New and early-stage companies value support and affordability
Wisconsin’s sustained push to create, attract and grow its tech startup community is paying serious dividends.
On the national stage, recognition for the state is coming from the likes of Cushman & Wakefield, The Atlantic Council and others.
Madison’s tech scene garnering praise
Cushman & Wakefield was so impressed with Madison that it named the Wisconsin capitol a Top 10 Tech City in its 2017 Tech Cities 1.0 Report:
“Though relatively small in size, Madison has nonetheless taken off as a tech hotspot thanks in large part to home-grown talent. Tech operates on many levels here–from Epic Systems, a developer and provider of healthcare software, to a variety of gaming software firms such as Raven, developer of the super-successful ‘Call of Duty’ series. Also, with the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a backdrop, there have been a number of incubator and co-working spaces popping up across this market to help propel recent graduates and others with start-up ideas. Though winters can be a bit cold, the outdoor activities and other positive quality-of-life metrics (along with a significantly lower cost of living compared to the coasts) has helped push it into one of the top tech markets in the country.”
The Atlantic Council has also noticed Madison’s growing tech scene. In 2016, the think tank said that Madison “may be at a turning point” for national recognition as a “hub for technological innovation and entrepreneurship.” That prediction has become a reality as the city’s long history of innovation has expanded to include tech startups that have added 12,000 new jobs in the past five years, according to Madison.com.
Elsewhere, the Top 25 “Next in Tech” list of cities fostering tech growth featured Madison at No. 16, ahead of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis and New Orleans. The list, assembled in part by TechNet, is a roster of locations predicted to add one million tech jobs in the next five years.
Based on the Center for American Entrepreneurship report “Rise of the Global Startup City,” which broke down detailed information for more than 100,000 venture capital deals across 300 cities and 60 countries, Madison currently ranks No. 14 worldwide–ahead of global capitals such as Stockholm, Helsinki and London–for venture capital deals per capita, and No. 40 for venture capital dollars per capita.
Entire state serves as lab for tech innovation and growth
Beyond Madison, Wisconsin’s relatively low cost of living combined with tech-specific tax incentives, exemptions and credits, have made it an affordable and obvious choice for founders to start and ramp up their new businesses.
This increase in startups is happening through the aid of an ongoing, focused effort on behalf of state leaders to foster and encourage tech companies to start, and stay, in Wisconsin. This includes supporting everything from coworking spaces to pitch competitions, which help ensure that founders can build a community of like-minded individuals and have a network of support as they grow and develop their own companies.
In addition to Madison, the southern Wisconsin city of Beloit is also emerging as a tech hub. Before shutting its doors in 1999, Beloit Iron Works, later Beloit Corp., was an integral part of the city and state economy. Now, the former Ironworks campus, located on the banks of the Rock River in the heart of downtown, is redeveloped and exists as a thriving commercial multi-tenant space for emerging companies. Nearly 50 companies and 1,500 employees currently occupy or will occupy space in the building, which is also the headquarters for Hendricks Commercial Properties, tech companies like Ebates, FatWallet, Comply365 and Acculynx, and the IronTek coworking space many early-stage tech companies call home.
Beloit’s emergence also coincides with Green Bay’s transformation into a tech hub, as the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft Corp. recently announced their partnership to open a new incubator called TitletownTech this year. The partnership will include an innovation lab focused on creating new ventures; a venture studio where business models and solutions will develop into startups; and a venture fund to help startups aligned with Northeastern Wisconsin industries.
Not to be outdone, Milwaukee was named an up-and-coming tech market for office space in the 2018 Tech-30 report created by CBRE Group Inc., a commercial real estate services and investment firm. The report, which measures the tech industry impact on North American office markets, recognized Milwaukee because of its growing tech industry and affordable business costs that make it a compelling alternative to larger, pricier markets.
Becoming a catalyst for innovation
The attention Wisconsin’s startup community is receiving is well-earned and shows how its successes are helping it soar to new heights. The combination of talent pool, quality of life and lower cost of living laid the groundwork, and the first wave of startups has helped to grow new companies and foster additional innovation in a thriving and collegial climate. And as these companies thrive, they are helping the next group assemble the talent, workspace and financing to be successful, creating a vibrant, healthy ecosystem that will keep Wisconsin at the forefront of tech development.