When Sean Matson retired from active duty after 13-years as a Navy SEAL, he decided that his duty to his country wasn’t finished. Sean and his military veteran “brother” Zach Steinbock created a company called MATBOCK (a combination of both their names) with the mission to develop products that fill a need in the real world to help save, protect and enhance various things that come up. Whether its night vision goggles for the military, or dry bags for those outdoor adventure trips, or lifts & ladders for hunters and rescue teams, or hunting vests, law enforcement gear, etc., Sean and Zach’s products are truly one of a kind.
The Levity Ball spoke to Sean to find out more about his new mission in life, how his products have even ended up on various Hollywood TV shows as props, and how his company has been helping those around the country, including here in New York, as we live through these strange times.
1. When did the idea of creating a company with your fellow Navy SEAL “brother” happen?
We officially founded the company in January 2010, but it actually started four years earlier. Zach and I were flying on a military C-130 cargo plane to Alaska during advanced SEAL training (SQT), and we were dumbfounded at how difficult it was to load our class and personal gear on the C-130. The cargo netting system, still used today, hasn’t been revolutionized since WWII and it has significant problems. We redesigned it on that flight and initially thought that we would simply sell our idea alone to the current manufacturer. Turns out they were not interested. We only took them as a ⅕ scale model. Every investor / mentor that we spoke to told us that we needed to build a full scale working product. As we started working to get this idea into production, others were inspired and came to us with their own ideas. Zach and I saw the need to innovate many products we were using, and to help others do the same. Even as we have transitioned out of active duty, all of our ideas still come from warfighters on the ground.
2. The 103d Rescue Squadron here in New York have purchased some of your products such as your Tarsier Eclipse. Why do you feel branches of our military and people in general trust your products over others?
We have a team of people that have actually used them in the field. Myself, Zach, and our warfighter team have spent countless hours either using our products ourselves or helping to develop them. We make products that teams really do need, no matter how simple or complex the adjustments are. The Tarsier Eclipse solution is one that is so simple yet so efficient. Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) don’t work like TV, movies, and video games depict. Operators have to focus their goggles to one focal length, near or far. Typically, this is set too far which means close objects will be blurry. Imagine trying to grab a door knob and only being able to see shadows of the outline for the door knob. This is where our device the Tarsier Eclipse comes into play. The Tarsier Eclipse allows operators to focus their goggles as usual, but then they dial the aperture on the Tarsier Eclipse to the desired “brightness” level based on the ambient light. Once they have both set, they will be able to see objects near and far without having to adjust their goggles. This does give them “autofocus” – like seen on TV, Movies and Video Games.
3. Has your company been affected at all by COVID-19 in the way it has impacted businesses across the US and our economy?
The biggest difficulty that we have had is hiring enough skilled workers. Our workload continues to increase, and we need a large team. We are even finding that our contract manufacturers are experiencing the same issues.
4. Which of your products would you recommend to the first responders here in New York and elsewhere that want to upgrade their gear during these tough times and more and more people daily needing “saving”?
For lifesaving equipment, we would recommend the Cobra Sled. This product is perfect for rescuing people from high angle mountain rescues to supporting soldiers on the ground. Significantly less weight, bulk, but equipped with more hoisting straps. The Cobra Sled is being quickly adopted across the military, law enforcement and outdoor rescue. We were just awarded its utility patent.
5. Your products have also made it into movies and on TV shows! How was getting the call for those placements like?
It was exciting to work with some of the guys on the crew that knew our products and the reputation of MATBOCK. They spoke to us about potential scenes coming up and what products they felt would be good fits. We made some suggestions as well. Furthermore, as we developed that relationship, we work to send them some of the newer products as well. It’s cool to see your stuff on a show you and your family watch!
6. On a personal note: Was it difficult to transition from “military mode” in war zones, to a life in business and working out of an office?
Yes, but definitely not impossible. While I was active I would force myself to stick it out and continue to be uncomfortable until I was back to normal. As I transitioned from active duty to business life, I had to realize that my experience on the battlefield 100% translated to the business sector but just using different terms.
7. What is your advice to those that may want to enroll and become a Navy SEAL?
STOP OVERTHINKING IT. Either you can meet the standards or you can’t. To get good at push-ups, you have to do push-ups. To get good at pull-ups, you have to pull-ups. Too often, kids will ask me about things that really do not matter. They need to focus on crushing the SEAL Physical Screening Test (PST). Once you get to BUD/s, you realize that everything has an end. Some evolutions might last longer than others, but eventually it will end.
8. After all the pandemic calms down, where are your favorite places you want to come and enjoy here in NYC?
We love -lower Manhattan and finding new local restaurants and coffee shops.
9. How can New Yorkers who like camping, hiking, etc. purchase some of your gear?
We sell globally online at www.matbock.com
10. And final question: What do you want MATBOCK overall to be remembered for when people look back at your company and products you have created?
We were able to make an impact for the good on the world through our innovations, while bringing others along for the ride.