Somewhere between their basements and the lake, entrepreneurs Matt Johnson and Mike Lauenstein have been camped out for the past two years — researching, designing and developing a hardware/software platform brought to market under the name Contour Innovations.
They’ve been deliberately hiding this whole time…until we scooped them out of natural habitat to bring you the story.
The duo invented the ‘CI Device’ — a portable tool that uses raw depth finder data correlated with sonar, GPS, weather conditions and other relevant information — to form an online centralized lake database repository. Recreational fishermen, fishing guides, research groups, and geo-spacial experts can generate precision maps of contoured water bodies, which in turn, form media that can be published to an online store. Ultimately, ‘CI Guides’ enables customers to purchase custom trips, track any species or find and follow a guides activity in real time. The product has been in private beta for the past year and official launch is expected within the next two months.
For Matt and Mike, the prospect of entrepreneurship was simply too big and exciting for them to ignore. They boldly stepped away from what would otherwise be an ideal situation for many: safe and secure employment in a high paying line of work.
CEO Matt Johnson is a UW – Eau Claire undergrad with a law degree from Hamline who had previously been a litigator with a mid-sized firm in downtown Minneapolis. “It was a great job that I really liked, but I always had that entrepreneurial spirit and I knew I wanted to do something for myself. For me, the idea of working in a dingy basement for two years to try and get a company off the ground became absolutely exciting, and that’s when I took the plunge and went two feet in!”
CIO Mike Lauenstein also studied at UW – Eau Claire, although they did not know each other while enrolled, as it wasn’t until post graduation and well into their respective careers that paths crossed through a social function. Mike was a a senior consultant with Microsoft and he’s now wrapping up an MBA from the U of M Carlson School of Management while simultaneously launching the company. “I always wanted to go the entrepreneurial route — I’m surrounded by it and it’s in the blood,” he says while discussing the decision to leave his status with a well-established company. “Microsoft was a great company to work for but I knew that the opportunity to leave was getting smaller and smaller every year that went by.”
“…the door was closing, and regardless of the outcome, we just knew that we would be better for it,” Johnson summarizes. “Number one, we knew that we just had to start doing…definitely just start doing and things will pan out,” he says when asked what advice he would have for the aspiring entrepreneur. “Get ready and prepare for the moment to leave [your] job and not have income,” Lauenstein added.
And that’s for real. Tune in to hear the details of their upcoming product launch and about the shared journey from idea to execution.