Madison’s growing startups are helping more than one industry

Madison’s growing startups are helping more than one industry

By Polo Rocha,

Skyline_of_Madison_WisconsinP_webThe growing momentum in the Madison startup sector isn’t only helping new companies.

It’s also boosting the lawyers, part-time CFOs, accountants and other consultants who help those startups grow — and sometimes take a loss when they fail. Those service providers, at firms both large and small, generally offer sweeter packages to cash-strapped startups, discounting their usual rates or allowing deferred payments until the next fundraising round closes.

And in doing so, they become much like investors, who risk their money on young companies and hope that investment pays off later on.

“We all want to help each other grow and prosper,” said Derek Notman, the founder and CEO of Intrepid Wealth Partners.

Notman is relatively new to the area, arriving to Madison three years ago to be closer to family in Minnesota.

But he chose the city because its “startup community is fantastic” and works for his business model. Notman’s firm gives personal finance advice to entrepreneurs around the world, though that often bleeds into advice on their companies.

People such as Notman are important, said Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom Still, because a tech-based economy can’t grow without a strong service sector. Those service providers come from such industries as finance, accounting, law, banking, insurance and real estate.

“It’s really necessary for entrepreneurs, startups, scale-ups to have access to that kind of expertise,” Still said.

Those providers are also a sign that Madison’s startup ecosystem has “grown up,” said StartingBlock Executive Director Scott Resnick.

Startups often begin by getting free advice from places such as UW-Madison’s Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic. They then turn to lawyers such as Michael Best & Friedrich’s Melissa Turczyn once they’ve got a solid business plan. Turczyn, who has focused on early-stage companies since 2008, is one of the most active providers in the area.

Among her clients is Quietyme’s John Bialk, who said startups need to make sure their paperwork and books are in order. Otherwise, he warned, investors will ignore them.

“If you don’t get it right at the beginning, you’re probably not gonna make it,” he said. Read more …