June 10, 2015

1 Million Cups Madison: Brewing Startup Success

By Leah Anderson, Volunteer Organizer, 1 Million Cups Madison

How can we, as a community, help you and your business take the next step forward? This is the question we ask one startup each week at 1 Million Cups Madison. 

1 Million Cups Madison is a free, weekly program for area startups to pitch their businesses to an audience over coffee. The program was founded on the notion that it takes one million cups of coffee to launch a startup. The original 1 Million Cups began in 2012 at the Kansas City, Missouri-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan organization that aims to foster economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success.

We established the 68th chapter of 1 Million Cups (and the second in Wisconsin, the first being in Milwaukee) in Madison in December of 2014. We’re proud to be an all-women-run chapter of 1 Million Cups; our volunteer organizers, Sarah Nettie of Catalyze, Megan Orear of 100state, Leah Anderson of Wollersheim Winery, and Rachel Neill of Nordic, are all Madison-area businesswomen with a love of startups.

1 Million Cups Madison meetings are akin to business workshops. Each week, a startup presents its idea for about 10 minutes, and then has a 20-to-30-minute Q&A session with the audience. Our meetings differ from traditional pitch sessions in that the focus is on the dialog of questions and answers between the presenters and the audience. 1 Million Cups encourages collaboration and inclusivity; startups of all varieties are welcome to apply to present, and anyone who is interested can attend to listen, ask questions, and offer advice.

Our goal at 1 Million Cups Madison is to become a must-do for local entrepreneurs. We see ourselves as providing a service to the community by educating entrepreneurs on how to grow their businesses, fostering discussion of new business ideas, bringing more attention to Madison’s growing startup scene, and uniting the entrepreneurially-minded folks in our area.  
To add to the list of resources we want to provide to local entrepreneurs, we also have plans to start a series of periodic legal roundtable discussions this summer. Drew Coursin, an attorney at Madison-based Neider & Boucher, will discuss legal topics that affect entrepreneurs, like establishing LLCs, negotiating contracts, and keeping up with employment law. 
We are always actively seeking presenters for our meetings. An ideal presenter has a scalable business idea and lots of questions about it, but doesn’t need a formal business plan, and can come from any industry. Benefits for presenters include promotion from us in our newsletter and on social media, a free live stream and recording of the presentation by Field59, opportunities for press coverage (we’ve had a reporter for the Capital Times cover many of our recent meetings), and indispensable advice from fellow entrepreneurs.

1 Million Cups Madison meets every Wednesday morning at 9:15 a.m. at the Madison Central Library. If you’d like to see us in action, but can’t make it to the meetings, visit our YouTube channel to watch recordings of our most recent presentations. A couple of presenters we think exemplify what is great about Wisconsin’s startup scene are Scanalytics, which provides foot-traffic analytics through its proprietary floor mats and software, and GrocerKey, which aims to improve online grocery shopping.

We love seeing new faces in the audience each week, and we encourage anyone who is interested to stop by, enjoy a cup of free coffee, and help a local business grow. Sign up for our weekly newsletter to learn more, or visit our website to apply to present ( Join 1 Million Cups Madison as we caffeinate our community!