December 23, 2014

Doyenne Retreat for Women-Led Start-Ups Set for Jan 29-31, 2015

The Doyenne Retreat is a weekend-long, strategic planning workshop for women-led startups that runs every four months. The next Doyenne Retreat is January 29-31, 2015.

Are you striving to take your business to the next level…

  • Are you just launching?
  • Are you trying to grow your venture…maybe expand your offerings or enter new markets?
  • Is it time to pivot and take your venture in a new direction?
  • Deadline to Apply to Attend is January 17, 2015.

The Doyenne Retreat is a weekend-long, strategic planning workshop for women-led startups. The Retreat is a opportunity for you and your team to escape the day-to-day routine and focus on developing your next strategic move.  And, you do this with intense feedback and guidance from mentors and peers who are experiencing similar challenges.  This is a unique opportunity to focus on your development as entrepreneur and your venture’s  future.  This is NOT a conference!  You and your team need to come prepared to work on your venture while you are here.  Please see the Doyenne Retreat schedule below.

At different points during the Doyenne Retreat, people from the entrepreneurial community will be visiting.  These will include entrepreneurs, representatives from accelerators and financing institutions in the area, and other supporters of our entrepreneurial ecosystem.  This is a fantastic chance to build your network.

In order to provide a personalized experience, we will be limiting participation to 10-15 women-led ventures. Once accepted, ventures can bring a team of up to 4 members (male and female) to the Doyenne Retreat. The cost of the retreat is $250 per venture and $100/each additional team member.

Apply to attend before January 17, 2015.

December 19, 2014

Madworks Seed Accelerator Accepting Applications for Spring 2015 Class

Madworks is a seed accelerator operating in Madison that provides grants, mentors, lean start-up, structure, access to next round finance, and more to selected early stage companies.

The mission of Madworks is to help companies succeed. Madworks provides capital, office space and access to fellow entrepreneurs, mentors, industry experts, service providers and anyone else needed to get off the ground and grow. This happens during a high-energy 10-week program.

Madworks accepts early stage companies created by UW-Madison faculty, staff, alumni and students as well as early stage companies from the greater Madison community.

Applications for the Spring 2015 class are being accepted through January 22, 2015.

Visit the Madworks website to learn more.

December 15, 2014

Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest open for entries through Jan 31, 2015

The 12th annual Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest is accepting entries online for the 2015 competition until 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015.

The contest is designed to encourage entrepreneurs in the seed, startup and early growth stages of high-tech businesses in Wisconsin. The contest links up-and-coming entrepreneurs with a statewide network of community resources, expert advice, high-quality education, management talent and possible sources of capital. It also leads to valuable public and media exposure for the top business plans and helps spur economic growth in the state. Finalists will share in more than $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.

For their initial entries, contestants will submit a 250-word (or 1,400-character) idea abstract online at That’s where contestants will also find business plan templates and other information, such as the Entrepreneurs’ Toolkit. The toolkit provides business startup information and assistance, networking contacts and technical resources.

Contestants who advance to subsequent contest rounds will expand their plan in stages. More than 70 judges drawn from the finance, sales, marketing, research and technology sectors across Wisconsin will score the entries and provide feedback on submissions.

To get started, contestants will need to create a simple account at  All entries are submitted through the website. Contestants use their account to gain access to mentors throughout the process, as well as review the judges’ comments and feedback.

Since its inception in 2004, more than 2,900 entries have been received and about $1.8 million in cash and services (such as legal, accounting, office space and marketing) have been awarded. Contest categories are Advanced Manufacturing, Business Services, Information Technology and Life Sciences.

Wisconsin residents 18 years old and older are eligible, as are teams from Wisconsin-based businesses and organizations. Businesses or teams from outside the state are also eligible to compete if they demonstrate intent to base their business in Wisconsin. Entrepreneurs may also enter multiple ideas, though each idea must be separate and distinct.

Companies or individuals that have raised less than $25,000 in private equity for their plans in a current form are eligible to enter. Generally speaking, private equity refers to angel and venture capital.

As with past contests, the 2015 competition will take place in stages:

  • In Phase 1, which is open until 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, the contest will accept idea abstracts on the website. Entries should be roughly 250 words (or no more than 1,400 characters, including spaces) and will be graded by the pool of BPC judges. The top 50 idea abstracts will advance to Phase 2. 
  • In Phase 2, which runs from Feb. 23 to 5 p.m. March 16, 2015, the top 50 idea abstracts will submit an executive summary. The top 20 executive summaries will advance to Phase 3.
  • In Phase 3, which runs from April 6 to 5 p.m. April 27, 2015, the top 20 executive summaries will prepare full business plans. Judges will review the plans and pick three finalists from each of the four categories to advance to the final presentation round. 
  • The top 12, or “Diligent Dozen,” will square off with oral presentations during the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference on June 2 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. 

Past finalists have launched companies that have raised $160 million in angel, venture, grants and venture debt over time – all while creating jobs and economic value for Wisconsin. The contest’s major sponsors include the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

The 2014 grand prize winner was Elucent Medical, a Madison-based firm that is commercializing a wireless marker tag and detections system that helps show surgeons tumor margins during surgical excision. The device eliminates current pre-surgical hook-wire localization procedures that are invasive, costly and highly inefficient. Category winners in 2014 were MobCraft Beer (Advanced Manufacturing), Find My Spot (Business Services), Organic Research Corp. (Information Technology), and Elucent Medical (Life Sciences).

