Jun 30, 2012

Tech and Biotech: Program boosts two local tech companies

Excerpted from Wisconsin State Journal
By Judy Newman

Two young Madison tech companies, Murfie and Vidmaker, got a big boost this spring when they were accepted into TechStars — and one came back with a virtual pocketful of cash.

TechStars is a prestigious, three-month accelerator program. It started in Boulder, Colo., in 2006 and now holds annual sessions in Cambridge, Mass.; New York City; Seattle; and San Antonio. Thousands of companies apply; only about 10 per session are chosen.

Vidmaker lets people in different places make a video together online. The company started last June with no funding, co-founder Dale Emmons said.

“I cashed out my 401(k) and lived on that for a while,” said Emmons, 29, who quit a job with Sony Creative Software to chase his dream.

Just weeks after returning from TechStars in San Antonio, Vidmaker has landed $550,000 from investors, including Graham Weston, co-founder of Rackspace Hosting, a publicly traded San Antonio information technology hosting company with $1 billion in annual sales.

Emmons said TechStars offered “an enormous pool” of successful tech entrepreneurs as mentors. “We went from a couple of guys with an idea and some ability to build a product into knowing how to go out and get funding, how to ask for help when we need it, and now, access to a gigantic network,” said Emmons, who grew up in Bangor, near La Crosse, and left UW-Madison two courses short of a computer science degree.

Vidmaker hopes to launch a prototype version later this year. The company, at 612 W. Main St., has four employees — including Emmons and co-founders Ryan Bolyard and Yuri Zapuchlak — and plans to hire one more.

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