Startup Communities Guru Brad Feld To Kick Off Early Stage Symposium In Madison

Brad Feld, Startup Communities, Everywhere Else, Madison eventThe Wisconsin Technology council has booked Startup Communities Author/Guru, Foundry Founder, and Techstars Co-Founder Brad Feld to kick off their “early stage symposium” event on November 5th in Madison. Feld will be speaking to the group of entrepreneurs and innovators via telepresence at 8:30am the morning of Tuesday November 5th.

As an added bonus all of the attendees to the early morning kick off lecture will also receive a copy of Feld’s book Startup Communities, which serves as the unofficial bible to building and strengthening your startup community/ecosystem.

Feld has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he helped start Mobius Venture Capital and previously co-founded Intensity Ventures. Feld’s role in TechStars began in Boulder and has since spread to six other locations while helping to spark the growth of tech business accelerators nationally.

In addition to his investing efforts, Feld has been active with several non-profit organizations and is chair of the National Center for Women & Information Technology, co-chair of Startup Colorado, and on the board of UP Global. Feld writes the widely read blogs Feld Thoughts, Startup Revolution, and Ask the VC.

“We’re excited to have Brad Feld address this year’s symposium and to help set the tone for a continued conversation about Wisconsin’s evolving startup scene,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which produces the two-day conference.

The rest of the event will feature:

• Presentations by more than 20 companies selected for the Wisconsin Angel Network investors’ track. Investors from across Wisconsin and beyond will attend.

• The annual Elevator Pitch Olympics, which provide 90-second presentation opportunities for 15 or more additional companies. A panel of investors will judge the contest.

• More than a dozen panel discussions or plenary sessions featuring leading entrepreneurs, investors and others tied to the tech sector.

• “Office hours,” offering the opportunity to meet with subject experts on a variety of topics in small discussion groups or one-on-one.

• SBIR/STTR awards luncheon to recognize grant recipients from the past year.

• The annual “First Look” forum featuring selected campus-based technologies.

• Exhibit hall showcasing more than 40 Wisconsin companies.

• A first-night reception, two luncheons, two breakfasts and other networking opportunities, including an investors-only dinner.

More info on the event can be found here.

More on Brad Feld can be found here.


It’s Day One For These 5 Startups From Gener8tor’s Summer Session

Gener8tor, accelerator, startup accelerator, Wisconsin startupsWisconsin’s dual city accelerator, Gener8tor, is one of the most successful startup accelerators in the midwest. Just last week we reported that two graduates from the Winter 2013 session held in Madison Wisconsin raised $610,000 in seed rounds.

WeMontage, a company that has new ways for users to have their mobile phone pics printed as wallpaper, and Quietyme, a company that monitors the environmental conditions in normally quiet places like hospitals, hotels and nursing homes, raised $310,000 and $300,000 respectively.

A third startup, Abodo, also raised $325,000, they too were a member of that winter class at Gener8tor. Not bad for a general tech accelerator that typically runs cohorts of 5.

Today is Launch Day for the summer cohort at Gener8tor. The Gener8tor founders alternate between Madison and Milwaukee. The summer 2013 cohort was based in Milwaukee.

While many accelerators call the day at the end of the session demo day, or investor day, and we call it graduation, Troy Vosseller, one of the Gener8tor cofounders tells us that they call it launch day. With the teams working all session long and building their companies, demo day doesn’t signify an ending but more importantly a beginning.

Gener8tor’s summer session yielded five great startups:


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You can find out more about Gener8tor here at


2 Gener8tor Startups Raise Over $600,000 In Seed Funding

WeMontage, Quietyme, Gener8tor, Wisconsin, Startup Accelerator, Accelerator, FundingWisconsin’s duel city accelerator, Gener8tor, is producing startups in both Madison and Milwaukee Wisconsin. Two of their Winter 2013 graduates (Madison program), WeMontage has just closed out a $310,000 seed round. Quietyme has raised a $300,000 seed round.

The Greater Milwaukee Business Journal reports that the startup that allows users to turn their mobile pics into actual wallpaper, received their funding from Angels On The Water LLC, Gener8tor and an “undisclosed”  Wisconsin based angel investment fund as well as several private investors.

