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October 13, 2016

oneEvent Technologies brings life-safety systems into the modern age

The Village of Mount Horeb in Dane County is home to a population of nearly 7,500, characterized by its quaint downtown with specialty shops and a unique thoroughfare lined with wooden trolls – a classic feature of its Scandinavian heritage. It’s also home to one of the Madison Region’s most innovative companies: oneEvent Technologies.

OET at a planned burn, southwest of Verona
Co-founded by Kurt Wedig and Dan Parent in 2011, oneEvent Technologies (OET) is bringing life-safety systems into the modern age by using cloud-based technology to provide smart building protection. The company’s onePrevent system alerts building owners and occupants to issues -- such as rising humidity or temperatures -- before they become problems. By collecting and providing immediate access to data via smartphone or tablet, property owners are able to reduce the frequency and severity of emergencies, first responders can access vital information needed to save lives, and insurers are better informed in limiting and evaluating risk.

Co-founders Dan Parent and Kurt Wedig
The company has hit growth mode, expanding its office space as well as leasing additional space to house inventory and packaging. Recently, OET partnered with several local dealer-installers to make its product available to commercial properties in south central Wisconsin. In August, it took home a Most Innovative Company award during the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce neXXpo event, and will be among the seven finalists making pitches to a group of Wisconsin investors at the Nex7 Stage Event in December.

MadREP supports the region’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E) ecosystem, and had the opportunity to make a direct impact on this start-up’s success together with Mount Horeb Area Economic Development Corporation (MHAEDC). “MadREP and MHAEDC have been great partners in helping oneEvent leverage local resources, find key talent, and open up new business opportunities,” said OET Founder/CEO Kurt Wedig.

For more information on MadREP’s I&E efforts, contact Enterprise Development Director Craig Kettleson at 608.571.0405.

July 20, 2016

High Iron Studios: Slingwitch


In a quiet basement on the upper north side, another developer is working late into the night. Veteran game developer and founder of High Iron Studios, Greg Shives, is four years into his solo journey of making the game Slingwitch. Wanting to do less managing and meetings, Greg left his director role in the video game industry in 2005 to pursue his own creative ideas, independent of the large studio environment.

"I wanted to test myself and see what I'd learned. To say I got what I was looking for is an understatement," says Greg, laughing. "I am responsible for everything now. Animation, art, modeling, game design, user interface, coding, marketing...all of it. If there is a hat to wear, I'm wearing it."

In the game Slingwitch, you play as ancient tribal shaman who faces off against one to three opponents, racing to select and channel powerful elemental magics and medicines in order to win your freedom. Touted as a player vs. player (PvP) delayed-phase spell-caster, the game's unique approach isolates gameplay to focus solely on spell selection and timing in order to test your ability to plan and execute strategic decisions under pressure.

At a time when most indie developers are focusing on mobile platforms, Slingwitch is being developed for the desktop. "The desktop is where I prefer to play games," says Greg. "It's a great space to develop for, but the expectations for visual fidelity and design result in a heftier workload than mobile." The game has garnered enough attention in the gaming community for it to gain digital distribution rights on the popular PC game portal Steam and will be available for purchase by the service's 125 million registered users. "The PC is home for competitive gamers. Specifically, competitive MOBA players who are looking for tight, team-based game play experiences, but with smaller player team sizes, which Slingwitch provides. The game is also designed to provide a faster, 3D alternative to popular digital TCGs such as Blizzard's Hearthstone."

It is an ambitious attempt even for a small team, let alone for a team of one, but with an open beta and release window (Q4 of this year) in sight, Greg sees light finally beginning to seep into the the tunnel. "When people ask me what making games independently is like I jokingly refer them to Ernest Shackleton's famous arctic expedition ad: "Help wanted for hazardous journey: Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success."

You can learn more about the game and follow along with Greg's development at slingwitch.com.



April 12, 2016

Inside Innovation: Madison Region to be Home to New Fab Lab


Image Source: Isthmus
The Fabrication Laboratory (Fab Lab) concept grew out of a project of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and has spread to many parts of the world including the Madison Region. Stoughton High School opened the doors to its Fab Lab in 2013, joining the 100+ worldwide locations in operation at the time, a number which has recently grown to over 400. The region will be gaining another, with the Waunakee School District's announcement last week that it is in the early stages of creating space for its very own Fab Lab, becoming the sixth Fab Lab in the state.

Image Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Designed to spur creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, a Fab Lab contains technology and equipment to bring ideas for products to life. Collaboration is also a key feature of these labs, with schools throughout the country and around the world communicating to share ideas. Such hands-on programs allow for cross-curricular learning in diverse fields such as art, business education, and engineering. With a reputation as the top metropolitan area in the U.S. for STEM graduates, it's no wonder the region is seeing growth in such innovative spaces.

