UW-Whitewater alumni ideas to drive Wisconsin economy

UW-Whitewater alumni Ryan Rist and Joe Scanlin were honored at the governor’s mansion for ideas that could potentially drive Wisconsin’s economy.

Selected from a field of approximately 248 applicants, the pair was among 50 other finalists who entered into the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

The event was sponsored by the non-profit and non-partisan Wisconsin Technology Council, which advises the governor and state legislature on science and technology issues.

Rist, who earned his master’s degree from UW-Whitewater in 2007, took first place in the information technology category. His company, Strategic Fishing Systems, used geographic information systems data and advanced mapping software to help fishermen locate hot spots and catch more fish.

“Our product uses data to predict where fish will be,” Rist said. “In the future as the technology advances we hope it will be displayed in real time and the results will be searchable.”

The company was formed in 2007, but the product wasn’t released until 2010 because of technological hurdles.

“The competition was pretty awesome there were some pretty cool ideas,” Rist said. “These last six months have been a flurry of activity meetings with investors and people who want to take our product to the next level.”

Rist said the UW-Whitewater has a wealth of opportunities and resources for aspiring business students, but that the most important thing is to not be afraid to fail.

“As a freshman you can’t just go to class and leave because of business is about networking and learning from people around you,” Rist said.

Scanlin, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management, cracked the top 25. His company, Scanalytics, came up with the idea for a pressure-sensitive mat that uses software to track consumer habits in retail settings.

“We created a portable system that tracks customers and tells things like how long they were there, what time of day it was, and it aggregates that data and automatically creates efficiency reports,” Scanlin said. “It took six months for the prototype, and it has taken a lot of work on my part.”

Scanlin said creating the right partnerships and putting in the research were critical to assembling his team four months ago. His entire team consists only of Scanlin and four other people.

Startups like his are important forWisconsinas a whole according to Scanlin. He said by small companies like his succeeding it will show others thatWisconsinhas the potential to be a hub for fresh ideas.

In his time at UW-Whitewater, Scanlin created relationships that he used to form his team, launch his business and create his idea. He said that others hoping to do the same need to look at the people around them outside of the academic setting.

“Most of what I’ve learned came through exploring partnerships I made outside of the classroom,” Scanlin said. “It’s important to reach out to your professors and peers not just on an educational basis but also on a professional level.”

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