While turning your mobile pics into decals, stickers, wallpaper and other forms of art is nothing new, WeMontage has found a way to does it in a way that’s better for the wall and looks better overall. Unlike their competition, WeMontage uses  “premium high-tac adhesive, fabric-based wall covering, which adheres to textured walls, while not damaging the wall or paint,” the company told the Business Journal.

We are excited to have closed our seed capital round and are working hard to build a premium brand for WeMontage and acquire new customers,” said James Oliver, Jr., founder and CEO. “Since closing the seed round, we’ve been able to hire an outstanding software developer, Chris Schmitz, from Green Bay, as technical co-founder.”

Quietyme has developed a technology that allows hospitals, hotels, nursing homes and property owners to monitor the quality of indoor environments like noise, temperature, humidity and water leaks, the Business Journal reported on Wednesday.

In addition to Gener*tor and Angels On The Water LLC, American Family Insurance, KSFI Partners LLC and a private investor participated in this round. The startup previously received $20,000 in seed capital from Gener8tor at the on-set of the program.

“Hospitals and hotels now have an unprecedented tool that can put a spotlight on when and where customer sleep experiences are in jeopardy,” said CEO John Bialk in a press release. “Just imagine how special you feel when a front desk manager or nurse recognizes that your sleep may have been disrupted. By being proactive about disruptions, businesses can demonstrate their sincere commitment to a high-quality customer experience.”

Find out more about Gener8tor here.



Madison Entrepreneurs & Civic Leaders Team Up To Create Starting Block

Starting Block, Madison startups, Startup, gener8tor,

Madison, Wisconsin has a budding entrepreneurial and startup community. Last year, on our sneaker-strapped startup road trip, we had an impromptu trip to Madison, and they assembled about 40 startup founders in less than 3 hours to meet with us. The following day we toured their startup ecosystem, and we were quite impressed.

While the startup ecosystem in Madison continued to grow, they lacked an epicenter like Chicago’s 1871 or DC’s 1776.

Well, a few weeks ago, Madison Alderman, entrepreneur, and founder Scott Resnick told us they were working on something big and now that has become a reality.

A group of Madison entrepreneurs and civic leaders announce the formation of StartingBlock Madison and the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the property owner to explore development of the Kleuter Building (former Mautz Paint building) into an entrepreneur center. StartingBlock Madison has solicited requests for proposal for development from leading development companies and anticipates selecting a development partner later this summer.

gener8torsmallStartingBlock Madison’s goal is to create a centralized location for the Madison region’s entrepreneurial activities.  The facility will provide Madison-based startups with affordable, flexible office and co-work space, accelerator support, peer and mentoring resources, education and training, and community building activities.

StartingBlock Madison’s facility will provide:
• a permanent home for Sector67, Madison’s successful makerspace/prototyping center for next-generation manufacturing technologies
• a location for gener8tor, a startup accelerator that provides expertise, mentorship, and capital through a 12-week intensive curriculum
• subsidized office space with short-term leases and flexibility for young startups
• quality at-market office space for high growth companies
• a healthcare IT incubator to support the growing number of healthcare IT startups
• space for other entrepreneurial resources, such as funders, investors, law firms, and other professional service providers
• community and auditorium space for Capital Entrepreneurs and other entrepreneurial activities and events.

“gener8tor is thrilled about the possibility of harnessing the cumulative brainpower, innovation, and array of resources from across the Madison entrepreneurial ecosystem into one unified, community hub. We anticipate the synergies and random connections that will be created by StartingBlock will lead to exponential benefits for Madison and the surrounding region,” gener8tor co-founder Troy Vosseller told Nibletz via email.

Resnick says that they hope to open the doors on the new Starting Block next fall.


Wisconsin Governor Signs Investment Capital Bill For Startups

Gov Scott Walker, Wisconsin startups, startup fundingWisconsin startups just had another victory on Thursday as Governor Scott Walker signed an investment capital bill.

The bill, which drew bipartisan support in the state legislature, provides $25 million dollars to startup companies in Wisconsin.  Unlike other states, though, this bill was specifically for tech startups vs biotechnology and life sciences. In most states it’s harder for general tech companies to draw this kind of support from the government.