To enter, become a judge or a sponsor, visit

December 9, 2014

Business Incubation in Watertown: Supporting Innovation

Guest post written by Kim John Erdmann, Executive Director, Watertown Economic Development Organization

Watertown is a great place to launch a business, thanks in large part to the Watertown Economic Development Organization's (WEDO) efforts to help businesses start in the city. One of the many ways the organization supports start-ups is through the WEDO Business Incubator.

Business incubators are facilities designed to accelerate the growth and success of entrepreneurs and start-up companies by providing an array of business support resources and services, including physical space, capital, coaching and mentoring, common services and networking connections. A company will typically spend about two years in an incubator setting – during a company’s start-up phase, when a new business is most vulnerable. Incubators provide business support services, where companies can often share telephone, office and production equipment expenses with other start-up companies in an effort to reduce costs.

The primary goal of business incubation is to graduate successful, financially stable companies that continue to grow. These companies will create jobs, revitalize communities, commercialize new technologies and strengthen local economies.

Business Incubation Works

Business incubators reduce the risk of failure for early-stage companies. According to the National Business Incubator Association, 70% of small startup businesses outside incubators fail in the first three years while 87% of incubator graduates succeed and flourish.

By providing affordable space, support and business development services, incubators can play a key role in helping young businesses survive and grow during the early stages, when they are the most financially vulnerable.

Business Incubators in Watertown

According to the Wisconsin Business Incubation Association, there are currently 35 operating incubators in the state, more than 1,400 incubators in North America and 5,000 worldwide. One such incubator is the WEDO Business Incubator, operated by the Watertown Economic Development Organization. Built in 1993, the Incubator has seen an array of businesses successfully transition to their own facilities and continue to grow, including:
Current tenants include Idle Free Systems, whose story of innovation in the manufacturing industry demonstrates how successful business incubation can be. The payback to the City of Watertown has been great. Collectively, the five businesses that have graduated from the WEDO Business Incubator have paid millions of dollars in property taxes to the City. This does not include income taxes paid by the employees.

Business Incubation Benefits the Community

Nationwide, business incubators are strong community assets. Eighty-four percent of business incubator graduates stay in their communities. Many incubators receive public funding, the return on which is great. In fact, research has shown that for every $1 of estimated public operating subsidy provided the incubator, clients and graduates of incubators generate approximately $30 in local tax revenue alone.  Without a doubt, business incubation works – both in Watertown and across the country.

Watertown Business Incubation Success Story: Idle Free Systems

Guest post written by Kim John Erdmann, Executive Director, Watertown Economic Development Organization

Entrepreneurs and innovators are important to the Wisconsin economy, and in Watertown, they are vital to the manufacturing industry. Take Idle Free Systems as a case in point.

Idle Free Systems is a current tenant of the WEDO Business Incubator in Watertown. Robert Jordan, founder and Chief Technology Officer of Idle Free Systems, knows first-hand how startup companies can benefit from the services and advantages offered by business incubation.

Before founding Idle Free Systems, Robert Jordan had a 20-year career as a truck driver. But Jordan wasn't only driving a truck. He was inventing. It began with the questions: Why do we need a 600 hp motor to control the environment when the truck is not running down the road? Why can't we substitute a smaller motor?

Those questions led to Jordan inventing a system for truck engine idle elimination. Idle Free manufactures auxiliary power units for diesel trucks, which allows drivers to eliminate idling when loading, unloading and sleeping in their trucks. This not only cuts down on carbon monoxide and greenhouse gas emissions, but saves fuel as well.

What began as a one-employee venture is now a growing company that employs 25 people. In July of this year, Idle Free was acquired by Phillips & Temro Industries of Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Phillips and Temro Industries is a leading global supplier of engineered thermal solutions, systems and controls, with facilities in North America, Europe and Asia. With this acquisition, Idle Free is poised for aggressive growth and continued innovation.

November 19, 2014

Q&A: George Austin on StartingBlock Madison

George Austin, StartingBlock Madison
Project Facilitator
StartingBlock Madison is a proposed entrepreneurial hub and ecosystem that will help Madison’s entrepreneurs succeed. StartingBlock Madison plans to build an approximately 50,000 square foot entrepreneurial hub in the heart of Madison’s Capitol East District where entrepreneurs, investors, advisors, and community members can connect, share innovative ideas and create next-generation businesses.

George Austin, Project Facilitator for StartingBlock Madison, shares his insight on the project below.

Q: Imagine we are five years ahead. What does a day-in-the-life of Starting Block Madison (SBM) look like? What types of tenants are there? How they interacting with each other? How has the community changed as a result?

A: It has been proven many times over that the planned “collision” of people from diverse backgrounds is often the creative spark needed to develop solutions to difficult problems. SBM will be the melting pot where this dynamic collision of talent, tools and experience occurs, fostering the innovation and excitement needed for our region’s economic future, and the future of our children, too.

  • Imagine startup companies and individuals residing and growing together within a supportive community of mentors, peers and professional assistance…all located in in the heart of the vibrant Capitol East District along East Washington Avenue in downtown Madison. 
  • Imagine young and retired people together, tinkering and creating at Sector 67… through classes and programs and access to prototyping, 3D printing, and machine shops. 
  • Imagine daily community networking, start-up weekends, accelerator programs, seminars and lectures sponsored by SBM collaborators and Capital Entrepreneurs. '
  • Imagine a place where entrepreneurs go to their office space in the morning and without ever leaving the building, can collaborate with peers designing a new device, observe the engineer building the prototype, meet with potential investors, and sit in on a workshop featuring a nationally known speaker.   This is the type of ecosystem that will be found at SBM.  

Companies located at SBM will be from many industries, but a significant number will be involved in developing products for health care IT, social media, online games and a host of related applications.

