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July 28, 2015

Madison equipped to become a startup city

Excerpted from Madison Magazine
By Brennan Nardi

(Left to right) Eric Oakland of TruScribe, Gregory St. Fort of 100state,
Heather Wentler of the Doyenne Group and Matt Younkle of Murfie.
In case you haven’t noticed, a startup scene is surging all across Madison. Ideas are taking shape at coffee shops and on campuses, in coworking spaces and accelerators. Emerging new companies and academic spinoffs are launching products and services. They’re attracting consumers and clients and finding and growing resources to give their dreams a go. If local entrepreneurs and civic and business leaders capitalize on the city’s size, location and unique culture—and make inclusivity a priority—Madison has all the makings of becoming a startup city.

If you’re looking for evidence that your mother’s or father’s Madison, Wisconsin (think hippie college town, good local food, great protests), has become a bonafide startup city, you have to talk to a lot of people experimenting in this emerging space. There weren’t many startups a mere five years ago, or even three, but that’s not the case anymore. That’s a very good turnabout because startup density is a leading indicator of what’s known as an “entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
The evidence gathered is now crystal clear: Communities that notice and nurture emerging businesses will be the best places to live, work and play well into the future. What that means is whether you are in Wisconsin or California, Madison or Manhattan, such an ecosystem can be fertile ground for a variety of entrepreneurs, from software developers and brewpub owners to insurance agents and cancer drug researchers. Despite the perception of Madison as a domain of the public sector, the reality is quite the opposite. Between eighty and ninety percent of the job growth here is happening in the private sector, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “It’s an important phenomenon,” says Dan Kennelly, economic development specialist for the city of Madison. “We are almost carrying the state on our shoulders.” And those companies that start small could one day be the next Oscar Mayer, American Girl or Epic but will sport new-age names like Murfie, ConfPlus and adorable.io—just three local brands in the local startup marketplace.