Sep 25, 2015

Large tech accelerator considered for Madison

Excerpted from Wisconsin State Journal

By Judy Newman

Madison could soon be home to a major new project aimed at helping technology companies get started and grow … if a local serial entrepreneur has her way.

Liz Eversoll – whose company SOLOMO Technology won the $100,000 Rise of the Rest competition last October – wants to start a super-sized tech accelerator and co-working space patterned after Capital Factory, a similar program in Austin, Texas.

“We are in the planning stage to determine if we will bring Capital Factory to Madison,” Eversoll said. “We are evaluating the market, community support and entrepreneurial activity level to help make our decision.”

Eversoll envisions as many as 50 startups in the accelerator and 200 people sharing the co-working space. That’s much bigger than any of the current business booster programs in Madison.

The Madworks seed accelerator, started in summer 2014, offers 10 weeks of mentoring to eight to 10 young companies at a time. Gener8tor, in Madison and Milwaukee, started in 2012, works with five companies at a time, in 12-week sessions. This summer, gener8tor added a shorter program for very-early-stage companies.

Of the city’s co-working spaces, 100state is the largest: it claims more than 200 members, executive director Gregory St. Fort said.

While some of the other accelerators are open to a wide range of young businesses, Eversoll’s focus is on tech companies, from the early concept stage to as far along as raising their first outside funds from investors.

“Companies from all over would be welcome. We want this facility and accelerator to be a draw and a reason companies start or move to Madison,” she said.

Eversoll said she has her eye on a building on West Washington Avenue. She and Patrick Vogt, chairman of SOLOMO’s board, will be partners in the project.

One big difference from the other accelerator programs is that this one would have no end date; companies can stay until they outgrow the program or the space, she said.

Why affiliate with Austin’s Capital Factory? “We think Madison has so many synergies with Austin and needs additional resources and programs to help foster the ecosystem,” Eversoll said.

Capital Factory’s executive director Joshua Baer was recently in Madison, speaking at the Forward Festival. He is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

To give you an idea of the scope of the Austin program, here’s what its website touts: “Capital Factory’s mission is to be Austin’s center of gravity for entrepreneurs. Last year, 32,000 entrepreneurs, programmers and designers gathered day and night for meetups, classes and co-working.”

Saying the program is a place to hone skills, create a product, find a co-founder and connect with investors, Capital Factory urges people: “Quit your job and become an entrepreneur.”

Gener8tor co-founder Joe Kirgues is open to the idea of another tech accelerator in Madison. “We welcome any and all additional resources for Madison entrepreneurs and wish Liz well. We hope to collaborate with Capital Factory on opportunities to make Madison a more vibrant community for entrepreneurs,” he said.

Just the notion that the Austin program is considering a Madison outlet is a feather in the community’s cap, said Paul Jadin, president of the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP).

“The fact that Capital Factory leaders recognized Madison as a location with the density of entrepreneurial talent and companies to warrant such a space speaks volumes about our rise as a start-up community and the reputation we are building,” Jadin said.

He said the eight-county south-central Wisconsin region that MadREP represents plays host to other business accelerators as well, such as Madcelerator in Fitchburg and the Whitewater University Technology Park.

Jadin said MadREP “will do what we can to assist” with Eversoll’s effort.

Read the full article.