September 25, 2015

Large tech accelerator considered for Madison

Excerpted from Wisconsin State Journal
By Judy Newman

Madison could soon be home to a major new project aimed at helping technology companies get started and grow … if a local serial entrepreneur has her way.

Liz Eversoll – whose company SOLOMO Technology won the $100,000 Rise of the Rest competition last October – wants to start a super-sized tech accelerator and co-working space patterned after Capital Factory, a similar program in Austin, Texas.

“We are in the planning stage to determine if we will bring Capital Factory to Madison,” Eversoll said. “We are evaluating the market, community support and entrepreneurial activity level to help make our decision.”

Eversoll envisions as many as 50 startups in the accelerator and 200 people sharing the co-working space. That’s much bigger than any of the current business booster programs in Madison.

The Madworks seed accelerator, started in summer 2014, offers 10 weeks of mentoring to eight to 10 young companies at a time. Gener8tor, in Madison and Milwaukee, started in 2012, works with five companies at a time, in 12-week sessions. This summer, gener8tor added a shorter program for very-early-stage companies.

Of the city’s co-working spaces, 100state is the largest: it claims more than 200 members, executive director Gregory St. Fort said.

While some of the other accelerators are open to a wide range of young businesses, Eversoll’s focus is on tech companies, from the early concept stage to as far along as raising their first outside funds from investors.

“Companies from all over would be welcome. We want this facility and accelerator to be a draw and a reason companies start or move to Madison,” she said.

Eversoll said she has her eye on a building on West Washington Avenue. She and Patrick Vogt, chairman of SOLOMO’s board, will be partners in the project.

One big difference from the other accelerator programs is that this one would have no end date; companies can stay until they outgrow the program or the space, she said.

Why affiliate with Austin’s Capital Factory? “We think Madison has so many synergies with Austin and needs additional resources and programs to help foster the ecosystem,” Eversoll said.

Capital Factory’s executive director Joshua Baer was recently in Madison, speaking at the Forward Festival. He is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

To give you an idea of the scope of the Austin program, here’s what its website touts: “Capital Factory’s mission is to be Austin’s center of gravity for entrepreneurs. Last year, 32,000 entrepreneurs, programmers and designers gathered day and night for meetups, classes and co-working.”

Saying the program is a place to hone skills, create a product, find a co-founder and connect with investors, Capital Factory urges people: “Quit your job and become an entrepreneur.”

Gener8tor co-founder Joe Kirgues is open to the idea of another tech accelerator in Madison. “We welcome any and all additional resources for Madison entrepreneurs and wish Liz well. We hope to collaborate with Capital Factory on opportunities to make Madison a more vibrant community for entrepreneurs,” he said.

Just the notion that the Austin program is considering a Madison outlet is a feather in the community’s cap, said Paul Jadin, president of the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP).

“The fact that Capital Factory leaders recognized Madison as a location with the density of entrepreneurial talent and companies to warrant such a space speaks volumes about our rise as a start-up community and the reputation we are building,” Jadin said.

He said the eight-county south-central Wisconsin region that MadREP represents plays host to other business accelerators as well, such as Madcelerator in Fitchburg and the Whitewater University Technology Park.

Jadin said MadREP “will do what we can to assist” with Eversoll’s effort.

Read the full article.

September 24, 2015

One Block at a Time: Support the Region's Entrepreneurial Future

StartingBlock Madison -- an effort launched in 2012 to build a 50,000 square-foot entrepreneurial hub in Madison's Capitol East District that will give local innovators a home for turning great ideas into companies -- will soon become a reality. The growth and economic success of the region depends largely on helping entrepreneurs and business leaders start, grow and succeed here. With this in mind, StartingBlock hopes that the Madison Region community will help bring this exciting project to completion.

StartingBlock has secured anchor tenants gener8tor, Capital Entrepreneurs and Sector67, and has already raised 85% of its building costs. To close the financing gap, StartingBlock launched a novel online crowdfunding campaign where participants are invited to purchase a virtual block and upload a picture into that block to collectively build a community collage of StartingBlock supporters. The completed collage will be on StartingBlock's website, included in press coverage, and displayed at the finished StartingBlock building.

As noted by Neil Heinen in a recent Madison Magazine article, "this is an extraordinary opportunity to be a part of history, to join a cadre of civic leaders who are positioned at a pivotal point in this city's future -- and that's the StartingBlock."

Visit to see how it works and purchase your block, and help spread the word about StartingBlock's #buildingblocks campaign to your network. For more information, please contact StartingBlock Madison Executive Director Scott Resnick.

September 16, 2015

bluDiagnostics: Success in Pitching & Predicting Pregnancy

Q&A with Katie Brenner, Founder of bluDiagnostics

Katie Brenner
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Q: Tell us about your company, bluDiagnostics.

A: At bluDiagnostics, our mission is to help women to understand their bodies and take control of their fertility. There are 6.2 million women of childbearing age in the U.S. today, and over 30% of them fear that they have some problem with their fertility. Twenty-five percent of U.S. women will struggle at some point in their lives to become pregnant, and they are currently spending over $700 million annually on fertility-related testing. Current options include over-the-counter tests that give yes/no answers and tell them little about what their bodies are actually doing, or months of expensive, inconvenient blood tests and ultrasounds. There is currently no comprehensive, convenient, affordable solution that gives women the information that they need to accelerate the path to pregnancy. bluDiagnostics will fill that void with an all-in-one product that quantitatively measures fertility-related hormones with a small saliva sample.

Q: You recently won the Governor's Business Plan Contest, Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce's Pressure Chamber, and the Doyenne Group's 5x5x5. Coming off these wins, how have you grown as an entrepreneur through your recent experiences?

A: Each opportunity helps us to strengthen our story and to identify areas where we need to do some work to move Fertility Finder one step closer to helping women. I have been so encouraged over the past few months to realize that this truly is an important idea, filling a need that many people deeply understand. I have also seen the value in doing something you care a lot about. There are a lot of highs and lows in entrepreneurship. What keeps our team going is that we know that what we are doing will change lives and truly help people in a powerful, meaningful way.

bluDiagnostics wins Pressure Chamber pitch contest
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Q: Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs looking at entering these competitions?

A: Take a look at what you are doing. Why are you doing it? That pain-point needs to really bug you and keep you up at night, and you need to communicate that very clearly when you pitch.

Q: Tell us a little about how you bridge your roles as scientist and entrepreneur?

A: They are one in the same. All scientists are business people --they have to hypothesize that there is a need (in research, it is a topic that really needs to be understood in order to better the world or society); they need to tell their story well to funding agencies (NSF, NIH, etc.); then they have to hustle, get it done, and meet deadlines in order to keep their funding and get more. I would also say that if you have done a Ph.D., I think you have the tenacity to be an entrepreneur. Research is a continual experience of highs (exciting results) and lows (experiments or directions of thought that don't work out). You learn to have stamina, stay optimistic, and push hard to find the solution. I'd say my training in my Ph.D. prepared me really well for entrepreneurship.

Q: What about the Madison Region has allowed your company to be successful here?

A: We have an incredible network of mentors, resources (many free), and startups that have gone before us. I find that people in Madison and in Wisconsin in general are very approachable, and I appreciate that there is a culture of reaching back to help those who are after us. We drew upon many mentors and advisers to get to where we are, and we'll continue to rely upon them as we go forward. We feel very lucky to be in Madison!