Wisconsin: Land of Beer, Cheese, and…Startups

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Steve Faulkner. He is the CEO of the GeoHuddle, a Madison, Wisconsin based startup developing community geothermal heating and cooling systems. You can follow him on twitter @southpolesteve.

Most people associate Wisconsin with cheese and beer, but you should think about adding startups to that list. Led by a tidal wave of mostly young entrepreneurs, Madison, Wisconsin is staking a claim as the startup capital of the Midwest. Madison was recently ranked as the 7th most innovative city in the country by Forbes magazine – just above perennial powerhouse Boston, MA.

Several key organizations are driving the growing startup community. Capital Entrepreneurs is a group of over 56 companies that meet on a regular basis to help founders network and develop connections. MERLIN Mentors provides free mentoring services to new startups. Applicants are assigned a team of experienced entrepreneurs who help founders navigate many of the challenges facing a new company. These groups, along with the University of Wisconsin, are fostering a great culture for new startups.

Here are just a small selection of technology companies in the area:

Entrustet is a free online service that allows you to securely list all of your digital assets, which are all of your online accounts and files on your computer, and decide if you would like them transferred or deleted when you pass away. It is like a Will for your digital life.

Virent is commercializing a proprietary sugar to hydrocarbon conversion process developed at the University of Wisconsin. This means they can take biomass and directly convert it to gasoline, which has attracted a lot of interest from the oil industry. Most recently, they received a $46 million dollar investment from Shell.

PerBlue is a mobile and social gaming company. They are the makers of the popular mobile game Parallel Kingdom, which currently has over 150,000 players worldwide and was the first location based RPG for the iOS and Android platforms. PerBlue was founded by University of Wisconsin students with their own limited cash, and continues to grow.

Alice is changing the way people shop for everyday household items. It allows users to buy home essentials directly from the manufacturer and have them shipped, for free, to your door. Based on your user profile, it will also remind you when it is time to restock on common items. This is CEO Brian Wiegand’s fourth company. Previously he sold Jellyfish.com to Microsoft for approximately $50 Million.

Networked Insights was founded in 2006 by CEO Dan Neely and provides social media analytics. Clients include P&G, Kraft, American Family Insurance, EA Games, Omnicom, and Starcom MediaVest. SocialSense, the company’s social media listening platform, analyzes conversation from 300 million individuals and 20 million sites that matter most to a brand. Networked Insights has raised over $9 million in VC funding.

Photo Credit/Flickr/infowidget