2018 Madison Startup Weekend icebreaker event

Participants from 2018 Startup Weekend Madison working on an icebreaker exercise on the opening day of the event.

Now in its eighth year, Startup Weekend Madison is back April 26-28, 2019 in its signature format, a 54-hour event known for bringing all kinds of entrepreneurs—technical and non-technical, seasoned and budding—together to experience the highs, lows, pace and pressure of life at a startup.

It provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to experience what it takes to build a startup; connect with potential co-founders, investors or mentors; and discover the resources available to get on the path to success.

“The event is especially helpful for those who are new to entrepreneurship or those who want to meet some new like-minded people,” said Fred Turkington, a software project manager at Ten Forward Consulting and one of the event’s organizers. “It’s easy to get a taste of all the different parts of running a business.”

The event features speakers, mentors and judges from the Wisconsin startup community and highlights the depth and breadth of talent that is working in, and available to, startups in Wisconsin.

A snapshot of what happens in the 54 hours:

  • On Friday night, each competitor or group representative gets 30 seconds to stand in front of attendees and pitch their idea.
  • Ideas are taped to the wall, and attendees pick their favorites (each person gets three votes, which they can throw at one concept or spread around).
  • The top five to eight vote-getters are announced, and then attendees meet with those people or groups to see where they want to plug in.
  • Groups then have the rest of Friday night, all day Saturday and most of Sunday to come up with a prototype, promotions, user testing and whatever else is needed for the final pitch.

Startups like Milwaukee’s Mobcraft and Madison’s Doyenne Group and Open Homes credit Madison Startup Weekend as a significant influence.

“Wisconsin has a thriving startup ecosystem, with a few dozen incubators spread around the state,” Turkington said. “State policies like the Qualified New Business Venture Program have made it more attractive for investors to invest in Wisconsin companies. Encouraging entrepreneurship has consistently been shown to be one of the best ways to grow the economy, wealth and well-being of a region.”