Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Madison, WI


Madison is Wisconsin’s second-largest city with a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. In 2016, it was named one of the nation’s best cities for young entrepreneurs.

Madison, WI is the state’s capital and second-largest city. In 2018, WalletHub ranked Madison 49th on their list of the best large cities to start a business, with a ranking of fifth in the “Access to Resources” category. The same site also listed the city as the sixth-best metropolitan area for STEM professionals. Additionally, a list published by NerdWallet in late 2016 ranked the metro area as the nation’s 12th-best for young entrepreneurs.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Madison’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Designed to help professionals and people in business meet each other, 100things to do hosts regular fun networking events, workshops, happy hours, and other activities.

This is a networking group that aims to help businesses and professionals support each other and form personal relationships.

Madison Women in Tech is a networking group for local women and non-binary people that are interesting in technology.

PWow Madison is one of several branches around the state of Wisconsin, all of which focus on building personal relationships first and business relationships second.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

The Badger Startup Summit is a way for entrepreneurs and businesses from around the Badger state can meet one another, make connections, learn, and pitch their businesses.

The Forward Festival is a large, 8-day festival celebrating technology and entrepreneurship that is held annually in the city.

The Madison Startup Fair is an annual event honoring and promoting local startups and aims to connect them with University of Wisconsin students.

Techstars runs frequent Startup Weekend events in cities around the country, with an annual one occurring in Madison.

Startup Week Wisconsin is an annual weeklong conference celebrating entrepreneurship that is held in several cities across the state.

Held annually since 2010 and in the Madison area every year since 2013, the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference is a large event for entrepreneurs of all ages and experience levels.


Startup Competitions:

Transcend Madison is an annual student-led innovation competition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that places an emphasis on businesses with working prototypes.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Business holds an annual business plan competition in which students can compete for cash and in-kind prizes to grow their ideas.

The Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Competition is a statewide competition for technology entrepreneurs.

Wisconsin YES! is a business plan open to middle and high school age young entrepreneurs from around the state of Wisconsin.


Co-working Spaces:

100state is a large co-working space that places an emphasis on the values of community and collaboration to help its members find success.

Specifically designed to support entrepreneurs and solo workers, Brix & Mortar provides a number of membership plans, amenities, and 24/7 access to members.

With several membership options, Horizon Coworking offers quiet space to work, either a dedicated desk or shared space.

Industrious Office offers private office spaces for individuals as well as teams of up to five people.

Madworks Coworking provides affordable working space and free parking as well as organizing other valuable entrepreneurial resources such as an early-stage accelerator program.

In addition to a variety of membership plans, Synergy Coworking provides its members with free coffee or tea as well as coaching and guidance.


Maker spaces:

The Bodgery is a large maker space with a wide variety of tools and equipment that offers 24/7 access to members and hosts regular events open to the public.

In addition to their 8,500-square foot workshop full of tools and equipment, Sector67 offers regular classes and workshops to educate their members and the community.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is home to a 12,000 square foot workshop open to students.


A project of the Northside Planning Council of Madison, FEED Kitchens are five commercial kitchen spaces available for rent by budding local businesses.

A partnership between Madison Gas and Electric and Commonwealth Development, the Madison Enterprise Center is a long-term to facilitate the growth of businesses.

Not a traditional incubator, the PinkSpace Collective was originally a co-working space but is now a feminist collective that provides support to women in business and entrepreneurship.

Opening in June 2018, StartingBlock Madison will be an entrepreneurial hub that brings together startups and the resources they need to succeed.

14 Types of Information Investors May Request as Part of their Due Diligence Checklist for Your Startup



Home to the headquarters of BREW Accelerator, they work with water technology startups from around the world.

Headquartered in Chicago but with a location in Madison, Bunker Labs runs a 14-week program to support veteran-led businesses.

The Doyenne Evergreen Fund provides financial support and an accelerator program for startups led by women and people of color.

A program organized by gener8tor, gBETA is a free seven-week program that works with early-stage companies that have local roots.

gener8tor is a 12-week accelerator program that works with five startups at a time, with a focus on software, IT, web, SaaS, life science, MedTech, e-commerce, or hardware companies.

Madworks Seed Accelerator is a 10-week accelerator program for startups led by University of Wisconsin faculty, staff, alumni, and students as well as members of the community.



While Edgewood College does not offer a degree in entrepreneurship, its School of Business aims to provide its students with an education that covers it.

The Madison College Center for Entrepreneurship offers students a number of resources and educational programs about entrepreneurship.

UW’s Weinert Center of Entrepreneurship organizes a variety of entrepreneurial resources and education for graduate and undergrad students both in and out of the classroom.


Angel Groups/VCs:

4490 Ventures makes Series A and B round investments in promising software technology startups located in the Midwest United States.

BrightStar Wisconsin aims to support the Wisconsin economy by investing in early-stage startups with a focus on technology that are creating jobs.

HealthX Ventures is a seed fund for digital healthcare startups and companies located in the state of Wisconsin.

With locations in Madison and Ann Arbor, MI, Venture Investors invests in early-stage healthcare companies with a focus on the Midwest.

Venture Management, LLC is a private investment office that works with seed-stage technology companies located in Wisconsin or investing in Wisconsin’s economy.

Part angel group and part incubator, Wisconsin Investment Partners work with early-stage technology and life science companies.

Early Stage Financing: 3 Things Early Stage Companies Shouldn’t Go Cheap On!


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

This news source offers an “E-Zine,” which delivers business news to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday.

In Wisconsin offers a variety of newsletters covering business and economic news and development around the state of Wisconsin.

This source offers The Beat, a daily newsletter covering business and innovation news and the innovators supporting the state economy.

The Wisconsin State Journal and Madison.com offer a variety of newsletters covering different topics around the state and the city specifically, including a morning business briefing.


Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Madison not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

St. Louis, MO, Atlanta, GA Chicago, IL

Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.