you know, put together language as a way of identifying as, ideally identifying early indications of, you know, anxiety, stress, depression, before it gets to an issue, and part of that was because, you know, you’re disproportionately exposed to the negative impacts of, of depression, certainly in the military, right, like, I mean, I, you know, I don’t have the, the experiences that a lot of other military members, Marine Corps members have, have have, you know, intense situations where PTSD is, has manifested in ways that makes it difficult to manage. But I have a reasonable line of sight into the impact of those things I lost, you know, I lost my best friend in 2010, outside of the military, but, but I was there, I witnessed it, you know, it was really, really hard situation for me. And that was around this time that I was starting to think about, you know, I knew that I had, you know, or maybe I ignored it for a while, because, again, in the, in the military, especially in the Marines, like the stigma of mental health, deterioration is, is certainly a thing. And it’s unfortunate, because, you know, as we spoke earlier, the Marine network and military veteran network is like, the best one for coping with those things. Because oftentimes, like I don’t need, if I’m down or something I don’t need, you know, especially one of my Marine veteran friends, I don’t need to come over and, you know, lay me out on the couch and give me a therapy session, like, it can just be like, you’re there, you get it, I get that you get it, because you’ve been through it. And like, it’s just that, yeah, that sort of experience helps. And so, so yeah, never, never never get Labs is something which, which I’m actually we, we’ve been doing a lot of accelerated work on now, given the, you know, the whole situation circumstances surrounding COVID has thrusted, I think mental health deterioration to a point where people are, it’s, you know, they’re struggling to deal with the new reality of social isolation, if that’s, you know, a cause of it, or just in general, like, you know, 25 million people lost their jobs, there’s a lot of things going on. And so, yeah, so we’ll actually be a give you some of the information we’re launching, watching earlier than we were originally anticipating, so that we could get some training data from people who, you know, the same way that you would donate blood, we’re looking, we’re looking for people who would donate sort of data in a way that would allow us to further refine how we can use language, so it doesn’t matter, you know, it’s not some long like therapeutic questionnaire, it’s more like, you know, let’s say, the emails you read throughout the day, or the Slack message, or whatever it might be a journal you might write in there, they’re sort of linguistic fingerprints that we have, you know, with the pronouns that we use, or the series of words that we use that that are and can be indicative of, you know, early identifications of something but you know, like, just simple stress and anxiety, but if not caught, then the velocity of those things turns into something more intense, like to legitimate depression. So yeah, when we looked at that, and said, you know, the problem is that 50% of the people who actually have these, these issues, go undiagnosed or just don’t talk about it at all. And the other 50% You know, it’s also pretty difficult to get that type of help and I and again, the preaching to the choir with the the veteran community, it’s like, it’s tough to get the VA is one thing, but it’s tough to get any sort of mental, you know, mental services, mental health stuff, and, and, you know, you want to be able to have a resource that understands what you’re, you know, what you’re going through or doing so, that’s sort of navigate Labs, which is something that’s that it’s a tool right now called Eli, which is short for Electronic language inquiry. And that’s, that’s what that that’s what that project is all about. That’s
Aaron Spatz 29:55
super cool. And I like, like what you said was, you want someone who under stands what you’ve been through. And I think that’s the big thing, right is like, you know, I’ve, I mean, we all have close friends and service. And if if we weren’t in direct combat or we didn’t deal with like maybe a directly traumatic thing we know somebody who has, or we’ve dealt with it after we were out of the military with, you know, any number of losses and stuff like that. So I, I know exactly what you’re referring to and what you’re talking about. And I had a friend of mine who just called me out of the blue, you just, we just want to talk and he’s like, man, he’s like, I don’t have anybody else to talk to, because nobody else really understands what that was like, like, and he wasn’t even he wasn’t in the Marine Corps. He was in a different branch of service. But he’s like, but But you just get it like, I don’t have to, like, qualify it for you. I don’t have to give you all this right after like, you just understand it. So it’s like, one, I think it’s super cool. What you’re doing with navigate labs, I think that I think that has potential not just to impact the veteran community, obviously worldwide. Yeah. Hopefully, as you dive into that, so I think that’s a really, really cool project. Yeah, appreciate it. Yeah, absolutely. I like to touch on another topic related to just the entrepreneurial journey, just because I think it’s a lot of fun to talk about these topics. And you may not have an answer for this. And that is okay. And we’ll, we’ll, we’ll we’ll march on. But help me understand sometimes, because you’ll see business ideas, right, that take time. And so there’s a level of persistence, right? You got to keep going, you got to keep trying, like, you got to really believe in it, you got to believe in what you’re doing, and so on. Right. And then there’s the other side of that line. That’s delusional. So it’s like, yeah, right. You know, I think of like, the classic, like, you know, American Idol audition, and someone who cannot sing. And it’s like, okay, you’re a little delusional. So like, yeah, what does that look like? I mean, is, did you have any examples of that? Or any in like, any opinion on that?
