Tag: madison startup scene

Capital Entrepreneurs 2011 Review

In 2011, Capital Entrepreneurs companies created 121 full time jobs, 66 part time jobs, and raised $23.7 million in funding, all in a time when Wisconsin’s economy is struggling to grow.  CE now is made up of 150 entrepreneurs who now employ over 200 full time and 100 part time workers.  When I started CE in May 2009, I never thought our initial group of 10 entrepreneurs would ever grow to 150 members.

Since I first started traveling more in November 2010, Forrest Woolworth has taken over leadership of CE.  He’s done an outstanding job finding sponsors, adding entrepreneurs, standardizing the membership process and adding additional events like Build Madison and CE Pitch Days.  CE members have also been behind the Forward Technology Conference.  Besides for Forrest, credit should also go to Justin Beck, Chris Meyer, Scott Resnick and the rest of the original CE members for making our founders group what its turned into today.  I’m so proud to see Madison’s entrepreneurship ecosystem continue to grow and hope 2012 is even better than 2011!

From Forrest’s Capital Entrepreneurs 2011 Year End Review:

Capital Entrepreneurs companies are curing cancer, preventing suicides, and organizing community groups. They are making mobile apps and games used by millions, revolutionizing the digital music industry, making sense of social media, shaping some of the world’s largest brands, and much more. Capital Entrepreneurs companies participated in prestigious startup incubator programs including Y Combinator, TechStars, Startup Chile, and 94labs.

Over the last year, Capital Entrepreneurs companies were featured in news outlets around the globe. These included The New York Times, NPR, Mashable, TechCrunch, CNN, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, MTV, Sports Illustrated, AdAge, and more. Locally, Capital Entrepreneurs companies were the topic of two Isthmus cover stories, and were featured in the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison Magazine, and InBusiness.

Hey Entrepreneurs! You Need To Talk About Your Ideas!

When I was in Chile, most of the Chilean entrepreneurs were afraid to talk about their ideas.  They would say “I’m working on a project in technology” or “I have an Internet startup that I think can change the world.”  I’m seeing the same problem in Madison, especially with young or first time entrepreneurs.  It’s a huge problem in places that would like to become startup hotbeds.  People are afraid to talk about their startup ideas, mainly because they think people will steal their ideas.

In the Valley, NYC, Boulder, Austin and other startup hotbeds, everyone talks openly about their startups.  It’s how you test your ideas and get feedback.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten great from other entrepreneurs.  Or the times times someone has said “oh, that’s an awesome idea, you need to meet so and so” or “I’m a reporter for (insert publication), I’d love to cover your story.” or “I’m a programmer/biz dev/sales specialist and I’d love to work for you” or “you should partner with (insert company).”

I met the guys who acquired my first business, my first programmer, my attorney/mentor, my current business partner Jesse, got countless press interviews and tons of other connections just by talking to people.  Entrustet would be nowhere near what it is today if we refused to talk about it for our first year and a half until we were fully launched.

These connections and conversations ARE the ecosystem that people talk about.  If all of the startups in Silicon Valley suddenly stopped talking to each other, deal flow, partnerships and innovation would stop.  You need to make ideas run into each other for innovation to happen.  You need other smart people giving you feedback if you want to succeed.

So what are you scared of?  Do you think some other entrepreneur is going to steal your idea?  Do you think your idea is so special it can’t see the light of day?  I don’t remember which startup guru said it, but if your idea is 1 in a million, 3oo other people in the us are working on it.  For my Chilean readers, that means 16 other people in Chile are working on it!  Entrepreneurship is all execution, not the your idea.  As my friends at Planet Propaganda like to say, “I’d rather have a ham sandwich than just a good idea, you can at least eat the sandwich!”

If you think you wont be able to succeed because someone else knows a little bit about your idea, you probably shouldn’t be starting your business.  You need to out execute everyone.  You can’t be scared of someone copying your idea.  You need to get feedback and make connections.  The only way to do this is to talk to people!

Entrepreneurs who are already working on their own companies are the least likely people to steal your ideas and they are the most likely to give you actionable, valuable feedback that will help your business grow, or connect you with a partner or investor your need to grow your business.  The tiny risk that someone will steal your idea pales in comparison to the huge benefits you can get in feedback, advice, press and partnerships.   Entrepreneurs, for the most part, want to help other entrepreneurs.  They are smart and think like you.  What better way to challenge your thinking than to have another smart person think about your ideas with you?

It’s a problem in Chile, Madison, Milwaukee and other aspiring startup hubs.  The other week, I talked to a 20 year old UW student who wouldn’t tell me more than he was into “green technology.”  I can’t help you if you don’t tell me more!  Moral of the story: it pays to talk about your ideas!

Build Madison: Madison’s Create-a-thon

The first annual Build Madison community create-a-thon is being held this weekend at Sector67.  Build Madison is a 24-hour event open to anyone in Madison with ideas, skills and the desire to create something over a weekend.  Everyone gets together at Sector67 at 11am on Saturday to brainstorm ideas and form teams.  After the pitch session, teams have until 11am Sunday when teams present the projects they’ve created in the previous 24 hours.  Next, the top projects win prizes and every team receives information and resources on how to take their newly created product to market as quickly as possible.

Back in November, Capital Entrepreneurs members Steve Faulkner, Michael Fenchel, Dan Gordon and Heidi Allstop attended the Defrag Conference in Denver, Colorado scholarships as part of a Kaufman Foundation grant.  “We first conceived of the idea last fall while hearing about similar events at Defrag,” Faulkner tells me.  “We thought, the Madison community had so many talented and unique individuals, why not get them all together for a weekend and see what comes out?”

When they got back, Faulkner and Fenchel teamed up with Chris Meyer of Sector67 and Forrest Woolworth of PerbBlue.  Meyer volunteered his space to host the event and the community quickly lined up behind the event.  Companies including Google, Sony, Supranet, PerBlue, Murfie and organizations like Capital Entrepreneurs have thrown their support, resources and expertise to make Build Madison a reality.

“Build Madison is designed to foster collaboration between people with a variety of skill sets that may never otherwise work together, yielding innovation as well as strengthening ties in Madison’s professional community,” said Fenchel.

Build Madison is part of a larger entrepreneurial renaissance in Madison.  Along with August’s Forward Technology Festival, the Burrill Business Plan Competition, Capital Entrepreneurs, High Tech Happy Hour and Sector67, Madison’s entrepreneurial scene is beginning to boom.  “The entrepreneurial energy in Madison is on the rise,” said Forrest Woolworth.

With over 70 Madisonians planning to attend, I think Faulkner sums it up best, “I think the community has been waiting for something like this.”