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!