What’s ahead in 2020 for Madison’s startup community?

Local startup experts share what’s next.
Madison Capitol Building inside of a snowglobe in two hands

We caught up with some local startup experts to find out what’s ahead for 2020 in the startup community.

Tom Still
President, Wisconsin Technology Council

What are you most excited for in 2020? Legacy sectors are looking to startups for ideas as they seek to remain competitive. Investors from outside Wisconsin are paying attention, as documented through our Wisconsin Portfolio publication charting angel and venture investments each year. In 2018, nearly half of the 121 investments included at least one out-of-state investor. The support system for entrepreneurs is stronger than it has ever been, with excellent regional economic development groups, co-working spaces, accelerators and more.

What should Madison watch for in the startup space? There’s still a mismatch in Madison when it comes to investors and entrepreneurs. We have a lot of health-tech and biotech companies but a limited number of investors who have the bandwidth to invest what it takes to bring a young company to fruition. We have deep-pocket, insure-tech and fintech investors in town but not enough deals that truly excite them yet. I suspect Madison will continue to evolve into a more diverse tech town as young companies figure out where the best funding opportunities lie.

How can readers support Madison’s startup ecosystem? While a lot of the startup scene in the U.S. seems tied to investors with tons of cash and patience, there is also a “micro” approach to supporting young companies that need not involve buckets of money. People can “buy local” when there is a chance; think food entrepreneurs, clothing, art, professional services and more.

Joe Kirgues
Co-founder, gener8tor

What are you most excited for in 2020? The biggest change for gener8tor has been the launch of our accelerator studio with our Milwaukee 2019 cohort. We would love to bring the studio to Madison but don’t yet have a timeline. We wish continued success for gener8tor’s alumni startups, musicians and artists, and urge others to join gener8tor as a mentor to support the amazing entrepreneurship initiatives emerging throughout the community. We continue to be amazed at the growth of The Progress Center for Black Women, Doyenne and StartingBlock Madison as examples of this city’s next generation of entrepreneurial leadership.

Sabrina Madison
Founder, The Progress Center for Black Women

How will The Progress Center continue to support startups in 2020? We’re launching AMBITION accelerator, a leadership development curriculum I developed with the Dane County UW–Extension to help black women get workplace skills while partnering with employers to create environments where they can thrive. I’m hoping to partner with the city to develop Madison’s Black Business Week.

How can readers support entrepreneurship in Madison for 2020? Get out of your comfort zone and support entrepreneurial ventures that are unlike your own.

What’s next in the startup space? I think we’re going to see a rise in things that get people offline, especially wellness apps. Entrepreneurs are tired. It used to be “hustle harder.” Now we know we need to sleep, go to the gym and take social media breaks. I use a mindfulness app called Liberate geared toward people of color.

Jasmine Timmons
Madison director of operations, Doyenne

What are you most excited for in 2020? As the new director of operations for Madison — and Doyenne’s first employee — I’m looking forward to taking the reins and really mobilizing the community in a way that feels fresh while still resonating with the beloved, audacious brand. Doyenne is scaling up to become a national organization and hiring new senior-level positions. New member perks are on the way, including a program for members to upload classes and workshops as a way to capitalize on resources and generate capital within our ecosystem. Check out our member profiles with hundreds of businesses from a variety of industries, all led by extraordinary women and a sprinkle of men. Anyone can get involved and become part of the ecosystem.

Maggie Ginsberg is a monthly columnist and senior contributing writer to Madison Magazine.