The Madison Region can expect within the next five years to increase the number of successful startups; increase investment dollars in our technology, healthcare and IT sectors; create a pipeline for talent of all ages and improve retention of high talent individuals; and establish the Madison Region as a startup hub recognized for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Q: Though Starting Block will be physically based in Madison, what type of impact will it have on the broader eight-county region? How can innovators outside of Dane County be a part of this?

A: What the Madison Region needs next is a way to bring these groups, and many others, together in an interconnected entrepreneurial ecosystem. SBM is dedicated to supporting entrepreneurism, education and economic growth in the region. Programming at SBM will be accessible to anyone from the eight county region.
Our region’s information technology cluster is large, strong and growing. Proven entrepreneurial leaders are shaping what’s next in order to grow this sector and our economy. They include some familiar names…Sector 67, gener8tor, Capital Entrepreneurs, 100 State, the Doyenne Group, the annual Forward Technology Festival, MadWorks and Horizon co-working locations.  One common characteristic shared by all of these groups is that none of them were even in existence five years ago. Think of all the positive energy and accomplishments that have been generated in just the past few years that will benefit the entire region.

It will be easier for entrepreneurs from the region to find support services when they are located in one spot. Increasing the number of startup companies "graduating" from SBM will also increase the opportunities for the region’s business parks to be the home of these new and growing companies.

Q: There are similar incubators/tech hubs with proven success in other regions – like 1871 in Chicago. How closely is Starting Block modeled after these other tech hubs, and in what ways is it different? 

A: SBM will be the only facility that combines high tech company office space with a successful makerspace of our own Sector 67.  Individuals and companies can not only dream up solutions to their problems; they will be able to wander down the hall and find someone who can build them a prototype of the idea without even leaving the building. Understanding this opportunity, a group of young technology entrepreneurs and community leaders have worked quietly for over a year to strategize and plan for an entrepreneurial center in the Capital East District of downtown.

The Madison Region has all the individual pieces in place to be a world-class entrepreneurial city.  Multiple national studies have shown that small businesses are the engine that drives economic growth, and Madison has been recognized as having one of the quickest growing information technology sectors in the country. With this additional piece of economic infrastructure, we are poised to retain Wisconsin’s talented young adults, an outcome too critical to ignore.  The impact of StartingBlock Madison to the City, the region and the State…more startups, more successful companies, better products and a stronger community…could be the difference between being a leader versus a follower in the 21st century.

November 18, 2014

Madison: #2 City in America for Young Entrepreneurs

This week NerdWallet ranked Madison as the #2 city in America for young entrepreneurs!

Here's what they had to say:

Madison, Wisconsin
Young entrepreneurs in Madison benefit from one of the highest per capita rates of small business loans — $799 per loan — in any major city. Living in Madison also is relatively affordable compared with other large cities, and the metro area’s unemployment rate of 3.4% is a strong sign of economic health. Early-stage entrepreneurs can find support at local resources such as gener8tor, an accelerator for startups.

Read more.

Open house to celebrate success of Portage business incubator

By Jen McCoy
Excerpted from the Portage Daily Register

A free public party to celebrate the success of workforce training and new businesses isn’t common these days. It is, however, what will happen on Thursday at the Portage Enterprise Center.

The open house at 5 p.m. will include catering from Corner Pocket, live music, a tour of the facility, networking, on site resources for people who want to start a business and success stories from people who are tenants. Further, there will be $1.5 million in revolving loans for business expansion and start-up businesses.

“The job numbers show manufacturing is expanding and this facility has helped with that,” said Nancy Elsing, executive director of the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation.

Along with a celebration is the need to create awareness of the 33,000-square-foot incubator located at 1800 Kutzke Road in Portage. It opened January 2011 with support from a $2.4 million grant from the federal Economic Development Administration to Portage and the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation.

“It’s the future of Portage and economic security,” said Steve Sobiek, director of business development and planning for the city of Portage.

Read the full article.

Celebrating Entrepreneurship

The public is invited to a free celebration from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, November 20 
at the Portage Enterprise Center at 1800 Kutzke Road in Portage. The event is to highlight 
the key partnerships throughout the region and to showcase the Portage Enterprise Center 
with tours and success stories from tenants in the building. Food and beverages will be 
provided by Corner Pocket and live music by Strumbeat.

November 13, 2014

Nordic Consulting founder Bakken to start venture capital fund

By Kathleen Gallagher
Excerpted from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Mark Bakken, co-founder and chief executive of Nordic Consulting, one of the state's fastest-growing start-ups, said Wednesday he is stepping aside to start an early-stage venture capital fund.

The fund will focus on health care information technology start-ups in Madison, a growing cluster for that city.

"Every week, I'm approached by bright, young entrepreneurs here who have great business ideas to help the health care industry deliver better care more cost-effectively," Bakken said.

Both he and Nordic have committed money to the new fund, and Bakken said he will work with other local and national investors to attract additional partners. Bakken will also join the advisory board of Health Enterprise Partners LP, a New York-based growth equity firm focused on health care services and IT companies, he said. The firm is an investor in Nordic.

"Madison is gaining a national reputation as the place to start and build a high impact health care technology company and no one is more capable or better positioned to invest in those kind of companies than Mark Bakken," said Joe Kirgues, co-founder of gener8tor, which runs start-up training programs in Milwaukee and Madison.

Read the full article.

November 12, 2014

Cologuard® wins Popular Science Magazine's "Best of What's New" Award

Exact Sciences Corp. (NASDAQ: EXAS) announced Cologuard has received a 2014 "Best of What's New" award from Popular Science.

