March 18, 2015

The Social Fabric of Madison's I&E Scene

A Q&A with Forrest Woolworth, Co-founder & Director of Capital Entrepreneurs

Q: What is Capital Entrepreneurs and how did it get started? 

Forrest Woolworth
A: Capital Entrepreneurs (CE) is a community group for Madison area entrepreneurs. We started the group back in 2009 as a way to bring together the then fledgling entrepreneurial community. It's since grown to over 300 member entrepreneurs, and has acted as the "social fabric" that ties much of the Madison entrepreneurial ecosystem together. The core events still remain our monthly socials, but CE also helps organize a number of key entrepreneurial events that have emerged in the ecosystem including the Forward Festival, Startup Weekend, and Build Madison.

Q: What is the state of the Madison startup community? 

A: We've done a yearly survey of our member companies for the past 5 years, and 2014 was the most impactful year yet for the Madison startup scene. The survey has been a great way to see how the entrepreneurial ecosystem has grown over time and helped quantify that impact. Last year, Madison startups created 175 full time jobs (and now employ over 500 people) and tech startups alone raised $44M in funding. A lot has been building in the startup community over the last few years, and a whole ecosystem of workspaces and support resources has emerged to form a burgeoning ecosystem. Read the 2014 Madison Startup Scene Recap.

Q: How does StartingBlock Madison fit into the ecosystem? 

A: StartingBlock Madison has now been in the works for the last 2 years. StartingBlock will be a 50,000 sqft entrepreneurial hub in downtown Madison that will bring together startups, entrepreneurial resources, and provide a long term home for the Sector67 hackerspace and the gener8tor startup accelerator. The project has received significant funding commitments from American Family Insurance and the City of Madison, and is now in the final fundraising stage to bring the project to reality. The goal is to help minimize many of the pain points in the lifecycle of a startup, and ultimately give startups the best chance of success. StartingBlock builds on the momentum that has been growing in the Madison entrepreneurial ecosystem, and is a key piece of infrastructure that will truly take our entrepreneurial community to the next level.

Q: What do you like best about Madison’s I&E ecosystem? 

A: Everyone in the ecosystem is so passionate about making it a better place. What's emerged has been built by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs and is a real grass roots effort. When you get a bunch of passionate entrepreneurs together, good things happen.

Q: Where do you see Madison’s I&E ecosystem in the next 10 years?

A: We're at a critical tipping point right now. We've built a solid foundation, and a burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem has emerged over the last few years. It's critical that we capitalize on this opportunity both at the grass roots level and also at the civic and business community leadership level. We are well positioned to see even more success if we do things right, and Madison can truly be a top spot in the country for startups and a global leader in innovation.