Soccer and Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies Lead to Successful Startup

Written by Karen L. Bystrom
July 16, 2018

McLean Reiter, IDLS 2007 graduate and co-founder/CEO of tech company Knotis, originally transferred to Seattle U for the opportunity to play soccer. “My best friend was on the SU team and suggested I check it out,” he says. “I tried out and had a great experience.” Moving from Billings, Montana, he fell in love with Seattle and Seattle U on his first trip.

Alum McLean Reiter with tree in the backgroundInitially focused on sports, he started looking at his options for his degree. “I was originally going toward science and biology, but ran into challenges in transferring credits. To earn a biology degree would mean almost starting over.” Then he discovered Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies.

“Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies (IDLS) is interdisciplinary studies in a Jesuit educational context - integrating the liberal arts, sciences and community engagement in a way that cultivates humanity,” says Program Director, Sven Arvidson, PhD. “Students gain a broad and deep education rather than be narrowly focused. Flexibility to choose courses that match their interests provides them with solid preparation for a rewarding career or graduate school.”

McLean found IDLS to be a good fit, especially with the wide range of topics covered. Originally thinking he would still be moving toward some kind of career in sports, McLean found himself interested in entrepreneurship. “Dr. Arvidson recognized this in me and wrote my recommendation for business school.” He and his wife planned to move to Colorado and he applied to Regis University, where he was accepted. When their plans changed, he completed his MBA online.

“I remember McLean as a standout in my Senior Synthesis course,” says Dr. Arvidson. “He took on and successfully executed an ambitious project aligned with his professional interests in fitness, and taught me a thing or two about putting together a business.”

At one point, he found himself at a professional fork in the road, looking at two possible paths, retail health care and retail fitness. However, a trip to Portland, Oregon presented an entirely new idea. “When we checked into our hotel for the weekend, I found a wonderful neighborhood map that spoke to me and was really effective at communicating what the neighborhood offered,” he says.

This was Friday night and by Monday morning, he was walking around Seattle neighborhoods exploring the idea of concierge maps. However, he was already thinking far beyond the map. “While the maps did it well, I knew there was a way to take the visual and physical essence of ‘place’ online.” The maps paved the way for him to learn about how businesses operated and seven years later, he found investors and mentors interested in being part of his new endeavor, Knotis.

Screen shot from the Knotis websiteKnotis lets merchants offer rewards to customers who appreciate their products and to reach new customers who like similar products. Customers use the Knotis app to photograph what they want and share the photos with others who are nearby. Knotis lets nearby businesses know (anonymously) what users want and the business can pass rewards (discounts) on to users through the app.

“We’re making a game of this,” says McLean. “Share photos of what you want and we’ll connect you with more of what you want. The more you participate by sharing photos adding “smiles” to others’ photos, the more rewards you’ll receive for things you actually want.”

The businesses are able to seamlessly connect with more customers and pay for the service only when the customer makes a purchase.

McLean is quick to offer that privacy was the first feature they focused on when developing Knotis. “When you first download the app, your random user name is generated. All information is encrypted and stored separately, so that data is segregated. We will never sell customer information.”

Looking back, he sees a direct connection to both his sports experience and his SU Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies degree. “It really is a combination of soccer – team work, thinking ahead all of the time, strategy and flexibility – my science background – testing and analyzing – and the opportunity to explore and learn about so many different topics through interdisciplinary study.”