Forward Technology Festival Capital Entrepreneurs Open Social

The Capital Entrepreneurs Open Social will be this Wednesday August 24th from 7-9pm at Brocach.  Our open social is part of the Forward Technology Festival, a 10 day series of events highlighting technology and entrepreneurship in Madison.  The event is free and is one of the best ways to meet and network with some of Madison’s entrepreneurs.  If you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve wanted to join, but haven’t made it our or someone in the community interested in entrepreneurship, come out to the CE open social for some beers, snacks and networking.

Registration is required, just send us an email with your name and what you do to let us know you’re coming so we can make sure we have enough space for everyone.

2nd Annual Forward Technology Conference is August 26th

Note: This post originally appeared on Nathan Lustig’s Staying out of the Cubicle and is being reposted here.

I’m excited to be working with Matt Younkle and Bryan Chan again this year to help put on Forward Technology Festival for the second year in a row.  Last year was a huge success, and I’m really excited for this years version, which runs from August 18th-27th.  The Forward Technology Festival is a ten day long series of events that showcases Madison’s entrepreneurship and creative community.  It starts with the 10th anniversary of High Tech Happy Hour and includes Madison Ruby Conference, Barcamp, a Capital Entrepreneurs meeting, an open networking event at Sector67, business pitches from Spreenkler Talent Labs seed accelerator participants and is headlined by the 2nd annual Forward Technology Conference (register here).

I’m most excited for the Forward Technology Conference, which is slated for August 26th at the Memorial Union.  Last year’s inaugural conference had more than 125 attendees and Fred Foster’s keynote was the highlight of the festival and I can’t wait for the 2011 version.  We’ll kick off the day with breakfast at 9am, followed by Madison Failcon, a session dedicated to lessons that founders learned when their businesses did not actually succeed.  I love this session, especially since I see the fear of failure as one of the biggest obstacles to Madison’s success as an entrepreneurial center.

Next, three successful Madison entrepreneurs will share their experiences starting and running a startup in Madison.  Justin Beck will talk about how he started and grew PerBlue and the lessons he learned doing it.  Greg Tracy of Asthmapolis will share his story as well.  I love hearing founders tell their stories, so it should be a great session.  After a lunch break, five up and coming Madison startups will share what they’ve been up to and ask the community for feedback and ideas on how to improve their business.  Last year’s pitch your biz participant Heidi Allstop of Student Spill ended up in Techstars and has since been featured in hundreds of publications, so this is your chance to hear about up and coming businesses before they make it big.

In the afternoon, Silicon Valley expert Brant Cooper will talk about customer development and the lean startup method and how startups can use it get started more quickly, while spending less money.  The customer development method is one of the hottest topics in the startup world right now and Madison hasn’t seen any of the top experts until now, so Cooper’s session is a can’t miss.

Laurie Benson will give our FTC 2011 keynote address, during which she’ll tell her story about how she started technology services business Inacom and grew it to one of the largest companies in her industry, leading to its acquisition.  Laurie has been extremely active in mentoring young founders and served on my MERLIN Mentor team with Entrustet (she’s awesome!).  She’s got a great story and I can’t wait to hear here tell it at the conference.  After the keynote, we’ll have a reception above the Union Terrace with snacks and drinks.

I’m really looking forward to the entire week of events and it’s been great to see Madison’s tech community come together to make the Festival a success.  If you’d like more information on any of the events, visit the Forward Technology Festival website or the Forward Technology Conference registration page.  While most of the events are free, the conference costs $50, but we have 50% off discounted tickets available until August 1st. These events really showcase Madison as an up and coming technology and innovation center in the Midwest and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Spinback Acquired by Buddy Media

Spinback, founded by Capital Entrepreneurs alumni Corey Capasso and Andrew Ferenci, along with fellow Badger Dan Reich, was acquired today by Buddy Media for an undisclosed amount of money.  Capasso and Ferenci were two of the original founders of Capital Entrepreneurs and moved to New York to ply their trade after graduating from the University of Wisconsin.  They founded Spinback a little over a year ago and quickly found success.

It’s great to see Wisconsin entrepreneurs finding success both inside and outside of Wisconsin and even better to see some of the original CE members finding success!

This is Capasso’s second successful exit.  Previously, he was part of ExchangeHut, a Madison, WI company that was acquired in 2008.

From Mashable:

Facebook management platform Buddy Media has acquired Spinback, a social commerce and analytics platform that launched in October 2010.

“Thousands of websites have social sharing functionality, but they don’t understand how this sharing affects their business in terms of direct sales, indirect sales, conversion metrics,” says Michael Lazerow, CEO of Buddy Media. “With this acquisition, Buddy Media can now answer the question ‘what is the ROI of social media?’ better than anyone else in the market in a holistic way, both on Facebook and off, and on Twitter and email.”

Spinback has more than 20 clients, and its EasyShare social plugin allows consumers to easily share products and purchases via Facebook, Twitter and email. Lazerow says Spinback provides an “elegant” way to analyze all the sharing on a website and explain how it affects a company’s bottom line, especially because 90% of purchasing decisions are subject to social influence.

Student Spill Selected for TechStars Boston

Heidi Allstop of Spill will be moving to Boston this summer after being selected for TechStars.  Techstars is one of the top two seed accelerators in the United States and just closed it’s newest class.  Heidi will be joining 10 other startups that made the cut.  Techstars startups have an incredibly high track record of success compared to startups that don’t go through an accelerator, so it’s a huge honor for Heidi to be picked.  From the link:

Spill [creates] an anonymous, peer-to-peer support system for college students. Ten schools are already using it. The founders suggest that students will more readily talk about difficult issues — whether drug use or loneliness — if they don’t have to go to a counseling center in person. Team is from Madison, Wisconsin, and plans to sell the service to universities as a way to better understand the mental health and environmental stresses students are dealing with.

While we’re sad to sere Heidi leaving Madison for Boston, we’re all excited for her to represent Madison in Techstars!  Congrats and good luck in Boston!

Entrustet Featured on CNN

Capital Entrepreneurs member Entrustet was featured on CNN in an article titled Do Web Users Fear the Digital Reaper?  From the link:

Lustig is confident that there will be a shift in attitude that will manifest itself in the healthy profits (he jokes that his company’s unofficial motto is: “Everybody uses the Internet and everybody dies.”)

“People need to make the mental leap from considering online accounts as just the main activities that they do all day online to actually real digital assets,” he said.

“I do not know the speed or how long it’s going to take for that shift to take place but we’ll all see it happen before our eyes.”

Entrustet Featured in New York Times and NPR

Capital Entrepreneurs member company Entrustet was featured in the New York Times magazine’s online edition today in an article called Cyberspace when you’re Dead.  The print edition will run on Sunday.  The article follows the threads of digital death and digital identity and talks about Entrustet’s digital death industry.  From the link:

The founders of Entrustet are surprisingly young. Jesse Davis , who is 23, was still a student at the University of Wisconsin when he wrote the original business plan in 2008. He came up with the idea after reading what has become one of the best-known stories on the complexities of digital assets and one of the few that has found its way into the courts. Justin Ellsworth, a Marine killed in Iraq in 2004, did not leave behind the password to his Yahoo e-mail account, and when the company refused to give his parents access to it, they sued. Eventually, under orders from a probate judge, Yahoo gave them a CD it said contained Ellsworth’s e-mail. Ellsworth’s story convinced Davis and his business partner, Nathan Lustig, 25, that there was a market for “digital estate planning” services. In the case of Entrustet, this means an automated system for storing passwords and instructions for all your digital assets.

Such businesses rest on a simple idea: Web, mobile and social-media use keeps exploding; everyone still dies. Meanwhile, much of the archiving of basic family life is becoming digital. It has become routine to have an online “presence” even as an infant, by way of a picture posted on a parent’s social-networking profile. Lustig pointed me to a recent corporate study that identified “chief memory officer” as a kind of unofficial role taken on by someone (often mom) in many families — the person who is paying attention to the idea that there may be no physical scrapbook or set of journals to hand down to future generations and that bits-and-bytes memory objects need to be preserved somehow. Trendwatching.com has predicted a “burgeoning market” for products and services that protect the digital content that is “the nucleus of one’s personal brand.”

Entrustet was also featured on an NPR talkshow interview that can be listened to here.

Madison Startup Shoutlet Closes $6m Series B Round

Madison social media marketing platform Shoutlet announced that they’ve raised $6m in series B funding led by American Family Insurance.  Shoutlet’s platform “gives brands and agencies the tools to create, manage, and measure their entire social media communications. Companies using Shoutlet’s platform are able to better design and implement highly targeted campaigns and ultimately improve the business impact of their social media communications.”

The $6m raised by Shoutlet shows the continued strength of Madison’s tech market and emerging startup potential.  Follow the Shoutlet blog to keep up to date with the Shoutlet team.

Entrustet Settling into Startup Chile

Capital Entrepreneurs member company Entrustet moved to Santiago, Chile for 6 months for Startup Chile.  Jesse and Nathan have been in Chile for almost two weeks now and have started to settle in.  Here’s a summary of their blog posts and press coverage since they’ve moved to Chile.

Wisconsin IT Startup Relocates to Chile, Celebrates Global Entrepreneurship Week

This week is global entrepreneurship week and Chile is celebrating. The Chilean Government wants to be the startup and innovation hub of South America and believes that it needs to inspire Chileans to take risks and start businesses. We attended an event in front of La Moneda yesterday called Chilean Entrepreneurship Day, which featured successful Chilean entrepreneurs, government officials and many Chilean students. It’s great to see a government that’s getting behind entrepreneurship and innovation and actually doing something. All governments say they want to foster innovation, but Chile is actually doing it. We’ll keep you updated on the Chilean startup scene, Start-Up Chile and other interesting things we find from Chile in our series here on WTN.

First Impressions from Santiago

Eastern Santiago very developed and clearly first world.  If it weren’t for everyone speaking Spanish, I could be in any other mid to large city in the US or Europe.  The center, where our office is located, is a little older and really busy, but still nice.  There’s people everywhere during the day.  It’s filled with shops, restaurants and businesses.  We’re not sure what it’s like at night, but people have told us it can get rough downtown.  There’s got to be at least 6-7 universities headlined by Universidad Católica and Universidad de Chile, so there’s lots of young people seemingly everywhere.

Digital Firm takes Chilean Detour

Now the two Madison entrepreneurs are on their way to Santiago, Chile, where they will spend six months running their two-year-old digital estate planning services company. Entrustet, which operates in the emerging “digital afterlife” industry, is among 25 companies from around the world that are receiving a $40,000 grant and free office space in Santiago in exchange for temporarily locating their business there.

“We think entrepreneurship and starting your own business is an adventure in itself, so why not keep the adventure going and go somewhere else?” said Lustig, 25.

Punishing Failure and the Ramifications on Entrepreneurship

On just the first day here in Santiago, Chile, I had a very interesting conversation with a thoughtful Chilean businessman about the cultural difference between the U.S. and Chile regarding the punishment of failure. He explained to me that the biggest impediment for entrepreneurs in Chile is the fact that Chilean culture harshly punishes failure in general. All the other Chileans in the room concurred.

As I spoke more with this Chilean businessman, it became truly apparent how debilitating it would be for entrepreneurs to grow up in a society that punishes failure. And it makes perfect sense, right? I mean, If I had my family and friends looking over my shoulder constantly and warning me not to fail, I would never have started Entrustet. I would never even have set up the food stand outside the Newton Little League field when I was fifteen.

Entrustet Selected for Startup Chile

Capital Entrepreneurs member company Entrustet was selected to be a part of Startup Chile.  Startup Chile is a program started by the Chilean Government to bring 25 startups from around the world to Chile to help foster entrepreneurship.

Entrustet’s founders, Nathan Lustig and Jesse Davis, will be moving to Santiago November 15th to continue to run Entrustet.  As part of Startup Chile, the Entrustet team will receive a $40,000 subsidy, free office space and connections into the Chilean entrepreneurship community.

The CE blog will post updates from Lustig and Davis as they run their business from Santiago.  We’ll also try to foster some ties between Madison and Santiago, which we believe are quite similar.  Both cities are up and coming startup hubs and we believe we can learn from each other.  Watch this space for continued updates.

PerBlue Launches 4th Age for Mobile Game Parallel Kingdom

Forrest Woolworth of PerBlue emailed me today to let me know that they just launched their third age of their popular mobile game Parallel Kingdom.  Parallel Kingdom is a mobile, location based, MMORPG, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.  PerBlue recently closed an $800,000 funding round and has been using the money to continue to grow their flagship game, Parallel Kingdom.

Launched in October 2008, Parallel Kingdom now has over 250,000 users from around the globe.  PK is one of the first games that allows users to interact in a game and in the real world at the same time.

The fourth age, called Age of Thrones, adds the new Kingdoms feature.  “Since Parallel Kingdom’s conception two years ago, we knew we wanted to let players build entire Kingdoms,” PerBlue CEO Justin Beck said. “We took our time to make sure it was done right. In my opinion, Kingdoms are the deepest and most social feature of their kind in any mobile game.”

Kingdoms will allow small and large groups to officially organize. Players work together to build and run their Kingdom by strategically allocating resources, managing diplomatic relationships, and of course, waging war. All Kingdoms will be ranked globally on their war victories as well as their overall influence.

Parallel Kingdom is available for free on the iPhone and Android.  PerBlue generates revenue by selling their virtual currency, Food, which allows users to acquire new weapons, abilities and powers.

UlluTek Selected for Early Stage Symposium

Capital Entrepreneurs member UlluTek was selected to present at the Early Stage Symposium next week in Madison.  From the UlluTek website:

It’s official. UlluTek is presenting at 2010 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium. There are 42 early-stage companies in two tracks: WAN Track for companies seeking angel investment and beyond and Elevator Pitch Olympics for companies seeking seed funding. UlluTek will be in the WAN track with 19 other companies.

Real Time Txts to be Featured on This Week in Startups

Capital Entrepreneurs member Steve Faulkner will be featured on This Week in Startups with Jason Calacanis in 15 minutes, at 3:30 central time. Check out This Week In Startups and watch live to see Steve in the Shark Tank pitching his new startup Real Time Txts.

Steve will be giving a 60 second pitch and then the host and audience will be giving him feedback.  Check it out if you can take a few minute break at 3:30.

Madison Startup Asthmapolis Wins Twilio and Union Square Ventures Contest

Capital Entrepreneurs member Greg Tracy’s new startup Asthmapolis took first prize in Twilio and Union Square Ventures’ contest to create the best app on Twilio.  They beat out 50 other startups with “a terrifically broad range of applications, from fun simple hacks to ambitious projects,” writes Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures.

The Asthmapolis team, made up of veteran entrepreneurs Tracy, David Van Sickle, and Mark Gehring, hope to help asthma patients and their doctors learn more about when and where asthma patients use their inhalers.  There are two main parts to the Asthmapolis system.  The first part is the Spiroscout, “a device that uses GPS to determine the time and location when an inhaler is used, and then stores or sends that information to a remote server.”  When an asthma patient uses their inhaler, the Spiroscout system logs the time, place and stores it for later use.

The second part is the mobile dairy.  By using mobile diary, “you can map and track asthma symptoms, triggers, and your use of rescue and controller medications, and other important events from any phone with a web browser,” write the founders on the Asthmapolis website.  Users can also choose to receive text messages about location, missed doses and other interesting information that might help them manage their asthma.

The Asthmapolis team added additional functionality with Twilio for the contest so that Asthmapolis users without smart phones can now report about their inhaler uses.  Union Square Ventures seemed most excited about the SMS capabilities because so much of the world does not have smart phones.  Adding SMS allows the Asthmapolis team to enter into a much larger market.

As more users adopt the system, Asthmapolis will be able to gather huge amounts of data about where, when and how patients are using their inhalers.  “From a business perspective, that offers an important long-term defensibility,” writes USV’s Wegner. “We’re looking forward to meeting with Greg and David from Asthmapolis in New York.”

“The Twilio platform is a perfect fit for us as we expand our mobile interfaces,” writes cofounder Greg Tracy, “The fact that the Union Square Ventures team is recognizing our platform is great validation and we’re looking forward to spending some time with them in New York.”

It’s great to see a startup that mixes the web with medical devices coming out of Madison.  Madison startups are starting to get national recognition, which can only be good for the Madison startup ecosystem as a whole.  You can follow the Asthmapolis team’s progress on Twitter or on their blog.

What is Asthmapolis? from Asthmapolis on Vimeo.

Real Time Txts Launches in Madison

Real Time Txts, a new business by Capital Entrepreneurs members Steve Faulkner and Tyler Stubbe launched last night.  Real Time Txts sends you text messages for free drinks at selected bars in Madison.  It’s sort of a like Groupon, but texted to your phone and for now, it’s just for bars.  You can sign up on the Real Time Txts website by giving them your phone number.  On days where there is a deal, you get a text a few hours before the free drink special is going to start, with location and time.  When you get to the bar, you show the text on your phone and the bartender gives you a free drink.

“Real Time Txts is a text message list that sends you awesome, amazing, exclusive bar deals weekly,” cofounder Steve Faulkner tells me.  “The service is free and always will be and we plan to send you a text once per week with an exclusive bar deal just for you.”

I tried it out this week and it worked really well.  I signed up on Monday and got my first text last night at about 730pm.  Whiskey River Saloon, one of the newer bars on State Street, was offering a free drink to anyone with the text from 9-10pm.  A few of my friends and I walked down to Whiskey River, showed our phones and got our free drink.  You could choose between beer or a few different types of liquor drinks.  There was a good crowd and many of the other people in the bar were very interested in why people were showing their phones to the bartenders.  I got a free Captain and Coke and had a great time.

Faulkner and Stubbe plan to expand to more bars in Madison in the very near future.  Based on the reaction I saw at Whiskey River and on social media sites, I think Real Time Txts has a really good chance of taking off.  I overheard two people at Whiskey River last night who were on the Real Time Txts list, but were not sure it was legit, so they didn’t tell their friends yet.  Once they got their free drink, they said they would tell everyone.  I expect to see rapid growth over the next semester, as more University of Wisconsin students find out about the service from their friends.

There are a bunch of new services that have launched in the wake of Groupon, but I think Real Time Txts has hit onto an interesting new twist on the model.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Sector 67 Hackerspace Grand Opening This Friday

Capital Entrepreneurs member Chris Meyer emailed me today to share that Sector 67 is hosting the grand opening this Friday.  Sector 67 is Madison’s first hackerspace, which is a shared space “dedicated to providing members the opportunity to work on tomorrow’s technology; to build, collaborate, learn, and teach about next generation devices.” Hackerspaces have been sprouting up all over the world and are a staple of a community committed to innovation and technology.

“The goal is to create a space where anyone interested in making things can come and hack away,” Meyer tells me.  “Whether you’re an Artist, Engineer, Programmer, Tinkerer, Hobbiest, Maker, Hacker or anyone who likes to create things, Sector 67 is the place for you to work with other like minded people.”

Sector 67 is a big addition to the Madison tech community.  “Sector 67’s support infrastructure is important because it fosters creation and growth of high tech companies.  Perhaps more important than the facility itself is the contribution Sector 67 will make toward strengthening the culture of entrepreneurship in our community,” says Allen Dines of the University of Wisconsin’s Office of Corporate Relations has been working to support Meyer’s Sector 67 effort.

Meyer has been working extremely hard for over a year to make Sector 67 a reality and I’m excited to attend his grand opening on Friday.  I’ve gotten to know him over the past two years and it’s been great to hear weekly updates along the way.  You can check out some of Meyer’s previous work in the Burrill Business Plan Competition last year and the Governor’s Business Plan Competition from earlier this year as well.  I’m excited to attend and will take some pictures and include an update over the weekend.

Sector 67 is a much needed addition to the Madison tech startup scene and will hopefully help foster the next generation of entrepreneurs in Madison.  It has broad based support from the community and the University of Wisconsin and will be a great resource for entrepreneurs in Madison.  “Getting this facility up and running is huge.  When it succeeds, watch the creativity follow,” writes the City of Madison’s Michael Gay.

If you’re interested in checking out Sector 67, the Grand Opening is open to the public:

When: Friday, October 15th 5-10
Where: 2100 Winnebago St
Blog: http://www.sector67.org/blog/

Entrustet Featured on Mashable

Capital Entrepreneurs member Entrustet was featured on Mashable in an article titled 7 Resources for Handling Digital Life After Death by Erica Swallow.  From the link:

Entrustet is a free service that enables an account holder to pass on digital assets to up to 10 designated heirs and one executor, who is in charge of executing a person’s digital wishes after they pass away. Digital assets include social networks, financial accounts, blogs, e-mails and other Internet properties or files.

Check out the video above where Rocketboom Tech’s Ellie Rountree interviews Jesse Davis, co-founder of Entrustet about how the service works and why it is important.

GoBuzz Launches New Business Intelligence Email Alert System

Capital Entrepreneurs member GoBuzz alerted me that they’ve just launched their free email alert system this past week.  “The GoBuzz system is designed to help professionals develop business relationships and strengthen industry knowledge,” says cofounder Dan Voell.

Dan tells me that the software allows users to set up customized alerts which monitor industry, topic, and location based business news and offer opportunities to reach and strengthen your network by finding social profiles for the people and companies that you might otherwise miss via traditional monitoring services like Google Alerts.  GoBuzz is different from Google Alerts in that:

1.       GoBuzz learns what you are looking for. Click on “useful” or “not useful” buttons beneath the article and your results will improve over time.

2.       Share news results across social networks such as Twitter and Facebook with one click (become a center of influence around a topic)

3.       GoBuzz finds contact information and social profiles for the people and companies mentioned in articles of interest

4.       GoBuzz allows you to search for a concept (software industry) instead of a keyword (software)

5.       GoBuzz filters out the noise (more filters)

I tried it out today and it it’s really easy to set up a free alert.  I like that I can enter more specifics than with Google Alerts, as many of my Google Alerts return results that are not pertinent to my searches.  I’ll keep updated on how it works out for me, otherwise, you can check it out for yourself and report back to us!  You can follow the GoBuzz Team on Twitter or contact them on their website for more info.

GoBuzz Informational Video from Dan Voell on Vimeo.

Entrustet Featured on My Life Scoop

Capital Entrepreneurs member Entrustet was featured on My Life Scoop in an article written by Mashable’s Erica Swollow titled 7 ways to handle digital life after death. From the link:

Entrustet is a free service that enables an account holder to pass on digital assets to up to 10 designated heirs and one executor, who is in charge or executing a person’s digital wishes, after they pass away. Digital assets include social networks, financial accounts, blogs, e-mails and other Internet properties or files.

Check out the video above, in which Rocketboom Tech‘s Ellie Rountree interviews Jesse Davis, co-founder of Entrustet, about how the service works and why it is important.

Entrustet at Web 2.0 Startup Showcase in New York City

Entrustet participated in the Web 2.0 Startup Showcase in New York City on Wednesday.  The showcase brought 29 of the most interesting startups in the US into one room for an hour and a half of pitching to the Web 2.0 audience.  Tim O’Rielly, Fred Wilson and the crowd each picked winners to go on stage during the showcase.  Although Entrustet did not win, it was great recognition for a Capital Entrepreneurs startup.