Joe Scanlin 31:50
Yeah, I mean, so I think it’s, it is really tough done to understand where, where that, where that line is. But I do think that, depending upon the type of company, at least, the way I look at it is through the lens of, of, you know, who else? Who are the other stakeholders in the company, that that rely on your clarity on whether or not you need to, you know, pivot, abandon or persist. And, you know, was, for example, Scalix. Scalix, is a venture backed company, so we raised millions of dollars from investors. And so, you know, what’s helpful for me, I guess, is I, I always use that as a litmus test to, you know, what we’re focusing on what we’re working on what we’re doing, as well as how I interpret feedback from the market, from customers from, you know, technology partners, all those types of things. At the same time, you know, I, the, the reason why I think we have gotten to the position the company has today’s is not because we haven’t, not, because the journey hasn’t been sort of, laden with, with, you know, problems along the way. I mean, we’ve, we’ve both grown too fast, I’ve, you know, and had to contract and then grow again. And so I think, for me, it’s I, you know, part of the reason why the investors have sort of invested in the company is also for that conviction, the conviction that, like, this will work, this is how it’s going to work. And, of course, there will be, you know, some adjustments along the way, but you only really, you know, make it to the other side, by making it to the other side, there’s not a, you know, there’s not a, that’s why, again, when I mentioned the whole, like, successful business, you know, leaders and stuff that, you know, kind of go whatever go on stage and say, all you have to do is this, or you see the articles that are like, you know, do these five things, right, the morning or Steve Jobs, you know, woke up like this, and it’s like that stuff isn’t? In my opinion, that’s not what it’s about, like, if you’re looking for there for the answer, you’re not going to find it. It is it is very interesting, this, this blend between, you know, making sure that you are focusing on the right stuff with without, like you said, kind of getting to the point where you’re blinded for you know, if it’s fog of war, it’s fog of, you know, whatever the equivalent of that. In the real world, so, so yeah, and again, I think that though, the, the biggest things that I’ve learned is that you have you definitely have to have the conviction and the confidence but you know, the smartest people I’ve ever met are are willing to change their opinion on something, you know, with new information. I mean, that that’s the way it works. And so, your job as I say that globally, like your job as a as a you know, if you’re leading a business is to take in as much information as possible. The tough part is you’re going to have people that you trust, who have had a lot of success. You’re going to have like you’ll have many people tell you to go left All right, and both people in both of those camps are going to be people that you you trust and have been successful. It’s not like it’s, you know, all the people that are successful tell you to go right. And the people that, you know, are tell you to left, and it’s easy to go, right? No, in fact, like you surround yourself with more and more people, you know, mentors and advisors and all those types of things, you know, yes, it’s helpful, but you have to be prepared for the fact that like, Whiplash is very real. And, and, again, one minute you’ll one of the guys or gals that you brought on to tell you, help you through something is going to tell you to do one thing that the next minute, someone else in that same position of respect that you’ve given, is going to tell you to do something else. And so I try to again, think about that and just think, okay, my job is to take in all that information and make a choice, a decision on where to go. And, you know, and again, tying back to military like that, there’s a lot of there’s a lot of that happens, right? Like you are you’re you’re getting a you have to gather as much information as you can be on the battlefield or be just in training, and then make a decision knowing that whatever, if you’re a team leader, or squad leader to leader, like you have people who are going to be impacted by the decisions you make, and that’s why you can’t get to the point where you’re potentially delusional and just moving towards something because, you know, the military, maybe it’s a little bit, you know, there’s there’s some some parallel there with, you know, you’re responsible for life, you know, people’s lives, right. And it’s not that I mean, a business, you’re responsible repeat. But if that’s where people get their paycheck and pay their mortgages and get their child care, like, you’re responsible for that.