In order to help equip public schools across the state to prepare students for the manufacturing jobs of the future, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is providing grants of up to $25,000 through the Fab Labs Grant Program to eligible Wisconsin public school districts for the creation or expansion of Fab Labs. The first grant year closed in January 2016 with a high volume of applicants. Look for award announcements, which will be made in the coming months!

If your community is considering a Fab Lab, or for assistance in pursuing a Fab Lab, contact MadREP Enterprise Development Director Craig Kettleson at 608.571.0405.

January 5, 2016

Madison Enterprise Center & Main Street Industries: Pioneers of Business Incubation

A Q&A with Sarah Hole
Facility Director, Madison Enterprise Center & Main Street Industries
Common Wealth Development


Q: How did Common Wealth Development decide to get into the business incubation game?

A: Common Wealth started in 1979 to address blight and preserve the vitality of the Williamson-Marquette neighborhood. Manufacturing companies that were the backbone of the economy had closed or left and there were many vacant buildings on Williamson Street. We recognized the importance of economic development in revitalizing and stabilizing the area. In 1987, we partnered with Madison Gas & Electric to open the Madison Enterprise Center (MEC). In 1997, Common Wealth renovated the former Greyhound Bus terminal garage into Main Street Industries (MSI), a second stage incubator. The MEC and MSI were pioneers in Wisconsin business incubation and helped lay the foundation for the re-development of the Capitol East District. Today the Williamson-Marquette neighborhood is thriving and we would like to think that Common Wealth played a significant role in helping to revitalize the community and the neighborhood. 

Q: Why two facilities (namely, the Madison Enterprise Center and Main Street Industries)?

A: The Madison Enterprise, established in 1987, is a partnership with Madison Gas & Electric. MG&E owns the former Gisholt Machine Tool Company building and Common Wealth operates the incubation program. The MEC is a mixed-use first stage incubator with an application process that requires a business plan and vetting by our Business Development Committee. MEC businesses must "graduate" after a stay of 3-5 years to make room for the next generation of start-ups. In 1996, we opened Main Street Industries in part to offer MEC graduates a second stage incubator space so they could remain in the neighborhood. MSI has the same application process as the MEC. Today MSI houses a mix of MEC graduates and start-ups. Year in and year out, MEC and MSI businesses create new jobs and contribute to the economic vitality of Madison and the region both while they are in the incubator and after they graduate.

Quince & Apple
Photo by Kent Sweitzer
Q: Can you describe how your tenant base or the regional market may have changed since you first started?

A: Both of our incubators are mixed used which has given us the flexibility to serve a wide-range of small businesses over the years. Originally our focus was serving light manufacturing companies, but as the market changed so has our tenant mix. Our goal is to continue to offer affordable production space as well as fair priced dedicated office spaces.  In recent years we have supported food production companies including: Potter’s Crackers, Quince & Apple, Underground Meats, Underground Catering, Old Sugar Distillery, Yumbutter and Mad Urban Bees. University of Wisconsin spin-off companies Virent Energy Systems, AquaMost and Ebullient Cooling have utilized their spaces for research and product development. In early 2015, we added six small office spaces at the MEC to better serve early stage start-ups.   

Q: Can you name some of the successful businesses launched by MEC and MSI?

A: MEC graduate businesses that include Virent Energy Systems, Applied Tech Solutions, LocknCharge and AquaMost have put down roots in Madison and continue to create well-paying new jobs. Filament Games, an educational games developer and MEC 2010 graduate, is a key player in Madison’s thriving video game cluster. This year they moved into the top floor of the renovated AT&T building downtown where they created an innovative workspace to house their growing company.

EVP Coffee, Full Spectrum Solar and Shopbop.com, three incubator graduates clustered within a block of the intersection of East Washington Avenue and Baldwin Street, played a key early role in the re-establishment of the Capitol East District as an employment center. EVP Coffee, a MEC 2002 graduate, opened its first coffee shop at 1250 East Washington and now operates five coffee shops in the greater Madison area. Full Spectrum Solar, a MEC 2010 graduate, purchased a former auto body shop at 1250 East Washington Avenue and renovated it into a super insulated energy efficient facility. In the summer of 2011, Shopbop.com, a Main Street Industries 2004 graduate, moved its operation and hundreds of employees into 200,000 square feet of space owned by the Mullins Group. 

Ebullient Cooling
Photo by Kent Sweitzer
Q: What’s coming for the region’s innovation ecosystem from the MEC/MSI perspective?

A: It is exciting to see the acceleration of redevelopment in the Capitol East District that will soon include the StartingBlock project.  As entrepreneurial programs and facilities proliferate, the Capitol East District will become a start-up hub that will benefit not only the immediate area but the region as a whole. However, affordable and available production space is becoming a rarer commodity in the Capitol East District which will offer opportunities for regional economic development entities to create additional incubation facilities. Creating a robust entrepreneurial pipeline across the region will best serve the coming generations of start-ups.