In the case of the Wisconsin bill, startups in agricultural technology, information technology, engineered products, advanced manufacturing, medical devices, and imaging are all eligible for the new funding.

While biotechnology and life sciences companies can create jobs over a much longer period of time, Wisconsin is looking for companies that can create jobs quicker.

“The $25 million allocated for this program in the state budget will help grow private sector jobs by investing in start-up companies,” Walker said in a statement. “One hundred percent of the funds from this program will go to Wisconsin-based businesses, and there are a number of measures in place to ensure accountability and transparency for the hard-working taxpayers.” reports that the $25 million dollars in tax payer money will be matched with $50 million in private donations.

“I hope that once success is shown, it will lead to additional measures to increase the amount of capital for new businesses and more Wisconsin jobs,” Walker said in a statement.


Milwaukee’s Gener8tor Accelerator Kicks Off Summer Session With These 5 Startups

Gener8tor, Wisconsin accelerator, Milwaukee accelerator, startup acceleratorWisconsin based startup accelerator Gener8tor, is holding it’s summer session at their Milwaukee location this year. To date, the accelerator that operates out of both Madison and Milwaukee, has graduated 13 startup companies that have raised $5 million dollars in venture capital and created over 70 jobs. They hope to add to that impressive group with this year’s summer session.

Gener8tor co-founder Troy Vosseller and Joe Kirgues take a more hands on approach with their startups and keep the class size small. This seems to have paid off so far in terms of follow on funding and job creation. Of the 13 startup “graduates” so far, only one has been from outside of Wisconsin. That startup, MobileIgniter, relocated from Colorado.

This year’s summer session includes startups from Chicago, Austin Texas and Minneapolis. The other two startups are from Wisconsin, one from Madison, the other from Milwaukee.

This session begins today and runs through August 29th when the startups will participate in what Gener8tor co-founders call “Launch Day” (a much better name than Investor Day or Demo Day). Both Vosseller and Kirgues know that a startup really begins at the end of the program.

“The Summer 2013 Program consists of some of the most innovative startups from around the country,” Troy Vosseller, co-founder of gener8tor, said in a news release. “We’re really looking forward to helping these companies grow and achieve their full potential.”

Here are the five startups selected for Gener8tor’s third cohort.

Catalyze.IO Catalyze.IO offers cloud-delivered backend infrastructure for health and wellness applications to make it easier, cheaper and faster for developers to create solutions for healthcare. (Milwaukee, WI)

DeckPresenter DeckPresenter is a web presentation tool built for businesses designed to host, manage and track PowerPoint decks. (Austin, TX)

Docalytics  Docalytics builds online tools to help marketers get more from their content marketing activities. The Docalytics platform gives marketers a more efficient way to generate and qualify new leads, while gathering actionable information about how their prospective customers interact with their documents. (Minneapolis, MN)

OpenHomes: OpenHomes is a safe, affordable, modern way to buy or sell a home. OpenHomes uses technology to connect homebuyers and sellers as well as helping real estate agents serve their clients better and more efficiently. (Madison, WI)

Optyn  Optyn optimizes the marketing relationships between businesses and consumers. For consumers, Optyn is the first ever “marketing inbox” that lets consumers easily control their connections with businesses and automatically organizes their marketing emails. For businesses, Optyn increases conversions and revenue by acquiring and engaging customers through a simple, quick and inexpensive “opt-in” process. (Chicago, IL)

Check out the pitches from Memphis startup accelerator, Seed Hatchery’s recent investor day.


Startup Weekend Madison: Holsinger Keynote Salutes “Dumb” Ideas That Lead to Unexpected Experiences


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Interview With Sheboygan Brand Engagement Startup: Yappem [SXSW]

Yappem,sxsw,sxswi,techstars,startup,startup pitch videoYappem is a social platform that allows users to engage with the brands they love and get rewarded for it. Sure there are other social networks that have brand sections. Facebook  and Twitter both have heavy brand presence but they weren’t designed to talk about brands they were designed to talk about you. That’s the fundamental problem that Yappem has set out to solve.

Founded by Dave Sachse and Justin Webb, Yappem has already raised $2.5 million dollars in seed funding from private investors. They’ve also inked a partnership with McDonald’s to help with the relaunch of the Big Mac.