Cologuard is the first and only FDA-approved noninvasive stool DNA screening test for colorectal cancer. Approved by the FDA in August, Cologuard detects the presence of cancer and precancer by analyzing both DNA and blood in the stool.

"Exact Sciences is honored to receive this recognition from the editors of Popular Science," said Kevin Conroy, Chairman and CEO of Exact Sciences. "The 'Best of What's New' list recognizes the groundbreaking potential of Cologuard to improve the colon cancer screening rates and enable survival from a disease that is often considered the most preventable, yet least prevented cancer due to the lack of patient compliance with screening."

Colorectal cancer is highly treatable with early detection through screening. However, 23 million Americans between 50 and 75 are not getting screened as recommended and, as a result, colorectal cancer remains the second-leading cancer killer in the United States. For those whose cancer is detected at an earlier stage, the five-year survival rate can be greater than 90 percent.

Read the full announcement.

November 7, 2014

Madison ranks among "America's Best Cities for Global Trade" for Innovation

U.S. exports reached an all-time high for the fourth consecutive year in 2013. As exports grow, so do exporters and their need for strategic locations from which to grow.

Global Trade Magazine’s annual “Best Cities for Global Trade” list ranks cities in 10 relevant categories for site selection, and Madison was among the top 10 cities in the category of innovation. Kudos!

October 20, 2014

Portage Enterprise Center: Putting Ideas to Work

Guest Post Written by Steve Sobiek, Director of Business Development and Planning, Portage Enterprise Center

Portage Enterprise Center
The Portage Enterprise Center (PEC) offers flexible office and light manufacturing space to new or start-up businesses. Business assistance, including the Columbia County Economic Development Corp and the City of Portage Department of Business Development and Planning, is located on site.

PEC is seeing success attracting and growing new business start-ups and providing critical work force training.

Current tenants include:

  • DeHaus, a new manufacturer of welding equipment, entered the market earlier this year and is creating new jobs.
  • Ship-Rec Logistics, a new logistics, shipping and recovery services company, has steadily seen its employment  increase since moving into PEC. 
  • Idea2Results, offering innovative marketing and business services, has seen a very healthy increase in its client base, and has added new employees since moving into PEC.
  • Premier Concrete Admixtures, specializing in a complete line of chemical admixtures in the concrete industry, entered the Wisconsin area market in 2014 and has seen steady growth. Employment has increased since operations began in PEC in January.
  • WorkSmart, a team of the South Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, provides innovative employment and training services to prepare workers for the needs of business and industry. 

Madison Area Technical College (MATC)’s satellite location is located at the Portage Enterprise Center and offers training in advanced manufacturing concepts and techniques to area high school students and incumbent workers from area manufacturers. MATC’s innovative Middle College program allows students to take manufacturing classes at PEC while still in high school. This Fall,  MATC  will begin operating its new Advanced Manufacturing Center at the Portage Enterprise Center, offering more manufacturing class offerings to  middle college and incumbent workers, including advanced manufacturing concepts and industrial maintenance.

Incumbent workers at TriEnda, a Portage area manufacturer, are currently receiving training in lean manufacturing techniques at PEC. As a result of this and other efforts, employment at this manufacturer has ticked up in the last several months.

On November 20, 5-7pm, The Portage Enterprise Center will host a Celebrate Entrepreneurship event. Come and learn about the Portage Enterprise Center and entrepreneurship assistance available to assist new and start-up businesses.

The Portage Enterprise Center is an important and integral part of the city, county and regional economic development strategy, as well as its success. Portage’s new job creation rate this past year stands at 4.4 percent.

Portage Enterprise Center Contact:
Steven Sobiek
Director, Business Development and Planning
Portage Enterprise Center
1800 Kutzke Road, #109
Portage, WI 53901

October 7, 2014

Q&A: WEDC's Lisa Johnson on Capital Catalyst

Lisa Johnson of WEDC
Lisa Johnson is vice president of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), Wisconsin’s lead economic development organization. Lisa has served a variety of executive roles in business startup and business investment strategies. Lisa has spent more than 22 years in business development and technology licensing and operations in the biotechnology sector.

Q: How would you describe the Capital Catalyst program?

A: WEDC’s Capital Catalyst program is designed to support the efforts of entrepreneurial-minded communities and organizations to stimulate new business creation by providing capital to high growth technology-based companies in Wisconsin.

Capital Catalyst provides grants to communities and other entities to capitalize a seed fund that provides funding to high-growth startup and emerging growth companies.  The grant from WEDC must be matched on a 1:1 basis by the community/entity.  The seed fund created by Capital Catalyst dollars and the required match is managed and administered by the community/entity to provide capital to eligible businesses in the form of grants, loans or investments (equity or royalty-based).  No amount of the Capital Catalyst or matching funds may be used for administrative expenses.

Q: What communities have successfully accessed the program?

A: Whitewater was the first community to take advantage of the program in early 2013, supporting six local businesses through funding made available in its initial $300,000 fund.  That success led to a second round of funding from Capital Catalyst that, along with Whitewater’s matching funds, totals an additional $500,000.

Capital Catalyst grants have also been awarded to Baraboo, Green Bay, and the Eau Claire region.  In addition, the program has also funded healthcare-specific funds with organizations in Madison and southeast Wisconsin.  Capital Catalyst was also the source of funding that matched UW System support in creating the Ideadvance Seed Fund program, which supports startups from UW four- and two-year colleges, excluding UW-Madison.

Start. Seed. Scale.
Q: How much money does the program currently have available over what timeframe?

A: For the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, Capital Catalyst has a $2 million program budget available through an open application process.

Q: Can you describe some success stories from the program?