Aaron Spatz 36:38
Yeah. But what’s one of the one of the biggest challenges that you’ve that you’ve had to endure along your journey? And like, what’s, what’s been some of the biggest lessons learned?
Joe Scanlin 36:50
I think, you know, again, there’s, there’s a lot of in different types of formats, there’s a lot of, you know, rejection, rejection could be direct rejection, meaning like, you are asking for investment, or you’re asking for, I mean, even for hiring people, you’re asking, you’re asking for something to help make the business forward. And you get rejected directly by, you know, whoever you’re asking or whatever, you’re asking that from happening, as well as sort of indirect rejection, right, which, which is like, it can come from self. So it can be, you know, how do you deal with, you know, you wake up, and you basically have, you know, there’s no, there’s no, you know, guide book, right. So, like, you have 1000 different ways you could execute today, do you end the day thinking that you did all the right things, and it was most productive or not? And so I think, for me, it’s the, it’s this idea that there is never a, you know, a gravity moment where you where the apple falls out of the tree, right, and hits your head, and you think, okay, gravity, right, like that. That’s not the thing. That’s why, you know, a lot of people ask, like, you know, when did it when did this light bulb just go off in your head for this business? Or this idea, this project? Sure. And it’s just not, that’s not usually what happens, right? Like, and so, I think, to me that the biggest challenge has just been, how do you turn that type of potentially, you know, arguably, negative energy into positive energy? And, you know, I think I’m pretty good at that. Like, it doesn’t mean that rejection doesn’t hurt. Any less than, or any more than any, you know, anyone else, but, but it is definitely, like, always been the case that I could turn that into, you know, positive energy. It’s the same thing with like, just anything, right? Like, anyone could say, you know, okay, well, why, you know, how could you possibly start a company or project or a thing in this, you know, industry, if you didn’t go to school for XYZ, or if you didn’t do this, or if you’re not, that’s like, you know, that’s not the way it works. Like you can you can study yourself, you can read books, you can do things that gets you to a position where you, you can be an expert. So that’s at least my my experience.
Aaron Spatz 39:04
No, I love that. And, and I think it’s also so I think you’re also brushing on the topic of just general like resiliency. And so it’s like, that’s why I think, in general, and I could be wrong here. But I think in general, there’s a lot of veterans that, like me, you even said this towards the beginning and just like your position, in a way resilience, wise, with all things that you’ve done in the military. So it kind of puts you in a good spot of, I mean, again, there’s, there’s no manual, right? Like you’re figuring out as you go, but at least you’ve been kind of trained on how to deal with adversity and kind of how you process that. But tell us a little bit about scanner Linux, I obviously do a little bit of reading on it, but just for the for the audience. I mean, with some floor sensors, it’s certainly that’s a pretty cool, pretty cool business, but just kind of kind of walk us through, walk us through the process. If you don’t mind. Just, you know how it was formed. When did you go seek investment? Just give us a little bit of that story.