The startup just came out of beta and is using SXSW to launch their exciting new startup. While startup communities are growing extremely fast in cities like Madison Wisconsin and Milwaukee Wisconsin, Yappem was quick to point out that they were the startup scene in Sheboygan, but both founders are hopeful that their success will encourage others.

Yappem was a sponsor for TechCocktail’s SXSW celebration, TechCocktail’s SXSW video series, Mashable’s Mash Bash, and their own free events at SXSW. They were also giving Yappem coins away that can be used for $5.00 gift cards. They are giving away $150,000 worth of gift cards for the launch. They are also giving away gift cards redeemable for a free Big Mac.

Check out our video with Sachse and Webb below. For more info on Yappem visit 

We’ve got you covered for startup news at SXSW 2013, find more here

We’re sneaker strapping it in Austin and could use your help here

Milwaukee Startup Creates A Stock Photography Market For The Social Photog

VZIBL, Milwaukee startup,startup interviewTechnology has made it so that every person with a cell phone is now a “photographer”. Of course there’s also those those tens of thousands of wanna be photographers who flock to Best Buy to get the latest DSLR from Nikon or Canon and never use more than “automatic mode”. While the people who actually know what they’re doing have sites like photorankr that serve as market places for those photos, what about grandma Lilly’s photos of the tomato garden?

Rest assured that if you’re taking tomato garden photos or pictures of your best friend doing jello shots, there is a market place for those “social photographers”. That place, is VZIBL.

The Milwaukee startup’s founder Alexander Marasco, picked the name VZIBL as a sort of slang for “visible”. “The idea of the company was to bring self awareness to your photographic content or become visible. VZIBL is just the ‘visual you for sale’.” he told us in an interview.

While sites like iStock are popular with folks sourcing photos from professional, semi-pro and even amateur photographers, VZIBL is the place for “social stock”. “photographic content created by socially engaged photographers focusing on new digital tools and social networking technology. Instagram, GoPro, iPhoneography, Nikon D90…whatever your camera vice!” Marasco said.

Once a social photographer sets up an account and starts sharing photos using VZIBL it’s up to him or her on whether or not they want to make money with their pictures. A photographers “social stock” can be accessible either royalty free, rights managed or exclusive rights, depending on both the photographer and the content.

Marasco is quick to point out what VZIBL gets out of the deal. Using the VZIBL app automatically assumes a 70/30 split in a sliding licensing agreement between the photographer and the platform. Naturally if you’re going royalty free there’s no split but a 30% revenue share isn’t too far off the industry norm.

VIZIBL has gone through a pivot or two along the way. At first Marasco wanted to do create a photo thread app where people could communicate through photographs. What he found in talking to people about that idea, was that no market place really existed for this layer of photographers that’s cropped up. There are probably more photographers in the “social photographer” category than any other.

While Marasco is getting ready to move east to Brooklyn New York, VZIBL was created in Milwaukee which like it’s counterpart Madison, has a bit of a startup scene starting to form.

“Milwaukee is definitely creating some great ‘Hackers’ and with new incubators and Think Tanks now available, it seems to be consolidating minds and is launching some really interesting concepts to market.” Marasco told us about his city known for it’s beer.

The secret sauce in VIZIBL is creating photo-celebs according to Marasco ” Publishing content has never been so easy…why not possess the ability to create future earnings from your original photography. We like to see ourselves as a visual ringtone. We want to make Photo-Celebs out of our users!”

 Find out more about VIZIBL by following them on Twitter!


$9 Million Raised By Wisconsin Startup Study Blue For Digital BackPack

StudyBlue, Wisconsin startup, funding news, startup newsMadison Wisconsin startup Study Blue has raised $9 million dollars for their digital backpack company. Study Blue helps students store and organize their class study materials and turns them into digital flash cards and quizzes. The platform also allows the study materials to be compared with other students that are taking the same subjects.

Study Blue is cross platform which allows students to pick up where they left off whether they’ve moved from a laptop or desktop to an tablet or smartphone.

