How Scott Resnick Is Changing the Startup Ecosystem in Madison, Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin, whose campus sprinkles the landscape of Madison, is a hotbed for learning, entrepreneurship, and research. It has been ranked “Top 10” in national research spending every year since 1972, “Top 10” in producing Fortune 500 CEOs, and 19 Nobel Prize awards have been given to UW faculty and alumni.
It’s no wonder why Scott Resnick was drawn to the University and why, as a student there, he co-founded his first and second companies. While living in Chadbourne Hall, he partnered with his dorm neighbor and friend Jon Hardin to found InZum, an online video streaming software business that ended up failing.
It didn’t take long for the two to come back together and co-found their second company, Hardin Design and Development, where Scott is now the COO. Hardin builds enterprise-related applications for Fortune 500 companies. Its list of clients is impressive. FedEx, AT&T, the U.S. Postal Service, CNN, Toyota… just to name a few. The company has won top honors at the Consumer Electronics Show, their work has appeared in Apple Computer’s iPad commercials, and they were named one of the city’s best places to work by Madison Magazine.
But starting a major tech firm and being a huge success was not enough for Scott. Like other members of Startup Champions Network, he’s passionate about civic engagement and entrepreneurial growth. In 2011, Scott was elected to the city council and was re-elected in 2013. He was the youngest City Council member for any major metropolitan city. In 2015, with a vision for Madison to have an innovative, open, and transparent government, he put his hat in the ring for mayor.
His vision? To create “the most open and transparent municipal government in the country that proactively responds to climate change and a city that’s a hub for creativity and innovation in economic development, the arts, basic services and interacting with residents,” he told the Cap Times during the mayoral race. “The city must deal with the achievement gap, racial inequities, homelessness and transportation.”
While he didn’t win the mayoral race, he was a strong contender. After that experience, he set his sights on other ways he could improve Madison and spur entrepreneurial growth in his city.
He and Jon Hardin founded Capital Entrepreneurs, an organization dedicated to sparking new business development in Madison. He also oversaw the formation of StartingBlock Madison, and became the Executive Director in 2015. StartingBlock Madison is an "entrepreneurial hub" dedicated to supporting local start-up businesses.
According to Scott, who was one of the key visionaries on the project, “There’s no other organization like StartingBlock in the country where we have a true partnership with American Family Insurance. Where you’ll have a Fortune 500 company that occupies a building right next to a startup center. It was one of the largest public/private partnerships towards entrepreneurship in the country at its time. Taking in money from the federal government, state government, local government, as well as a large Fortune 500 company, all building a community center around entrepreneurship.”
It started when a group of entrepreneurs and business leaders began having conversations around a center where entrepreneurs who were looking to grow or incubate an idea, could find the resources they needed all in one place. A place to work, mentorship, programs, accelerators, venture capitalists, etc.
After some intense fundraising, they partnered with American Family Insurance, who owns the 50,000 square foot, eight story building called “the Spark.” StartingBlock occupies three floors of the building and Scott is now the organization’s “Entrepreneur in Residence.”
StartingBlock has brought in local startup-supporting organizations Capital Entrepreneurs, Gener8tor (a Midwestern startup accelerator program), the Doyenne Group (a mentorship program for women in entrepreneurship and one of the sponsors of the Madison Summit), Bunker Labs (an accelerator for veteran-led startups) The Commons (an organization that connects university students with startups), and the Wisconsin Games Alliance (a trade group for the region’s video game industry).
Sounds awesome, right? This massive, collaborative, entrepreneurial hub will be the venue for the SCN Madison Summit!
From the top of the Spark building, you can look down on two lakes and all of Madison’s gorgeous downtown. The city is incredibly walkable and bike-friendly. Scott and the other Madison hosts have been hard at work building two very important things into the agenda for Madison: member interaction and time to see the city.
“We’re building a hands-on conference where we’ll have many interactions among our members. What we believe fundamentally is the answers that will help solve our startup communities are going to be coming from the grassroots. Individually, the members of the Madison team don't have all the answers, but we know if we work together, we can come up with better solutions to solve the problems of our communities. You should expect a very interactive summit, unlike others in the past,” explains Scott.
“The other piece,” he adds, “is about enjoying the community and having a great time. Our summit will be situated in between two lakes in Madison’s immediate downtown. Our hotels and Airbnbs are within blocks of our center, and all of the programming is within a mile and a half radius. We are a small community, which means you’ll have an opportunity to see and feel the greater Madison Community while you’re here.”
Scott’s Role at SCN
Scott is not just a Summit host, he’s also an integral part of our Metrics and Policy Committee. So, in addition to planning the Fall Summit, Scott has been working with the metrics committee to build a digital scorecard our members will be able to use to score the health of their ecosystems.
The scorecard pulls in standard data like venture capital inside a community but goes deeper by pulling in information like SBA loans, Inc. 5,000 companies, patent information, and Bureau of Labor Statistics data (which measures talent).
“Using a whole myriad of data points, we will be able to pull together an index to identify cities who are doing something special that are not being recognized in general rankings.”
Why is Scott a Member of SCN?
“To learn best practices from all of our nation’s communities. Learning about other ecosystems and other startup communities allows me to bring best practices back to Madison. You can see where we’ve implemented new ideas that we’ve either learned from SCN or other functions through the Kauffman Foundation playing. For example, we do a monthly intro to the Madison Startup Scene as a way for anyone interested in Madison to pop in and learn how to get a foot in, inside their community. We took the idea originally from Austin and now have seen it shared throughout other SCN communities.”