Joe Scanlin 40:03
Sure. Yeah. So the mentioned earlier, the, the company started sort of right after I was doing, you know, after I got out the military and also after an I disclose that I didn’t finish the, the applied neuroscience program, because I’ve started the company, but but there was what I was focused on there was, you know, how can we build, build? Or why don’t we build buildings the same way we build our own brain? Which, which is this idea that we spend 90 Some, depending on where you look, it’s always, typically over 90% of our lives are spent inside of buildings, becoming you know, I think a lot more obvious now with with Coronavirus, but so what was interesting to me was, you know, how can we take those spaces and understand the impact that they have on everything from a well being to, to productivity to, you know, whatever, energy management to just everything that goes to this, that all draws back to, you know, how do we move through time space. And so when I, you know, looked at the space and kind of started, you know, building up the idea for analytics, it came down to, you know, if we were to build a, an intelligent infrastructure for physical space, it had to be something that was predicated on something that every, you know, every building has, and presumably, every building will have in the future, because, because otherwise you, you get into this issue where you introduce a technology, which, you know, Moore’s law or whatever else will, will change that technology, by the, by the time it actually gets enough, you know, density or coverage to make an impact. And so, so, you know, deceptively simply, we sort of thought, Okay, well, you know, everybody moves through buildings the same way, meaning we’re all governed by gravity. And we are, you know, walking over one surface and under another, you know, so the floor and the ceiling. So that led way to like, Okay, if we could come up with a novel, you know, sensors, software and data platform to leverage that ubiquity of flooring and all the surface, if you will, of all the space, that we can have something interesting because, again, if it was, it might be that a retailer wants to use it to understand their shoppers better, so they can deliver a better, you know, service to them. But there are also things that we’re interested in, we actually have, you know, installations, and we’re starting to build some research into, like, nursing homes with, you know, follow that. So like, you know, if we can understand the deterioration of a patient’s gait over time, can we introduce interventions before a fall even happens not not just detect that once happened, all the way to, you know, the work that we currently do with with the Department of Energy has to do with delivering precise occupancy of space to ventilation systems so that they can run much more efficiently. Like right now, it’s just you walk into a room that has, you know, occupancy for 1000 people, you’re just detecting motion, and that doesn’t know if it’s one person or 1000. So it operates as though they’re 1000. That’s just the way it works. And so that’s a lot of wasted energy and money operating the building. And again, all of that ties back to how, how many people are there, where are they moving? How are they moving, without impeding on privacy, like, we don’t necessarily, you know, care, their, their name, their gender, their, you know, all these different types of things were, what, when we started the company, that’s where a lot of technologies were sitting was that you sacrificed all of that privacy for, you know, whatever, an app that would help you find jeans at Target or something, right. And so we looked at it more like, Look, what’s interesting is this aggregate understanding of how people consume space, and then we can build applications on top of it. So you know, and then I’m speaking more to like where we’re at today, even though we’ve had this path of sort of figuring ourselves out. But very early on that the sort of accelerator that we went through, which was kind of the the genesis of raising money and really building up the company was an accelerator called generator, which is a nationally ranked accelerator that’s got its has its roots in Wisconsin, in general. So Madison and Joaquin, we went through the Madison program. And so at the end of that of the conclusion of that program, very similar to many other other programs, they have a, you know, an investor day, where you’re basically like, look, this is what I’ve been working on, this is how much money we’re raising, and we want to apply it towards doing these things. So we went through that, and that was our first sort of an, you know, true outside investment. And then, you know, have continued from there sort of bringing in investors who, you know, have certain domain expertise or strategic line strategically aligned to help the company continued to grow with the path that we’re going on.