A: In addition to the many businesses that participating communities have funded through the program, the Ideadvance Seed Fund has energized startup activity on UW campuses statewide.  To date, 23 startups have been accepted into the program, which provides grant funding as well as business model training and mentoring.  Startups from campuses including UW-Platteville and UW-Whitewater are progressing through a variety of business development milestones, with some having acquired key partnerships and early adopters.  These are the critical steps that Capital Catalyst funding can support until the businesses are positioned to attract investment capital.

Q: I am a start-up business in the region. How do I go about accessing the program?

A: Capital Catalyst provides grants to seed funds that are managed at the local level, so WEDC does not provide direct funding to businesses or review business applications under the program.  Businesses should check the list of current Capital Catalyst-funded entities to inquire about the availability of funds and the application criteria.  Those organizations are listed on the program page of WEDC’s website.

It should be noted that the program is designed to support startups and emerging growth companies primarily in technology sectors, and may not be used to fund real estate, retail or hospitality industry businesses, including restaurants.

Exploring Value-Added Dairy Opportunities

Last week’s World Dairy Expo in Madison drew 70,000+ participants from nearly 100 countries, many of them showcasing and/or seeking innovation and advancements within the dairy industry. Nestled among a myriad of dairy shows and exhibitor booths was a series of educational seminars, including one titled Exploring Value-Added Dairy Opportunities, presented by Sarah Cornelisse of Penn State Extension.

Her presentation was designed to help farmers make decisions about whether to sell their product as a commodity in the open market, or value add their commodity into something that could open up additional markets and hopefully generate higher profits. The content aims to help farmers evaluate the risk-reward proposition, analyzing gains in control over pricing as well as competition and knowledge barriers that represent risk.

MadREP attended the presentation and obtained the slides to share with our own Madison Region dairy entrepreneurs. View the slide deck, and feel free to contact us for further discussion.

September 29, 2014

See It in Action: Entrepreneurship in Wisconsin

Thanks to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for this great new video, seen first at the Forward Festival and Wisconsin Innovation Awards.

September 22, 2014

Innovation Unveiled in the Ag Industry

World Dairy Expo
Sept 30 - Oct 4
Alliant Energy Center | Madison

Innovation Unveiled: Highlighting new
products & advancements in agriculture
Innovation in the Madison Region isn’t limited to the IT space, and you need look no further than the upcoming World Dairy Expo for evidence. Advancements in the agriculture industry will be showcased at this year’s event with the launch of Innovation Unveiled, a new tool that highlights the industry’s newest and most advanced products. Look for game-changing products in animal/crop genetics, farm implements and equipment, and more.

If you plan to attend, stop by booths 6210 & 6211 in the Exhibition Hall to visit MadREP and six other partner organizations as we promote south central Wisconsin as the “hub for agricultural experts and resources.

September 10, 2014

Q&A With Heather Wentler of the Doyenne Group

Heather Wentler, Doyenne Group
The Doyenne Group has made major strides in supporting women entrepreneurs in the Madison Region. Co-founder Heather Wentler gave us the scoop on what's next for Doyenne and the many talented and innovative women in this region.

Q: The Doyenne Group has some major plans in place, with your big announcement about raising a $400,000 angel investment fund and upcoming retreat in October. What else is on the horizon that we can expect to see in the coming year?

A: Those are our biggest objectives for the rest of 2014. In early 2015 we hope to be able to start awarding $5,000 grants to 1-2 women-led businesses per month. These grants are meant to help women who are thinking about or just starting their businesses. We want to be able to give them a small amount of money to help pool resources and build out their idea before looking for other sources of capital or loans.

Q: What advice would you offer to women entrepreneurs in the Madison Region?

A: Madison is already a great place for women entrepreneurs! When Amy Gannon and I first started Doyenne in 2012, part of the reason was because we didn't know of all the resources that were already available. WWBIC, Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs, American Family DreamBank, as well as about a dozen networking groups (most can be found on offer a plethora of ways for women to get more plugged in and find the right spot for them.

Doyenne works to be the conduit to help entrepreneurs find the right spot for them, provide support in the community for events where women aren't present, and help get more women in the pipeline towards other sources of funding besides traditional bank loans, which are getting harder to get, or taking a second mortgage out on their homes, which should not be the best solution to funding their businesses. We have formed strategic partnerships with gener8tor, Madworks, WWBIC, as well as other groups and event organizers in Madison to help get more women-led businesses participating.

If you look at the data, Wisconsin only invested 11% of all capital into women-led businesses in 2013, and only six of the 23 successful companies who have gone through gener8tor have been women-led. These numbers -- plus Wisconsin ranking 46th in the nation for women entrepreneurs -- means that while we have some great resources in place, there's still more that needs to be done.

Q: How can the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem -- both its male and female participants -- better support women entrepreneurs?

A: One problem that Doyenne hears about is the definition of an entrepreneur in our community. Many women don't feel they fit those stereotypes and norms and therefore identify themselves as small business owners instead of entrepreneurs.

When the message that we keep seeing in the press or at conferences is that entrepreneurs are only individuals seeking venture capital or angel investment, or are tech startups that are looking to build quick and sell within 3-5 years, then we're missing the vast majority of entrepreneurs in our communities!

Creating an all-inclusive ecosystem that supports slow-growth businesses, brick and mortar or lifestyle businesses, as well as the high-growth, technology industry businesses will have more support for all entrepreneurs, and help more women feel comfortable in that space.

