Gregory St. Fort transitioned from event manager to executive director of 100state, a downtown co-working space and startup incubator, last month.
The former New York City resident and founder of marketing startup LetsKeepBuilding said moving from New York to Madison last year was a bit of a culture shock, but he’s since settled and tapped into Madison’s startup scene.
St. Fort said he has high hopes and big plans for the future of 100state, which is entering its third year of existence.
In particular, he hopes to make the 100state community more diverse.
“People are aware of (the lack of diversity) at this point,” he said. “I think everyone just needs to come together with a solution, instead of trying to be the first person to find it.”
What hooked you up with 100state, after you moved here?
It was kind of random. As I was new here, I was looking to meet people. One day, I was literally walking up to people and saying, “Hey, my name is Greg.” One of the people I ended up meeting was Andrew Conley, who is the former executive director (of 100state).
I’m going to back up a bit – can you tell me about the business you started in New York, before you moved to Madison?
LetsKeepBuilding is a business that represents me, career-wise. For most of my life I had no idea (what I wanted to do) – stuff I went to school for is unrelated to what I do now. Basically, me and my friends were always trying different things to figure out what we should be doing, and what we wanted to do. That was something we’d say, “Let’s keep building,” at a meeting, or when we’d see each other. That’s kind of the mindset behind LetsKeepBuilding. As a service, I try to narrow it down to product launches.
So you’re still working with that company?
Yeah, LetsKeepBuilding is not something I plan on stopping.
What are some of your goals for 100state?
We want to work on developing even more relationships in Madison. We have a lot of strong relationships, but there are some relationships we haven’t tapped yet. We’ve done a pretty good job in terms of diversity, but we want to continue to build on that.
Do you have ideas for how to make 100state more diverse?
I think sometimes you have go to about it the old fashioned way — go out and knock on some doors. Sometimes people think email is the solution. I don’t think that works. It’s really not that simple. The goal is to knock on doors and see who’s there. You build a relationship and let the relationship organically develop — it’s not, “We’re doing this and you should be a part of it,” it’s, “We’re doing this and however we can help each other, we’ll take it from there.”
What are some of the challenges you see yourself and 100state encountering in the near future?
There are always going to be different hurdles, no matter what — and what do you do with hurdles? You leap over them. I guess I don’t like to look at things as “challenges.” I think we’re just going to keep going, no matter what hurdles are put in front of us. Right now we’re working on increasing revenues — we definitely want to raise more funds. We want to make sure we’re maintaining our growth.
What do you think of the Madison startup scene?
I like that it’s connected — if you’re part of the startup community, you’re part of it. That’s what comes with the size of Madison. It’s a unique opportunity to create a strong bond. The potential is very high because everyone can truly leverage each other.
What about the things that could be better about the community?
I’m always going to say “diversity.” Madison is not going be New York, it shouldn’t expect to be that. However, it should be the best Madison it can be in terms of diversity. I would like to see a better representation of each group, but I think that just takes time to develop. There’s a lot of potential. People are aware of it at this point. I think everyone just needs to come together with a solution, instead of trying to be the first person to find it. ￼