Aaron Spatz 44:50
Well, and then obviously, I mean, those are things that you’d previously not had experience doing and so like,
Joe Scanlin 44:56
No, and that’s the thing like no no business school either like You know, I don’t have my MBA or anything, but like, there’s nothing that like, you can actually go into that that can give you the same experience of just, you know, it’s interesting because, you know, I’ve attended, you know, good good schools and have gotten, you know, into some good programs. But the, the copy will actually tie you back to like a boot camp, right? Like boot camp is a great equalizer doesn’t matter where you came from, it doesn’t matter. Anything about your past, like, you’re all green, right? And that’s the, that’s similar to what I would say, you know, starting a company, and then, you know, raising money, like, it doesn’t matter. Any of the stuff that you did, you could have been the, you know, the a student at Stanford or the like, none of that matters when it comes to like, does your idea survive contact with customers and market? Right? That’s really good. If it doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t matter what, what, where you went?
Aaron Spatz 45:56
Yeah, no, I love that phrasing. That’s really cool. Give us a bit of insight into your mind, and then we’ll and then we’ll, we’ll begin to wrap this up. But give us a little bit of insight into the way that you think so. When when you came up with this idea. I mean, so are you looking for a problem to solve? Or is there a problem that you’ve are, there’s an idea percolating, like, what are that? What does that process look like for you? Because you’ve, you’ve done this a couple of times? And so like, is that? Is that a product of you just kind of thinking, or like examining spaces, and then just an idea pops in your mind? Like, what does that look like for you?
Joe Scanlin 46:33
Yeah, so most of the time, it’s, you know, of course, I’m, I’m a technology enthusiast. So I could, you know, certainly fill time, by just exploring tech technology, even if it doesn’t have the, you know, end state of solving problem, and I’d still have fun, but knowing that, you know, if I want to, to have a supportive life out of this, that, that it needed to be pretty, pretty direct and clear line towards solving a, you know, a meaningful problem. And that’s where I think what’s important for an entrepreneur to understand is like, there’s nothing wrong with with, you know, having something or providing services or a product that serve a small market, that’s, that’s not, you know, billions of dollars, that, that just is the right solution for a small audience, like, that’s great. It’s just understanding that like, you know, those types of businesses aren’t ones that you can just say, Great, I’m going to go raise money to get this thing started. Because presumably, you know, you have to understand what, what type of business you are building for in the future with, with what you’re doing early on, if you take money from investors, you know, you are sort of getting into a relationship such that you need to deliver shareholder value and some multiple in the future. And so that, that is different than a note no better and worse, but but different than, you know, for example, the landscaping stuff that I did was like that would obviously that was not an investable business, but that’s okay, if that would have just made me happy, the great like, grow at the rate you want to grow and kind of do that, do what you want to do to make yourself happy. And so with the stuff that, you know, with analytics, and with, you know, with navigate, it’s a little bit different, because, you know, that that’s more of a want to get something out to the, to the world to help people help themselves types of things type of thing. I right now, I don’t have, there’s not some big intention of some big, you know, turning him into some commercial thing that, but, you know, analytics is like, look, you know, there’s, there’s 86 billion square feet of commercial floor space, just in the US alone. And, to me, you know, there were a lot of problems that are big problems that all buildings have, like energy waste, for example, is just one that, you know, the average of the buildings, whether or not they care about the environment, they they’re spending money on their energy. And if that went down, that would be that solving a big problem for them that they would, you know, presumably adopt the technology for. And so, it’s just interesting, you know, analytics, it more became like, clear to me that, again, no one had really nailed the, the measurement of how people move through time space, there was a lot of things that touched on it, which which is good, but then sort of took a different path for different you know, like, again, if you have a cell phone tracking thing, that’s, that’s fine. And that’s part of the ecosystem. But that’s better for identifying if you’re a shopper and you want to engage and send me a coupon or do whatever, that’s great, but that that’ll never be my opinion, the solution that you know, where you can understand, in full granularity and full resolution, how people are moving through space, and you need that for some of the applications that we’re building. So So yeah, for me, it was, you know, the idea matured, as I understood more of a lot of problems that build, you know, being building agnostic. So like, doesn’t matter what it was, you know, there’s there’s one or two or three or a dozen problems that, that this technology is the solution the software this data can solve. And that seemed like a, you know, a noble enough approach. And we I think we had a unique sort of mindset to it. And that’s kind of why we, quote unquote, you know, jumped off the cliff.