Doyenne has also started an Ambassador program. This is for men and women to give of their time, talent, or treasure to support women entrepreneurs. To be an Ambassador, you must have knowledge and background in key business building areas (i.e. marketing, legal, finance) and be willing to either meet with entrepreneurs, participate on panels or in the press, or donate to Doyenne to support our programming and investing.

September 2, 2014

From Atari to VC’s Future, Highlights From Madison’s Forward Festival

Excerpted from Xconomy Wisconsin
By Jeff Engel

It’s a “dangerous time” for the VC world because the majority of the industry’s money is concentrated in a relatively small number of firms, primarily in Silicon Valley. And that makes it tougher for startups in the Midwest to grow.

That warning came from Chris Olsen, co-founder of Columbus, OH-based Drive Capital, during a panel discussion among Midwest venture capitalists at the fifth annual Forward Festival in Madison, WI. The eight-day festival is the city’s answer to more high-profile conferences celebrating creativity and startups in other parts of the country, like South by Southwest in Austin, TX. More than 2,000 people attended this year’s Forward Fest, which featured a Ruby software developers conference; a new “Edible Startup Summit”; networking soirees, trivia contests, and live music; the inaugural Wisconsin Innovation Awards; a pitch contest for women entrepreneurs; and a mix of speakers that included Nolan Bushnell, the co-founder of video game maker Atari, and the panel where Olsen and other VCs discussed the industry’s opportunities and challenges.

August 27, 2014

AOL cofounder Steve Case and Google head to Madison to hunt for hot start-ups

Excerpted from Wisconsin State Journal
By Judy Newman

Local entrepreneurs will have a chance to pitch to a pioneer Internet entrepreneur and win a $100,000 investment when Steve Case and Google for Entrepreneurs come to Madison in October with their Rise of the Rest road trip.

Case co-founded America Online in 1985; 20 years later, in 2005, he co-founded Revolution, a Washington, D.C., investment firm, and since then chaired the Startup America Partnership, a White House push to support entrepreneurs. Case and his wife, Jean, also set up the philanthropic Case Foundation in 1997.

The Rise of the Rest Road Trip started in June, when Case met start-ups in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Nashville and invested $100,000 in one company in each city.

Round two of “Rise of the Rest” bus tour starts in Madison on Oct. 6 and goes on to Minneapolis, Des Moines, Kansas City and St. Louis.

“The idea behind Rise of the Rest is that entrepreneurship can happen anywhere and that you don’t need to be in Silicon Valley or New York City to turn a great idea into a high-growth start-up,” Case said in an email. “Madison embodies that mission. The combination of a first-rate talent pool and anchor institutions like (UW-Madison) and gener8tor give it a unique and enduring platform upon which to build a vibrant start-up community.”

Read the full article.

August 14, 2014

Gener8tor Says Two Cities Are Better Than One

Excerpted from Next City
By Brady Dale

The myth of the small team of inventors working alone in a garage or a dorm room may have some basis in truth, but it’s no accident that most of the world-beating technology ventures of the last decade or so have either come from Silicon Valley or New York City, or only blown up once moved there. Place matters to innovators, even in our flattening, global world. Great tech companies arise from great tech scenes, which concentrate talent, investors, know-how and the basic research that drives ventures — and a business in Wisconsin, Gener8tor, is stitching those elements together for not one, but two cities, Madison and Milwaukee.

“We love the fact that it is operating in both cities,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, “because Milwaukee is the economic hub of the state and Madison is the academic and ideas hub. So to have those two operating together is a real plus.” According to Madison’s economic development office, UW Madison does something like a billion dollars in research each year and its new chancellor has emphasized turning that research into businesses.

Gener8tor is an accelerator, a company that invests money and sweat equity in young companies in hopes of a long-haul return on the small equity stake it attains in exchange. Accelerators themselves are nothing new, but what’s interesting about this one is that with each new class of companies, it switches back and forth between Madison and Milwaukee. Every few months, a new crop of companies comes in for a program in which they learn about exploring revenue models, getting investors and acquiring customers.

Gener8tor co-founders Troy Vosseller and Joe Kirgues were successful entrepreneurs in their own right when each wanted to start an accelerator in their respective cities. But with perhaps neither city quite big enough to have all the pieces of a world-class tech scene, the two realized they might be more successful joining forces.

One venture firm executive in Wisconsin said that the concept of shifting between the two cities has had the effect of making the state’s innovation economy feel less like a Madison scene and a Milwaukee scene and more like one Wisconsin. As the cities rise with the rest, it’s begun to appear that embracing regionalism may be the right course for an area with a thinner population to make it.

Read the full article.

August 11, 2014

An Interview with Edible Startup Summit Founder, Philip Crawford

As if the name wasn't already tempting you, we sat down with Edible Startup Summit founder Philip Crawford to discuss the ingredients that he hopes will make the first ever ESS a recipe for success.

Q: When did you first get involved in the food business?
A: My first foray into food startups was as an e-commerce and marketing manager for Oskri Organics in 2000. Since then I've organized several Bar Camps, founded Food Camp, serve on the board of Slow Food Madison and help lead the Sweet Potato Project, to name a few.

Q: Why did you create the Edible Startup Summit?
A: The ESS was founded in an effort to broaden the software and biotech focus of the Forward Technology Festival. And since the Madison region is so well known for its food culture it was a natural fit.

Q: Who should attend the Summit?
A: All food lovers are encouraged to attend, but those interested in food startups or currently working with or in a food startup will benefit the most.

Q: What's the format of the ESS?
A: It's modeled after the Badger Startup Summit: part experiential, part inspirational and full of quality speakers.

