Bendyworks’ big idea: Cutting-edge tech firm says we need a downtown Madison web district
Excerpted from Isthmus
By Marc Eisen
Tech entrepreneurs Stephen Anderson and Brad Grzesiak hooked up the old-fashioned way — at a user-group meeting in 2008. Both were featured speakers at the Web 608 gathering. Anderson talked about “Ruby on Rails,” a web-application development framework of growing repute, while Grzesiak lectured on lunar mining.
Yup, Grzesiak was the proverbial rocket scientist. He was working for Orbitec, the west-side aeronautics firm that develops technology for space exploration. Grzesiak, who’s now 30, wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut. (NASA politely turned him down, despite his expertise in designing life support systems for space stations.)
That chance meeting gave rise to Bendyworks, a software and web development firm that opened for business in 2009 at Anderson’s kitchen table with a couple hundred dollars in start-up capital. Today, the company has 11 employees, occupies about 3,500 square feet on the second floor above Madison’s bar and restaurant on King Street, and bills about $1 million a year in business.
The company’s web specialties are the visualization of databases and complex scheduling applications for online calendars. Clients range widely, from the Murfie online music market to the UW Pain & Policy Study Group.
Here’s the upshot: Information technology companies like Bendyworks could be the stars of downtown Madison’s 21st-century economy.
“The tech community in Madison is exploding,” says Anderson. “So is Madison’s entrepreneurial community.”
He’s sitting at a table at the Bendyworks office with Grzesiak and their partner, Jim Remsik. All three are convinced the downtown is well situated to ride the wave. They argue that the isthmus has the urban setting, the indie culture, the face-to-face proximity, and the creative talent to prosper in the burgeoning IT world.
“We can compete with the second-tier cities like Portland and Austin,” Remsik, 35, says confidently. “They don’t have anything on Madison. The problem is that people don’t think of Madison and say, ‘Oh, Madison — yeah, that’s a cool start-up place.”
Grzesiak easily has the most ambitious idea of the three partners: Madison should create a formal web district stretching east from the Capitol and south of East Washington Avenue to Schenk’s Corners.