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.