Madison, Wisconsin has always been known as a progressive town - in part because it's home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But over the last few years, the city has gained a reputation as an emerging technology startup hub in the Midwest.
Like many cities that foster thriving startup communities, Madison benefits from strong university and government support (the latter in the form of a 25% tax credit for angel investors and a 2% forgivable loan for startups), as well as a number of entrepreneur-friendly events organizations.
Local Programs to Develop Entrepreneurship
Since early 2009, Capital Entrepreneurs has held a monthly meet-up for entrepreneurs. With over 60 member companies, the group has helped bring the Madison entrepreneur community together. The group also has its own Capital Entrepreneurs Angel List, based off of a similar program out of Venture Hacks.
Based off a successful program at MIT, Merlin Mentors pairs new startups with successful business people in the community, who act as mentors and as an informal board of advisors. Merlin (short for Madison Entrepreneur Resource, Learning and Innovation Network) Mentors was developed with the support of various programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In the Fall of 2009, the university received a Kaufman grant to foster entrepreneurship on campus. And between the Burrill Business Plan competition, the Entrepreneurial Residential Learning Community - a dormitory that is geared towards those interested in entrepreneurship, and a Student Business Incubator, there are a number of programs on campus that help develop the startup community.
This summer was the first year for the Forward Tech Festival/Conference which hopes to become a mini SXSW for the Midwest region.
Notable startups from Madison include the social media and gaming company PerBlue, social media listening tool Networked Insights, student peer-to-peer support site Student Spill, and Entrustet, which allows people to delegate what will happen to their digital assets when they pass away (and whose co-founder Nate Lustig I'd like to thank for spurring me to write about Madison and for providing much of the research for this article).