Dec 12, 2014

StartingBlock project signs on American Family for support

Excerpted from Wisconsin State Journal
By Judy Newman

American Family Insurance has agreed to put its financial backing behind the StartingBlock Madison project slated for the 800 block of East Washington Ave.

Madison-based American Family is not saying publicly yet how much money it will commit toward the proposed central city base for entrepreneurs but project facilitator George Austin called it “major support.”

“We have a champion that believes that the objectives embodied by this entrepreneurial hub … are worthy of investment,” Austin said. “We’re able now to move to the next stage with a good sense that this project will be able to become a reality.”

Local entrepreneurs and mentors have been talking about creating StartingBlock for two years. It is intended to bring together many of the elements needed by those who want to start a business: the Sector67 maker space, gener8tor tech accelerator, Capital Entrepreneurs mentor group, as well as prototyping space and support services.

“American Family Insurance believes in the power of dreams, combined with the entrepreneurial spirit, commitment and collaboration needed to achieve those dreams,” Jack Salzwedel, president and CEO, said, in a written statement.

American Family and Madison Gas & Electric hosted a brunch Friday for about 75 people — potential contributors — “who may have an interest in the StartingBlock project,” Austin said.

He said the goal is to raise $1.5 million for construction, to match the city’s allocation, by July 1, 2015, and another $1.5 million for operating costs later.

“If we can do that, then the project is a reality,” said Terry Sivesind, president of StartingBlock’s board of directors.

If all goes well, construction will start in the second half of 2015 and the building will be ready in late 2016, Austin said.

Read the full article.