Q: Speaking of speakers, who are you most excited to hear?
A: Adrian Reif of Yumbutter has a good story to tell. His company is seeing a lot of growth and has a unique story. You'll hear about their successful Kickstarter campaign that led to a new product launch and how their decision to obtain Certified B Corporation status has truly transformed Yumbutter's mission.

Q: You had to know this was coming...What's your favorite food?
A: I'm all about what's in season and do most of my shopping at the farmer's market. Tomatoes and peppers are my current favorite items to plan a meal around.

Q: What else should we know about food, startups and the Edible Startup Summit?
A: One of the lesser known aspects of food business is the government interest. Food startups are creating middle class jobs that are very different from the job creation you get from a software company. These jobs are in very short supply and the skills needed are minimal. Someone with little to no experience can receive training at a technical college and be a crucial part of the workforce in no time.

Hungry for more? Meet Philip, Adrian and dozens of other foodie entrepreneurs at the Summit. Register before August 15th and save!

August 8, 2014

Map It: Madison Region Innovative Spaces

Innovation occurs in all corners of the eight-county Madison Region. The map below depicts the physical spaces where much of this innovation occurs, including makerspaces, incubators, accelerators, and more.

Red: Co-Working Space
Lime Green: Prototyping/Technology Center
Teal: Hacker/Makerspace
Purple: Commercial Kitchen
Green: Incubator
Yellow: Accelerator

August 7, 2014

Food for Thought: E-commerce and Ag Export Opportunities in China

Tuesday, August 26, 2014
11:30am-2pm (lunch will be served)
Crowne Plaza Madison | 4402 East Washington Ave, Madison

China ranks #2 as a destination for Wisconsin agricultural exports. To access this market, companies need information on navigating regulatory hurdles, finding buyers, and marketing products in the world's most populous nation. 

Join MITA members to hear from Roger Zhang of SMH Shanghai, who will present on the current market for food and agricultural products. Also, learn how a build a strategy for utilizing e-commerce to sell consumer products in China. Mr. Zhang will provide an overview of the market for imported food, current trends, the rising e-commerce sites, Shanghai Free Trade Zone, and opportunities for Wisconsin companies. Joining Mr. Zhang on a panel will be several Chinese food importers from Beijing and Shanghai. They will each give an overview of their company and share their insights on developing market share for American food products in China. Plus, network with a staff writer from one of China's leading food and culinary publications covering the Wisconsin industry.

This special event is co-hosted by MITA and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Co-sponsors are the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA), Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) and ME Dey.

Cost of Admission:
Early Bird rate applies until August 18th - $25 Special for Members, $40 for Non-Members.
Regular rate - $35 for Members, $50 for Non-Members.

August 6, 2014

State announces $1 million program for high-tech start-ups

Excerpted from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
By Kylie Gumpert

Technology entrepreneurs will receive funding from a new $1 million program to commercialize innovation.

SBIR Advance, which stands for Small Business Innovation and Research, will be available across the state through the University of Wisconsin-Extension's Center for Technology Commercialization. The funding comes from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and is available to recipients of SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer grants.

According to the program's website, cash will be awarded over three different phases once milestones are met. Preference will be given to new companies that are receiving their grants for the first time.

"SBIR Advance will fill critical funding gaps for activities such as market research and patent development restricted under federal awards that applicants already hold," Reed Hall, CEO of WEDC, said in a statement. "Unlike programs in some other states, SBIR Advance will provide funding upon completion of key milestones...which significantly accelerate business development."

The new program is part of Start-Seed-Scale, or S3, a new initiative that the WEDC has taken on with the University of Wisconsin to help high-tech start-ups commercialize.

Read the full article.

July 31, 2014

Webinar: Introduction to the DoD SBIR Program

Wednesday, August 27

The Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) supports early-stage, science and technology-based firms from feasibility to funding with counseling and access to resources. In an upcoming webinar -- Introduction to DoD SBIR/STTR Programs -- the CTC and DoD Deputy Administrator, Tracy Frost, will offer an overview of grants and contracts available through the DoD in 2014. 

Meet & Greet Your Government Officials

Come for these informal gatherings of government officials and area business leaders.

Meet & Greet: City of Madison Government Officials
August 7, 2014
4:30 pm – 6:30 pm 
Brink Lounge | 701 East Washington Ave, Suite 105 | Madison WI, 53703
Register here.

Meet & Greet: Dane County Government Officials
August 19, 2014
4:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Brink Lounge | 701 East Washington Ave, Suite 105 | Madison WI, 53703
Register here

Both events are hosted by the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. 

July 30, 2014

Evansville Area Inventors & Entrepreneur Club Social Hour

Wednesday, August 13 at 6:30 PM
Creekside Place, 102 Maple St,
Evansville, WI 

Do not be fooled by the historic exterior and carefully laid cobblestone in downtown Evansville. Peel back a layer and you'll find a hustling, bustling entrepreneurial spirit fueled by invention, collaboration and innovation. Join The Evansville Area Inventors & Entrepreneur Club for their monthly meeting that promises to be an especially social August edition.

Enjoy summer drinks and light refreshments as members of the club pitch invention ideas, a business dream or current challenge. "What big idea keeps you up at night? We want to hear about it and help," says Club Treasurer Halina Zakowicz.

For more information about the I&E Club, please contact Club President Sue Berg. But no need to RSVP to the August Social Hour - just show up!

July 29, 2014

On Air with StartingBlock

Enjoy this episode of For the Record with Neil Heinen as he discusses StartingBlock, the entrepreneurial hub and ecosystem that plans to be a large driver of economic development for the region. You'll hear from key players in the project such as former City Planner George Austin, along with co-founder of Capital Entrepreneurs Forrest Woolworth, founder of Sector67 Chris Meyers, and co-founder of Gener8tor Troy Vosseller.