The $9 million dollar Series A-1 funding round was led by Great Oaks Venture Capital, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation also participated as well as existing investors.  This new funding will allow them to continue building on their existing user base which is already 2.5 million users strong. Those users have created and shared 100 million study materials across the web and their mobile apps.

“We are experiencing rapid growth. This financing allows us to further expand our community and platform to help students master their course material faster, said Becky Splitt, StudyBlue’s CEO. “Our online, mobile and social tools connect students to a comprehensive crowd-sourced library of content on nearly any subject, and to each other, in a highly relevant way.

“We are really excited to be a part of the StudyBlue movement,” said Andy Boszhardt, Partner, Great Oaks Venture Capital. “The entire edtech industry is seeing tremendous growth and StudyBlue has particularly impressive traction in the space with over 2.5 million registered users who use its platform across a myriad of devices. They are in a perfect position to expand the audience of students they serve and we’re really pleased to be a part of that.”

“We see Great Oaks as a perfect complement to our efforts” said StudyBlue Founder Chris Klundt.  “Their breadth of experience across consumer, mobile and online businesses as well as a commitment to the edtech industry makes this a great partnership.”

You’ll be able to check out some great EdTech startups at the largest startup conference in the U.S. The Startup Conference!


Wisconsin Startup Bad Donkey Creates A New Hybrid Text Language

baddonkey,ETC,Madison Startup,startup,startups,startup interviewBad Donkey, a startup in Madison Wisconsin with a really funky name, has created a new hybrid cyber language of sorts. “Enriched Text Content” or ETC for short combines personal digital imagery with traditional alpha numeric text to create a new and fun way of sending text messages. To break it down for you, this new “Enriched Text Content”, mixes letters with emoticons and images for a fun new way to text.

Interesting is probably the first word that comes to mind when diving into Bad Donkey’s ETC cyber language. The product seems like it would appeal to the youngest set of texters. Older more affluent texters are constantly looking for the fastest and easiest way to send text messages. However, the combination of pictures, images and text may make it easier to get a point across than traditional texting.

Alongside their “ETC” cyber language, Bad Donkey has created an app and closed social network that supports the technology. BuzzMsg is a messaging platform that takes advantage of the hybrid language. The messages within BuzzMsg are called BuzzMarks and are organized in easy to read and understand lifestyle folders.

We got a chance to talk to Bad Donkey’s head jack ass Bill Towell about his new startup and cyber language. Check out the interview below.

Read More…

Madison Wisconsin Startup: SnowShoe Validates Actual Check Ins INTERVIEW

Screen Shot 2012-08-27 at 11.04.03 PM

The headline for this story about Madison Wisconsin startup SnowShoe was actually rather difficult. In some ways we wanted to say that SnowShoe brings Foursquare to real life. In essence Foursquare is already in real life and takes people to different spots for check-ins. The next idea was to say that SnowShoe brigns Foursquare off-line, again Foursquare kind of does that, but SnowShoe does it with actual offline objects.

We first met Claus Moberg founder of  SnowShoe when the sneaker-strapped nationwide startup roadtrip cruised through Madison Wisconsin. The team explained that with SnowShoe your phone actually interacts with an aluminum object at the check in establishment, to check-in and receive loyalty points and rewards.

There is definitely value in this “extra step”. When you’re actually forced to check in using, what SnowShoe calls the “SnowShoe Stamp” or if you have to scan a QR code, you get engaged with the establishment and you can’t do the infamous drive-by checkin.  I actually live near a place that has a free breakfast special with 3 check-ins. I live close enough that I can check-in there everyday without actually going, and then on the third day, voila breakfast is free. Some people call it ripping off, others call it gaming the system.

With SnowShoe though, that drive by check-in or checking in while walking by just for the glory or the special is cut out of the equation.

The SnowShoe stamp is literally a block of aluminum with no circuitry, batteries or power of any kind. It does however, have five uniquely arranged capacitive touch points which authenticate the transaction on your smartphone. It’s actually more reliable and better than a traditional QR code on a piece of paper.

Innovative huh?

