ECE ILLINOIS alums are some of the most interesting people we know. To celebrate them, we’ve decided to ask them questions both serious and fun. Here, you’ll find their Ten Answers.
Mike McCoy (BSEE ’01) is an entrepreneur and consultant. He is currently founder and managing partner of The Startup Strategy Group, a consulting firm that focuses on building businesses around technologies developed at federal and university labs.
Previously, McCoy owned and exited a medical device startup, advised and helped launch 15 tech startups, launched more than 30 tech products for various corporate entities, and taught classes on entrepreneurship and commercialization. He earned his MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2008, and he resides in downtown Chicago near the lake. Here are his Ten Answers.
What was your favorite place to study?
Grainger Library and my tiny bedroom in my apartment on Second and Springfield. I was afraid to go south of Green Street, which I now regret. There are actually great people south of Green Street!
Who was your favorite professor?
I don’t like playing favorites. But, I will give credit to Professor Cangellaris, who actually made me think about pursuing electromagnetics, even though I was dead-set on semiconductors. Ultimately, I stayed in semiconductors, but it took an appealing personality to almost dissuade me.
How has your ECE ILLINOIS background influenced your entrepreneurial career?
Prior to ECE, I was very much enamored of technology. My ECE classes were the first to expose me to the application of what I was learning and how technology can create value in the market, which is the key to being a successful entrepreneur.
What's the most interesting or rewarding trip you've taken?
That’s a loaded question, as I’ve been fortunate enough to see some awesome places. I made the decision to quit my cushy corporate job and sell my house while I was in Hawaii, so that was probably the most rewarding. But, for interesting, I’d have to say that Bruges, Belgium was pretty fantastic – drinking Belgian ale, touring on a boat through the canals, soaking in the sun, and pointing at medieval structures like a little kid. As Bill Murray said in Groundhog Day, “THAT was a pretty good day.”
Are you a morning or a night person?
I’m usually more productive and focused in the morning, but more energetic and fun in the evening. At least I think I’m more fun… others may think otherwise.
What’s your personal philosophy?
Do what makes you happy and maintain perspective. It’s amazing that so many people live their lives with so much stress, heads down, just trying to make it through the day. Think about it for a second – we are so lucky. In the long, long existence of humankind, we just happen to live in a time where most of us have access to the essentials, we live in a country where opportunities are there for the willing, there is so much information at our fingertips, we live longer than ever, and what we can create with technology is seemingly boundless. Why all of the pessimism and unhappiness?
What’s your favorite season?
Summer. I love the beach, long walks, volleyball, picnics, and outdoor concerts. I’m starting to wonder why I live in Chicago.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is about creating value and capitalizing on that value creation, which is something that anyone can do in any economic environment. It is the ultimate form of independence and I teach its virtues to anyone and everyone.
What’s your favorite mode of transportation?
Feet. My feet, to be more accurate. If I get a bit of free time, I like walking around the city in deep thought, away from all electronic devices. I always get energized with long walks along Lake Michigan.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
It’s hard to say, as I’ve had many influencers, including family and friends. But, I would have to say that, although I haven’t met either of these gentlemen in person, Michio Kaku and Steve Jobs influenced me the most. They both exposed me to a world that I didn’t realize existed. Jobs changed my perspective on what it means to create value and challenge the status quo. Kaku, with his book Visions, showed me that we are only at the beginning of the technological revolution and that the integration of 20th-century advances will lead to ubiquitous computing and boundless advances in energy, health, food… you name it.