July 28, 2014

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo to Launch 15th Annual National Farmers Market Week at Dane County Farmers Market

We've always known we have a great Farmers Market in Dane County, and it's about to get a bit more exciting this weekend!

Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo will kick-off the 15th Annual National Farmers Market Week on Saturday, August 2, 2014, at the Dane County Farmers Market. The Dane County Farmers Market is the largest producer-only farmers market in the country and has about 160 vendors at its Saturday market.

Ms. Alonzo will tour the market with Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and Dane County Farmers Market Manager Bill Lubing.  She will host a media availability at 9:30 am to discuss the latest data from the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory followed by a related announcement.  At 10 am, Ms. Alonzo will deliver brief remarks and will highlight the latest information from USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory.

She also will discuss the important role of farmers markets in developing local and regional food systems that support family farms, revitalize communities, and provide opportunities for farmers to improve access to fresh, healthy food.  U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 3-9, 2014, National Farmers Market Week to celebrate our nation's thousands of farmers markets, the farmers who make them possible, and the communities that host them.

July 22, 2014

Women in Tech Lunch

Thursday, July 24, 2014
Maharani Indian Restaurant
380 West Washington Avenue, Madison, WI 

Let's meet up for lunch hour and enjoy a meal together! Please RSVP by 7/23 to be included in the headcount for a table reservation.

Learn more & RSVP.

Madtown Designers - Co-Working at the Madison Public Library

Thursday, July 24, 2014
Madison Public Library - Central
201 West Mifflin Street, Madison, WI 

Need some people to hang out with while you work? Or maybe you want a few extra pairs of eyes on a design problem you're facing. I'll at the Madison Downtown Library (3rd floor sitting area across from the staircase) at 10am. Come hang out, get some work done, and meet other designers in the area!

Learn more.

July 21, 2014

WASSUP Madison - Business Think Tank

Monday, July 21, 2014
6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Panera Bread
2960 Cahill Main, Fitchburg, WI 

Are you in the job market? Are you starting a new business? Are you in need of help regarding professional matters? Starting out on a new career path in this economy and job market takes it toll. As job seekers and start ups, we face vastly different problems than our more established counterparts. This group is simply a chance to do professional networking and to help each other with professional matters-- all while relaxing and having fun over coffee or wine. Bring something you need help on: a résumé, a LinkedIn profile, a question for discussion, etc.

We will have a sign on the table that says "WASSUP--Madison."

Learn more.

July 15, 2014

Watertown Event: Celebrating Wisconsin's Entrepreneurial Spirit

Thursday, July 24, 2014
Windwood of Watertown | W5710 County Hwy CW, Watertown, WI

Presented by Watertown Economic Development Organization (WEDO)
The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Watertown. Join WEDO as we showcase local entrepreneurs and innovators.
    • Ronald "Bud" Gayhart - As the Director of the Center for Innovation and Business Development, Bud Gayhart oversees the UW-Whitewater Small Business Development Center and the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center. In this role, he provides consulting to more than 75 business owners annually, resulting in new venture launches and sustainability of existing enterprises. With his experience in economic development, Mr. Gayhart has become a key participant in ongoing efforts to strengthen regional businesses.
      • Robert Hopton - Robert Hopton joined Idle Free Systems as CEO in 2008. Idle Free is an innovative provider of complete, year-round idle elimination solutions for trucks and school buses. He has more than 26 years of general management, business development and strategic planning experience across a variety of industries including food, health care, financial services, consumer durables and clean tech. Mr. Hopton has also founded or co-founded two companies.
      View the event flyer here. Please RSVP to Julie Olver.

      July 8, 2014

      Catch the crowdfunding info from last week's event!

      Thanks to all who attended our Two's Company; Three's a Crowdfund event on June 30 at 100state! 

      A captive audience learns about crowdfunding
      We heard an informative presentation on crowdfunding from Patricia Struck, Securities Administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, capped off by an interactive Q&A session and networking over pizza and beer.

      If you missed the event, we have the details for you here: 
      • Download Patricia Struck's powerpoint presentation on Crowdfunding in Wisconsin
      • Watch the video of Patricia Struck's presentation
        [Disclaimer: This video isn't great and goes in and out of focus. But the audio from Patty's presentation is there and it gets the job done!]  

      Still have questions on crowdfunding? Post them at our Q&A Portal

      June 11, 2014

      Two’s company; Three’s a crowdfund.

      Monday, June 30, 6pm-7pm
      100state, State Street, Madison, WI

      Wisconsin entrepreneurs can now fund their business by the crowd, thanks to new legislation that allows companies to raise up to $1 million from state investors (or $2 million with audited financials) through crowdfunding portals.

      Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) will host Patricia Struck, Securities Administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, as she shares the ins and outs of the crowdfunding process. 

      Come for the info; stay for the Q&A, networking, and refreshments. 

      May 6, 2014

      Unique Partnership Reaches New Heights

      The Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) and the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM) are teaming up to bring business and community leaders focused on economic development, diversity and leadership together for a day-long Summit on Friday, May 9 at the Alliant Energy Center. 

      Summit participants should expect an active, results-oriented day designed to engage, inspire, and empower attendees around issues related to economicworkforce, and community development.

      Hundreds of participants representing the entire eight-county Madison Region are expected to attend. Attendees will include business executives, HR professionals and hiring managers, community leaders, economic development professionals, educators, elected officials, entrepreneurs, and emerging leaders.

      Tickets for this first-of-its-kind collaboration are still available. 

      Visit MADi to see who else in your network is attending: