2015 Recap: The Madison Startup Scene

CapitalEntrepeneurs_SourceIn 2015, Madison startups launched new products, expanded to new markets, and closed deals with major companies. Their products and services were used by millions of people around the world, and generated multi-million dollar revenue streams.

Madison startups continued to have an increasing impact on the local economy. In 2015 they created 215 full-time jobs, and now employ over 675 people full-time (and 165 part-time). Tech startups raised $66.5M in funding in 2015, with 15 companies raising $1M or more (an increase of 50% over the prior year). The largest of these deals include EatStreet ($15M), Healthfinch ($7.5M), Shoutlet ($5M), HealthMyne ($4.5M), Fetch Rewards ($4M), Catalyze ($4M), and Redox ($3.5M).

This is the third consecutive year that tech startups raised $40M or more, and this year saw an increasing number of local VC level activity from both established and new funds. This activity was complemented by a large percentage of imported capital that came from out-of-state investors. The connections formed by this imported capital help bridge the Madison startup scene with other startup hotbeds around the country, in particular San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. There were also a handful of acquisitions, including Shoutlet being acquired by SpredFast, and Quickstep Technologies being acquired by Pivotal.

Healthtech, foodtech, and gaming have shown potential as emerging industry segments. Following an increasing amount of attention last year, healthtech startups saw a lot of growth in 2015 and Madison has emerged as a leading healthtech hub. An increasing amount of foodtech startups are seeing success, and video game developers saw a lot of growth and are pushing towards critical mass.








Nearly 1,000 people attended Capital Entrepreneurs organized core events in 2015. Staple yearly events including the Madison Startup Fair, Spring Tech Kickoff, Startup Weekend, CE Open Social, and the Startup Showcase all returned and were bigger and better than ever.

The sixth annual Forward Festival was a resounding success, taking place in and around Madison on August 20-27. The 2015 Festival exceeded expectations with a record number of over 3,000 attendees. It was the most visible and wide-reaching Festival to date and featured 34 events that brought together a diverse set of organizations and people from across the city. We brought in new audiences with the Video Game Industry Meetup and Social Good Summit, and events drew notable national speakers as well as attendees from all over.

StartingBlock-Madison-rendering-1The StartingBlock Madison entrepreneurial hub continued to gain momentum and made progress towards becoming reality. The project received key city approvals, has surpassed 90% of its fundraising goal, and anticipates a 2016 groundbreaking. StartingBlock formed a number of partnerships with local collaborating partners, and is also forming new partnerships to link Madison’s entrepreneurship community to cities throughout the country.

One of the main goals of Capital Entrepreneurs is to be the “social fabric” that connects the Madison entrepreneurial community – both by welcoming new entrepreneurs, as well as keeping existing entrepreneurs and resources connected. We continued to expand this effort in 2015, including a curation of Madison Entrepreneurial Resources and by holding joint meetings with the Madison Area Chefs Network (MACN), the Doyenne Group, and 1 Million Cups.

To help showcase the variety of activity in the burgeoning Madison entrepreneurial ecosystem, some of the leading entrepreneurial organizations highlight their 2015 successes directly:

100state-logo100state has been excited to play a major role in Madison’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. We have grown to more than 240 members making us the largest co-working space in the state. In 2015 we announced our new Executive Director Gregory St. Fort, we opened our membership to brick and mortar small businesses, our 100arts program was recognized on the Madison Magazine M-List, and our partnerships with Field59, Madison365, and the The CapTimes have helped us to showcase the success Madison can have when a diverse community builds together.

doyenne-logo-2014In 2015 Doyenne Group received our 501c(3) status and began actively fundraising for our $400,000 Doyenne Evergreen Fund to invest in women-led companies across Wisconsin. We were accepted into WEDC’s Capital Catalyst program for the Evergreen Fund to receive matching funds. Our end of year participant totals include: 90 members comprised of entrepreneurs and ambassadors/mentors, 400 attendees at Doyenne hosted events, 130 individual Office Hours appointments, as well as many new collaborative relationships with community partners as we move into 2016. As we move into 2016, we are looking for corporate donations to help us continue to reach our fundraising goal of $250,000.

gener8tor-logoIn 2015, gener8tor was ranked the #14 accelerator in the United States by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project. To date, gener8tor has completed 7 cohorts and invested in 38 companies. Cumulatively, those companies have raised over $65M in follow-on financing. Madison-based gener8tor investments in 2015 include: GrocerKey, AltusCampus and AkitaBox. In 2015, gener8tor also launched gBETA – a free, six-week, pre-seed accelerator for startups with a connection to any Wisconsin college or university. 9 companies graduated from gBETA in 2015, including Madison-based 23Vivi, Cheddah, Emonix, EnsoData, Exis, and WeightUp Solutions. The program will run three times in 2016 with cohorts in the spring, summer and fall. For 2016, gener8tor looks forward to the construction of their new home, StartingBlock.

madworks-logoMadworks Accelerator celebrated its one year anniversary this past June. Finishing its fifth class in December, Madworks Accelerator has graduated 46 companies that have raised almost $4 million in financing and have created over 60 jobs. Madworks Coworking continued to grow in 2015, increasing our total membership from 29 to 42 people. One member company, RaceCapture, raised over $64,000 on Kickstarter and another member, gameFI, went live with clients on three continents for their employee engagement platform. Madworks is also planning on expanding to the new @1403 building on the University of Wisconsin campus in 2016.

The Madison startup community has come a long way in the last 6 years since Capital Entrepreneurs formed. What started out as a small group of people who saw a lot of potential in Madison to become a great place for startups has now emerged into a full-fledged vibrant and growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. Over these years there has been an increasing amount of entrepreneurial activity as new events, resources, and companies formed, and existing ones saw growth and success.

A strong foundation has been built that has the potential to produce even more successes. This community has created meaningful economic and cultural impact as it has become more established, and this last year in particular has highlighted the continued trend of this consistent (and growing) impact.

Though many great things are happening in the Madison startup world, it’s still relatively small and fragile. It’s up to each of us to play a continued role in helping strengthen the ecosystem and community. We have a huge opportunity in front of us, but it comes with a big responsibility in which everyone needs to play a part. By working together, we can continue to build even more successful companies and an even more vibrant, accessible, and inclusive startup ecosystem. We can make Madison a truly great place for startups and innovation. Cheers to 2016!

Be sure to also check out individual company recaps for 2015 here, as well as past startup scene recaps from 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

IMG_5271_smallThe annual CE Madison Startup Scene Recap post is compiled by Forrest Woolworth. Forrest is COO of the mobile gaming startup PerBlue and co-founder of Capital Entrepreneurs.

* Employment data is sourced from a voluntary self reporting survey of CE startup companies, with 57 companies reporting. Because of the voluntary nature, these employment numbers are likely conservative representations of the actual employment impact of all startups. Funding amounts listed are also based on the CE survey data, in combination with other public sources. For the sake of better representing a clear cohort, aggregate funding reported for “tech startups” here does not include biotech/lifescience companies.

2015 Recap: PerBlue

perblueThe year of 2015 was an action-packed year for PerBlue. Our team was heads down working on some exciting things, culminating in the launch of our newest game DragonSoul. We also continued to build out our team and were joined by a number of great people.

We started the year with the addition of our new Chief Product Officer, Matt Ricchetti. We also added some very talented people to nearly every area of our team throughout the year, including developers, UI, marketing, and support. We were joined by people both from the Madison area as well as many that relocated from all across the country. Welcome!

These new teammates joined our amazing veteran team members to form the most well-rounded and talented team we’ve ever had (and we’re still looking for a few more people to join us!). We were also honored to be named one of the Best Places to Work by Madison Magazine, which is great recognition of our continual focus on making sure our employees can flourish.

The Madison startup community continued to grow, and we are always proud to play a leadership role in helping make it even more vibrant. We’re happy to be part of the startup community, and are looking forward to joining as an anchor tenant of the StartingBlock Madison entrepreneurial hub next year.

