StartingBlock Madison is still more than a year from opening, but already the planned entrepreneurial hub has joined a network of startups around the world.
StartingBlock says it is one of more than 20 programs on five continents to become part of 1776's Union Network, which the Washington, D.C.-based 1776 describes as a "global incubator and seed fund that believes startups can change the world. We’re building a global community to provide the intellectual, social and financial capital these startups need to succeed."
Other participants range from Capital Factory, Austin, Texas to Venture Hall in Portland, Maine, and as far as Found.Ation in Athens, Greece and iHub, Nairobi, Kenya.
"It's a way for StartingBlock -- both the startup companies that we work with and the mentors and larger community -- to connect with the same types of colleagues," said Chandra Miller Fienen, StartingBlock's director of operations and programming. "It allows us to expand our resources."
StartingBlock will be a major part of The Spark, an eight-story building that American Family Insurance will build in the 800 block of East Washington Avenue. It's not scheduled to be completed until spring 2018, and no decisions have been made yet as to which young companies will occupy StartingBlock.
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But Miller Fienen said there's no reason to wait before affiliating with 1776's Union Network. "This sort of platform doesn't require a building," she said.
Madison startups that may not be housed within StartingBlock may also participate. Entrepreneurs can set up an account and access a mentor across the U.S. or around the world who may have the skills needed, Miller Fienen said.
"It is networking, connections and resources on a grand scale," she said.
The 1776 nonprofit says the Union Network will include more than 4,000 startups and 1,000 mentors.
The organization, 1776, founded in 2013, also sponsors the annual Challenge Cup competition to identify the most promising startups and give them guidance, and its Seed Fund Portfolio makes investments in some of them.