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.