We’re also helping bring together the burgeoning Madison game developer community, and have partnered with other local game studios to launch the Madison Game Alliance. The goal is to unite the existing diverse Madison game development community of studios, indies, and educators to form a more cohesive “scene” and raise Madison’s profile as a game development hub.

On the product front, after months of research, production, development, and a successful Beta, we launched our latest game worldwide in September. DragonSoul is a wildly outrageous mobile role-playing game (RPG) where players take on dragons and monsters as they battle their way through an epic story campaign freeing heroes along the way.

DragonSoul received features from both Google and Apple, and has been the most successful product launch we’ve had as a company. We also ran our first ever national TV ad campaign with commercials airing on major TV stations across the country – keep an eye out for them!

We’re proud of the team and games we’ve built, and are excited for what the future holds for us. Cheers to 2016!

2015 Recap: Ionic

Ionic_Logo.svg2015 was a huge year for the Ionic team in Madison, as we continue to build Ionic into the most popular way web developers and designers transition from building websites and blogs, to building powerful mobile apps and mobile websites.

In March we closed a $2.6M round lead by Lightbank and Founder Collective, bringing our total to $3.7M, to build out our fast growing mobile development toolkit and mobile backend services. We kindled partnerships with IBM, Microsoft, and Google, changed our name from Drifty to "Ionic", expanded our office, grew the team, and launched a number of new products.

In 2015, Ionic developers created over 1.3 million mobile apps, a 300% increase from 2014, with some notable ones being the New York City MTA Bus Time app, Adobe Social, Card.com, Meerkat Movies, and Predictabl (official sports prediction game of football clubs like Real Madrid and Chelsea). Several more apps and mobile websites are in the works across the Fortune 100 and major retail brands around the world.

The Ionic developer community grew like crazy in 2015, with over 120 community-run meetup groups popping up across the globe. Every month Ionic developer tools are installed over 320,000 times, with 5000+ new apps created every single day.

We're proud that developers tell us Ionic put Madison on the map for open source and mobile development, and we're looking forward to growing our Madison presence as we expand and open our first SF office in 2016.

As we continue to grow in 2016, we're excited to be working with some great Madison-based development shops like Bendyworks and Mobile Igniter that now specialze in building Ionic apps. We're always looking for more great partners, so please get in touch if you're interested in joining the Ionic ecosystem.

From all of us at Ionic, thanks for supporting us through the years, and if you're looking to build a great mobile app or mobile website, or you're a web developer/designer looking to get into mobile, we hope you give Ionic a try! Also, we're hiring for a number of positions, so get in touch!

Check out the Full 2015 Recap on our blog.

2015 Recap: Redox

redox-logoWe at Redox wanted to write a quick note to say thanks, and express our gratitude for the inspiration you give us on a daily basis. A year ago, we had zero customers, a shell of a website, and were packing our car to move to Baltimore. We didn’t have developer accounts, installing customers, a gallery, or project plans. We had around six followers on social media, a couple blog posts outlining our dreams, and a handful of people who kind of knew what we were setting out to do.

It’s amazing to look back on these twelve months. From Baltimore we bounced to Houston with TMC|X, then to Salt Lake City with Healthbox, and eventually came home to Madison and have partnered with great health systems and met amazing startups along the way. We now have hundreds of people developing on top of the platform that we’ve built. We have 12 employees and are continuing to grow the most badass team I’ve ever been a part of. Most importantly, we get to spend our days working with amazingly talented people across the country who share our vision for improving healthcare. These are our customers.

You’re creating the software that will cut into the inefficiencies we face every time we become a patient. In St. Louis, clinics powered by StatPayMD are improving cost transparency by predicting out of pocket expenses. And in New Jersey, complex cesarean deliveries are safer for mothers because Gauss Surgical is accurately measuring blood loss in the operating room. These are just a few of the amazing innovations we get to touch on a daily basis.

We see 2015 as the year we got the engine started; Redox is actually being used to improve interoperability in healthcare. This year, we shift from simply solving a problem to changing an industry. Redox has never been about point-to-point connections. Each go-live adds to a network that can interoperate freely making it possible to plug in once and scale. We’ve started that engine. The next step is getting this vessel moving. Check back next year to see how that happened. It’s a story we’re working on writing.

2015 Recap: Hardin Design and Development

hardin-logoWith 2016 on the horizon and plenty to look forward to, the staff at Hardin Design & Development wanted to take a moment to reflect on a year of exciting new projects and fun, rewarding accomplishments.

2015 has been the most successful year in company history, and we attribute much of that to the impressive caliber of our staff, to which we’ve added some outstanding business and development talent. Our team is a key element to what makes Hardin Design & Development such a dynamic place to work, and without their superior dedication, teamwork, and tenacity, we wouldn’t be the company we are today.

As members of the technology and startup community, we are always seeking out avenues to increase the public’s awareness of the tech scene and to help other Madison startups. It’s been enriching to continue building bridges with local business representatives at many of the expos and events held around the city. There have also been many opportunities to really connect with the young minds of Madison through office tours and interviews and high school career fairs. Our most interesting platform for tech representation came in the form of the Redbull Soapbox Derby, where a team of our developers rocked out in Cincinnati, OH with a Futurama inspired design and now an epic story under their belts. When you are thinking of traveling in Thailand or perhaps moving for some time then ther are lots of house and condo sales in Pattaya from trusted local realtors like Thai Property.

Our developers have been working hard on a wide variety of interesting projects this year. Some of the major projects include an online LSAT practice portal as well an iPhone application focused on real estate sales. Our diverse clientele allowed for many domestic and international adventures, and we can’t wait to see where we end up next. We’re looking forward to all the fun projects we have in the works!

As we look forward to the new year, Hardin Design and Development is enthusiastic to continue our passion for creating awesome mobile and web applications. If next year is anything like this year, it will mean mastering new technologies, growing our development team, enhancing our workflows and reinforcing our established partnerships while creating new ones.

2015 Recap: Networked Insights

ni-logo-cyan@2x12015 proved to be a year of great developments for Networked Insights. Marketers are challenged like never before by a complex marketing environment where ad formats and content channels are multiplying and consumers are in control of which messages break through. Networked Insights is helping top consumer-facing brands like Under Armour and American Family Insurance connect to their audiences.

This year, Networked Insights introduced Hi-Def Audiences™, built upon a new partnership with Twitter. Brands with access to Hi-Def Audiences can build upon basic demographic profiling to understand their opportunity audience along more than 15,000 dimensions including everything from psychographics, to interests, affinities, to brand preferences. The partnership with Twitter, announced at the 2015 Flight Developer and Data Conference, opens new and expanded audience segmentation, insights, measurement and targeting to Twitter advertisers. Twitter selected Networked Insights as a launch partner to integrate our Kairos platform on their newest data innovation, the Audience API.

Another major partnership announced in 2015 put Kairos into the hands of more than 25,000 employees at the world’s largest media management firm, GroupM. The exclusive partnership represents one of the largest-ever marketing SaaS implementations and will give GroupM the capability to adaptively plan and continuously optimize client campaigns using real time data from the social web.

This announcement has been years in the making, beginning with a vision years ago by Networked Insights’ CEO, Dan Neely to use consumer data from social media sources to inform marketing investments across a wide variety of media platforms – not just social. In 2015, the technology caught up with that vision. We enhanced our platform with features that speed up Kairos’ ability to analyze data in real-time through a combination of machine learning, computational linguistics, and Boolean logic. These analyses now create a massive set of meta-data organized around audience segments that generate rich media planning insights for both online and offline advertising.

But, knowing what’s important to consumers is only half the equation. So, in 2015, Networked Insights launched Pinpoint, to help brands understand WHY social trends are happening. The technology is integrated throughout Kairos to help brands understand what’s important to their opportunity audience and why it’s important while there’s still time to act. We announced the new Pinpoint technology and demonstrated how it works in a webinar, which was the first in our new series of webinars, all of which are available for on-demand viewing on our website.

On the corporate front, the company moved into new office spaces in Madison, Chicago, and New York. The company also has colleagues located in San Francisco, Minneapolis, and North Carolina as well.

To learn more, visit www.networkedinsights.com or follow @netinsights.

2015 Recap: Updown Technologies

updown-logoIn 2015, Updown launched as a company and released its first product – the Updown Fitness App – on the web and on both the Apple and Google Play stores. Our team of four working out of an apartment off State Street has come a long way in the last 12 months.

We spent the first half of the year doing market research and developing the app and then started beta testing in the summer. The app, which functions as a personal trainer that customizes workouts and helps users reach their fitness goals, launched on the Google Play store in November and the Apple store in December. In just a short couple of months, we’ve managed to reach 3,000 users, and the rate of new user signups is increasing quickly as we gain traction and generate press. The initial feedback has been great, as the app maintains a 4.7 rating on the Google Play store.

2016 is all about continued development and growth for us. We are working hard on expanding the social functionality of the app, and we’re also developing a rewards system that will allow our loyal users to cash in for working out. Integration with wearables devices is also in the works. We’ve kicked off 2016 by raising $100k which will allow us to expand marketing and to grow our team, and we’ll be looking to complete a Series A funding round later this summer.

We look forward to exponential growth and a continued role in Madison’s growing entrepreneurial climate in 2016!

2015 Recap: Ten Forward Consulting

ten-forward-consulting-logoAs 2015 comes to a close, we reflect on another successful year over here at Ten Forward Consulting. Startup companies, long-time clients, innovative product development, and new hires have kept us quite busy – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ten Forward committed to our long-standing partnership with Mobile Doorman when Brian Samson, founder of Ten Forward, accepted a position as CTO and helped the Chicago-based tech startup secure its first round of funding, hire technical staff, and meet key technical milestones.

We’ve always felt connected with entrepreneurs and start-ups, and have been fortunate enough to partner with several this past year. Habit Catalyst is a compliance tracker and reminder application, which is designed for trainers to help their clients develop healthy habits. Built by Ten Forward and based here in Madison, this app is expected to launch publicly in early 2016. In addition, we’ve developed new mobile applications for Fanbread, a YouTube personality outreach tool, and Looper, a new way to connect golfers and caddies which is scheduled to launch in Spring 2016.

As busy as clients keep us, we try to spend any additional development time working on internal products. After some frustrations with client-facing CMS tools like WordPress we decided to work on a simple solution for small businesses to request content updates so they don’t need to learn yet another system. We have used this platform, called “CRS” internally, with several clients and look forward to expanding features in the coming year.

None of this work can happen without a lot of help. In the past year, Ten Forward has made some very important hires. Mark Norman, with over 10 years of development experience, has worked on a number of projects with Ten Forward as a contractor. In 2015, we made it official, and Mark was brought on as a senior developer and our first equity partner. We hired developers out of Epic, Omaha Code School, and interns from Madison’s YWeb Career Academy. Ten Forward nearly doubled in size from five employees in January to nine in December.

2015 has been a great year for the growth and sustainability of our young company, and we look forward to continuing that trend as we move forward in our mission to create the best software for our clients.

Have a great New Year!
Your friends at Ten Forward Consulting

2015 Recap: Underground Food Collective

ufc-logo2015 for Underground Food Collective saw continued growth and the opening of one new business. The biggest leap for us was opening a new retail location in Minneapolis called Lowry Hill Meats. Furthermore 2015 was a year of planning as we look to expand our operation in wholesale, retail and restaurants.

This was the first time we have opened a space outside of Madison and marked a new level of expansion for our company and gave us experience in how to run businesses remotely and operate under different regulatory bodies.

We saw an overall growth at Underground of around 30 percent this year led by big increases at Underground Butcher (35 percent) and Underground Meats (50 percent). Underground Meats released 3 new products into national wholesale: our Summer Sausage, Smoked Hams and Dry Cured Bacon along with continued efforts to get our dry cured salamis approved through the USDA.

We were excited to be awarded Madison’s Favorite Butcher Shop by the Isthmus, Top Caterer by Madison Magazine as well as a James Beard Nomination for Jonny Hunter for Best Chef Midwest and Chef of the Year by Madison Magazine, and Underground Meats is a finalist for the Good Food Awards.

We are looking forward to 2016, which will bring the opening of Middlewest Restaurant, a new Underground Butcher location, and potentially a Milwaukee location.

2015 Recap: OpenHomes

openhomes logoIn 2015, OpenHomes has seen +100% year over year growth in revenue and customers We’ve become a top 12% agency in our first market, south central Wisconsin, and have sold homes throughout southern Wisconsin. We sell homes faster and for more money than traditional agents, too – just 11 days on market (vs. market average of about 28), and for 99.2% of listing price (vs. market average of about 97%).

OpenHomes customers save an average of about $6,000 vs using a traditional agent. Our net promoter score is 100 points – meaning every single customer surveyed said s/he would recommend OpenHomes to a friend or colleague. Now that our tech is in great shape and our traction is strong, we’ll be opening up a $500k round to help us expand to new states and drive even more rapid growth.

2015 Recap: Noble Applications

noble-applications-logoNoble Applications is a local bootstrap startup that turned 3 years old in September. We are pleased and proud to report that we have significantly grown each year, and our model of continuously investing in upgrading our design and development talent really started showing returns in year 3, a year in which we hired 3 new employees. Having our team and processes in place led to the following financial highlights for 2015:

  • 15% revenue increase over 2014
  • 425% profit increase over 2014
  • 100% customer satisfaction and all invoices paid within 60 days
  • As always, $0 of debt

The growing core of our business continues to be providing our design and development talent to established enterprises with new mobile strategies. We added 8 new customer partnerships to this core in 2015.

For the annual Capital Entrepreneurs list, however, we like to highlight a couple startup partners that we helped bring new products to the world. We were the product-company-for-hire partners for these new and exciting companies that launched in 2015:

We want to express our gratitude to our team and our customer partners. We get to work with incredible people with amazing ideas and we are all very grateful that our customers give us the opportunity to push boundaries and bring real innovation to the mobile ecosystem.

For 2016, we are signed on to help bring mobile innovation to the following industries:

  • Tourism
  • Healthcare
  • Agriculture and Dairy
  • Employee Benefits
  • Sports Coaching and Player Development
  • Manufacturing

Stay tuned to our website (we’ll have a new one in February), where you can keep track of the new apps and platforms that are built for the world, right here in Madison.

2015 Recap: Autosport Labs

autosport labs logo2015 was a year of significant progress for Autosport Labs. The first part of the year marked improvements in the existing RaceCapture/Pro product line. Several new features were added to the hardware platform and a new version of the RaceCapture App was made publically available, unifying the experience across tablets and computers alike. In late August the company completed the design and construction of 6 working prototypes of its next generation hardware: RaceCapture. These were demoed at a trackday at Laguna Seca in September and a rainy race weekend at Portland, OR in October to very positive reviews and customer interest.

With hardware built and put through validation, the group executed the next stage of the plan and launched the RaceCapture Kickstarter. As of Jan 2, 2016, the campaign was successfully funded at 128% of its goal. With the feedback and excitement from their enthusiastic Kickstarter backers, Autosport Labs is entering 2016 with lots of momentum from the successful campaign.

New Years Kick Off


To bring us into 2016, we’ll first be looking back at 2015. A lot of great things happened within the Capital Entrepreneurs community and the Madison Startup Scene and we’d like to share them. As in prior years, we’ll be kicking off with a series of posts from Capital Entrepreneurs companies summarizing their year in review, and we’ll cap it off with a full 2015 Madison Startup Scene Recap post. The daily series will start on Monday, January 4. Stay tuned!