Aaron Spatz 50:37
Sure. No, that’s really cool. And I’m sure we could spend hours talking about the journey but you know, thanks for giving. Thanks for just giving a little bit insight into the hell out word. Of course. I couldn’t help but notice you are a endurance athlete. I love the sport of triathlon. So I don’t know. Are you? Are you a runner? You do do triathlon?
Joe Scanlin 50:57
Yeah. So yeah, my so my background originally started running. So distance running. And did did my, I did my first Ultra, I guess it was in 2000. Well, early 2019. So early last year, I love that, but also I’ve been injury prone when it’s just running before. Maybe maybe, in part because, you know, just like everything else, when I when I get into it, I really get into it, and maybe overdo it. So, so then I found the sport of triathlon couple years ago, and just shorter races, and like the, the, the blend of disciplines, so the fact that there’s obviously swim bike run, I was not a swimmer, I was not a biker, I was a runner, but took it up. Because, to me, it was a more complex problem to solve, at least for me personally. So for me, it was okay, I have these three disciplines, I have to balance them the right way to avoid injury but maintain fitness. And again, admittedly, there’s a love of the data that comes from it. So power from biking and you know, you know, stroke Cadence from swimming and run cadence and power and and all those types of things. And so for me, it’s also become this. This this intellectual exercise as well as physical. And so So yeah, I did my first full Ironman I did. I’ve done a couple halves, but I did my first full last year, which was the Madison, sign up for this, this one in September, as well, as you know, hopefully, fingers crossed that it doesn’t get pushed, but I think it’s the middle of September, so Yeah, seems safe. But again, I also think we’re similar to how we’ve talked about how being, you know, veteran or military experiences, you know, given that I find that like triathlon and you might, you know, agree is like, it’s introducing, it’s voluntarily introducing a certain level of adversity in your life, which, which, to me, exercises, the adversity muscle, whatever that is, wherever it is, and helps, you know, with with, with work, I think a lot. So, you know, you’ve probably been in plenty of sessions, the swim session, or bike session, or read session where you’re, you know, even before it where you’re like, I just don’t want to do this. And, but then it’s like, but if I want to get to where I want to go, I have to do it, you know, but I’m also in the camp where like, I’ve there been plenty of runs of bikes or something where I was like, I don’t want to do this. And then afterward, I don’t think I’ve ever had one where I’m like, I regret doing it. Rail. So yeah, so is that are you does it also Ironman for
Aaron Spatz 53:38
you? Or yeah, no, I started out several years ago I did. I started out with a sprint and then did Olympic and then I jumped into 70.3 world didn’t one of those. And I think after that I did a one or two more Olympic sprint distance ones. But I signed up so I took several years off from it. And man, like I need, like, I need the punch in the face in my life to keep like, I like that adversity. I love the way that you phrase that because it’s like, for me it like it re opens something else inside of me mentally of it’s like, okay, like, I don’t want to go for a run. I have to go do it though. Because it’s like, like, it’s like a big game, right? It’s like this. Like, if I’m competing against myself and I need to be ready for game day. Then I need to do the prep work to be ready for it. And it’s like trying to try to master three different sports. I mean, I say I try to achieve some level of competence in three of them. But yeah, I signed I actually signed up for 70.3 in October, down in Waco here in Waco, Texas. So I haven’t been I haven’t jumped off the cliff yet to do a full Ironman. I just I don’t I got that. Please. No,
Joe Scanlin 54:52
