If you’ve ever thought about starting a company – especially if there’s technology involved – the next week or two should get those juices flowing.
All sorts of activities are on tap, primarily tied to the Forward Technology Festival, Aug. 15-25. Meanwhile, 16 budding entrepreneurs will get intensive training on how to run a business at VentureLab Wisconsin 2012 at University Research Park.
This is the third year for the Forward Technology Festival, and it is so jam-packed that it has expanded from 10 days to 11. “That’s the whole point of this fest – to stack things up,” said Madison serial entrepreneur Matt Younkle, a festival co-founder. “There’s something there for everybody.”
About 2,000 to 3,000 people are expected to attend one or more of the events, Younkle said.
Events include a biotech best practices discussion; a symposium on social entrepreneurship; a women entrepreneurship networking breakfast; and a chance to make a pitch to the Capital Entrepreneurs group. One event, BarCamp, is a non-conference, he said. “All you have to do is be passionate about some topic and you can (make a presentation),” Younkle said.
One of the highlights of the festival is the Forward Technology Conference, Aug. 22, at UW Memorial Union, with sessions on nuts-and-bolts subjects such as raising capital, attracting customers and tech accelerator programs.
Younkle, inventor of the TurboTap beer dispensing device and founder of music archiving startup Murfie.com, will be one of the successful entrepreneurs telling his story. He said people approach him often, saying they have a good idea for a company but don’t know how to get started. “There’s a ton of that energy in and around Madison; there’s no question about it,” he said.
The movie, The Social Network, about Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, may have fueled those feelings, Younkle said. "It made being an entrepreneur sexy ... and that's great," he said.
The Forward Technology Festival also will tie into launch day for gener8tor, a startup accelerator program in Milwaukee. Five companies have been participating in gener8tor’s first 12-week class, including three from Madison. Their identities will be revealed on Aug. 23.
Festival co-founder Bryan Chan, president of SupraNet Communications, said last year’s events attracted people from as far as Chicago and Minneapolis. “That was a pleasant surprise for us,” he said. “We made a lot of good connections and got a lot of great feedback from the participants.”
The High-Tech Happy Hour drew about 500 people; that probably was the best-attended event, Chan said.
Meanwhile, VentureLab will be in session Monday through Friday with “very early stage” companies, said Eric Englund, co-director of the UW Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic. About half of the 16 startups chosen for the program are from Madison; the others are from Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, New York and Oklahoma.
The idea, Englund said, is to help the companies define their direction “to vault forward toward commercialization.” It is the first time such an accelerator program has been held through the UW-Madison, he said, and officials will be watching to see “if it’s something we can incorporate.”
The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance will conduct the program.