We got a chance to talk with Moberg more in depth in the interview below:

Read More…

Madison Startup Entrepreneurs Wow’d By St. Louis Venture Draft Event

You may not think about it every Sunday, Monday night and Thursday night that you’re watching your favorite NFL football team but an alarming number of pro athletes actually go bankrupt after their professional careers end. In talking with a few celebrities who have almost gone down that route, it’s not even ignorance that some may think. It’s not living beyond your means as a national celebrity, sometimes pro athletes and celebrities really get too busy to manage their money. They also get too busy to think about what happens afterwards.

We’ve all heard the sad stories too, of people like Fantasia Barrino and other stars who have turned their finances over to someone less than qualified to handle such large amounts of money. Celebrities and pro athletes assume that everyone has their best interest at heart.

Well former NFL star and entrepreneur Brandon Williams does. Williams, through his Brandon Williams Economic Development Corporation is trying to connect athletes and celebrities with entrepreneurism. He’s not talking about the kind where a celebrity quickly endorses a product and moves on. Williams is trying to connect entrepreneurs, startups, sports stars and celebrities in a new kind of ecosystem so that entrepreneurs can benefit from investment and athletes and celebrities have a plan for when their careers slow.

One of Williams initiatives is Venture Draft, a startup and entrepreneur event, pitch contest and showcase that happened in St. Louis this past weekend.

ABC Shark Tank Shark, Founder of Fubu and partner in Shark Branding, Daymond John, was one of the top level keynote speakers at the event.  We didn’t raise enough money in our last crowdfunding leg to attend ourselves, but our good friend Scott Resnick in Madison WI led a group of 6 from Madison to St. Louis for the event.

Resnick was “Wowed” by the event and wrote a great entry on his blog where he said:

The first annual Venture Draft Conference was held in St Louis this weekend. The mission of the conference was to bring professional athletes, venture capitalists and technology experts face-to-face to create business opportunities (aka allow entrepreneurs to mingle with and teach current and former NFL players about technology). A tip of the hat to the Brandon Williams Economic Development Corporation: the Venture Draft was a success.

Rarely do I experience a “wow” moment at a tech conference. However, this one was different. Maybe it was the personality of the highlighted speakers (who attended every event) or the charm of St Louis, but there was something special about Venture Draft.

My “wow” moment came right after I had the opportunity to bounce business expansion ideas off keynote speaker Henry Wong of Garage Technology Ventures at a local cigar bar. As I was walking out of the bar to a sponsored after party, Jim Sorgi struck up a conversation about his future with the Colts and time on Gilman Street. Wow, this conference was pretty cool.

Continue here to the Hardin Design & Development Blog for the rest!

Wisconsin Elected Official: Romney/Ryan Bad For Startups

Just hours ago Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney announced that seven time Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan would be his Vice Presidential running mate in 2012. While we stay out of politics for the most part here at, this presidential election is important to startups, founders and entrepreneurs.

Of course we are all familiar with big government bailouts that some may not necessarily agree with. However, we are also well aware of the work that the current administration has done in terms of advancing startups and entrepreneurism across the country. Most notable were the formation of the Startup America Partnership and the passing of the JOBS act.

Congressman Paul Ryan is in his seventh term as the US Representative for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. Ryan is the chairman of the House Budget committee and is often cited for his views on economic policy.

We reached out to Madison WI Alderman, Scott Resnick who is also very active in the startup and entrepreneurial community across the state of Wisconsin, for his comment on the Ryan appointment.  Resnick told”

“The Paul Ryan budget is highlighted by de-funding higher education, decreasing government grants for cutting-edge research, and increasing student loan rates. The Romney/Ryan ticket will weaken the talent pool of high quality engineers and put the US further behind other nations in adopting innovation technologies.”

We will stand alongside the bi-partisan Startup America Partnership and Startup RockOn at both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention in support of Startups as a whole.

But in going to the polls this year it’s important to see where entrepreneur and startups will be effected most.

To opine for just a moment:

Many of the entrepreneurs and founders we talk to (and we talk with hundreds per week), were almost forced into entrepreneurship as the country tries to recover from the economic crisis that was left after the previous administration. Some of these entrepreneurs have faired very well, some have been able to create stable businesses. None of them just sat around waiting for a government check.To make things harder for startups and entrepreneurs when it’s already hard enough to get a “job” would be mind boggling.

To this issue only it should be pretty clear where I will vote.


Check out our interview with Scott Resnick on Open Data