no, it ends. I mean, it ends up being admittedly this last fall that I did, which was my first fall I’d signed up with a friend and I had every intention of legitimately putting in all the right prep for it. And yeah, and just to just work on that we do some work overseas as well. So I was I was, you know, going to the Middle East a lot, and I, I just didn’t train and so I was fully, I was expecting, like, Okay, I have given myself an excuse to, like, you know, push it into the future. And then, you know, my buddy was like, you know, just still do this. And so I told myself, like, Okay, I’ll do it. I won’t do with any expectations, you know, whatever, I’ll listen to my body and stop, which of course, was never gonna happen. And, but, you know, turn off, turn off fine. Again, I try to think of the same way as boot camp, I remember the first time that they told us we would have to, you know, disassemble and assemble, you know, whatever. Especially when I got to to the machine gun side of things like doing that to the m two or so it’s like, there’s no way I could be like, there’s no way I can do this. And then they just, you know, that you just when you get into it, you all of a sudden find that like, oh, I you know, I can and not only can I but like I might actually be pretty good at this. So. So yeah, no, I feel it. But But yes, there’s definitely like a, there should be some, you know, health disclaimer, that’s like, I am it’s not the thing you always that, that suggestion for everyone to just be like, oh, we’ll just do it and see how it feels? Because it’s a, it definitely takes a lot out of you.
Aaron Spatz 56:21
Yeah, for sure. For sure. Well, the just the very last thing, I’ll give you the last word, if there’s if there’s any other advice, any other thoughts? Anything else that you want to fire away with? I’d love to love to give this back to you.
Joe Scanlin 56:35
Yeah, no, I think like, specific to, you know, the, this this intersection of, of veteran and entrepreneurship, it’s like, you know, I guess, remember to, like, if you’re out into the civilian world out, you know, remember to tap into the, the the, I guess, military background that got you to where you’re at, because, you know, I think we tend to forget, if we’re not in the environment with other military members, we too easily think of them as discrete lives. And that’s not the case. Like, I really think that, you know, folks who are maybe struggling to make the transition back into the civilian world just need to remind themselves of, you know, what, what they did before and convince themselves that like, look that you went through, arguably, more times than not, you went through something more difficult than what you’re probably thinking in the civilian world. And the only reason why you might think it’s more difficult in civilian world is because of, you know, maybe have been in the civilian world for a while, or it’s that level of uncertainty. But like, yeah, for me, I just like to hear veterans remind themselves of that, because I’ve worked with I’ve hired I’ve, I’ve, and I hope to continue to work with veteran groups from many different services, and that almost every single time, it’s a great experience when they started when that sort of clicks for them. So I’m glad you again, I’m glad you have this, this type of content for for that audience.
Aaron Spatz 58:01
Right. Yeah. Well, no, and I appreciate you and thanks. Just me really, thanks for taking some time to speak with me. I know you’re new. You’re busy guy. And I think we’re all busy. But, you know, but I love, love hearing your story. Thanks. You know, thanks so much for all the insights and so just yeah. Just very grateful that you spend some time with me, man. So thanks. Yeah, no problem. Well, that was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed getting to interview Joe, you probably just got a quick glimpse into his mind. And I think there’s just so much more that we could have explored, we probably could have just went on for hours. But man, I yeah, I love studying people and the way that they think the way that they process problems. And so it was just really neat to see the way that Joe does that. And I’d encourage you to go check out the work he’s doing. Stay, you know, follow him on social media, connect with this company, see what scammer Linux is doing, just so you can be in the know. And so we’ll have more episodes out to you soon. If you haven’t already subscribed, please subscribe. Tell your friends about it. This is the way the show can grow and in our reach can expand. So and I love your feedback. So if you have any feedback about the show, shoot me a note at podcast at Old media.us Be sure to follow me Aaron Spatz on all the different social media platforms on here. And if you’re not following the podcast, go ahead and follow that as well whether it’s Apple or Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcast. So thank you so much for tuning in. And I can’t wait to see you next time. See ya.