Last weekend was “a little crazy” for Brian Jensen.
On Friday, he returned home around 12:30 a.m. from the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce trip to California’s Silicon Valley, where Jensen’s company, Fishidy, was one of five start-ups that pitched to West Coast venture capitalists.
Six hours later, Jensen headed back out the door to Lake Waubesa, where a Detroit production company interviewed him for a TV program, “Start Up,” that will feature three Madison companies in episodes to air on public television this fall.
Though Fishidy is all about sharing fishing hot spots with friends, out on the lake Saturday, Jensen did more talking about the technology than angling for fish, he said. “We caught a couple of bass. ... Nothing big, about 14 to 15 inches.”
Fishidy; crowdsourced MobCraft Beer; and music marketplace Murfie will be part of the second season of “Start Up” this fall. “There’s a major support system and entrepreneurial boom that’s happening around Madison,” program creator and host Gary Bredow said. “It just seemed like a natural thing for us to include Madison this year.”
Four Milwaukee enterprises were highlighted last season: The Gouda Girls; the Iron Horse Hotel; It’z My Party Cakery; and Newaukee.
The program offers advice from such experts as Priceline co-founder Scott Case and Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List. “It disguises as a business show but it’s really human interest — how people are able to be successful by following their passion,” Bredow said.
Madison had an atmosphere that “Start Up” didn’t sense elsewhere, producer Jenny Feterovich said. “Everybody knows each other and everybody supports each other. ... You guys have a great vibe. We’re really impressed,” she said.
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In addition to the Madison trio of start-ups, this fall’s episodes will feature companies in cities that include Atlanta; St. Louis; Minneapolis; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Nashville, Tennessee; and Birmingham, Alabama.
Taming Silicon Valley’s storied investors
Fishidy; Catalyze; EatStreet; MdotLabs; and Propeller Health spoke to six venture capitalists June 25 at the new Epiphany hotel in Palo Alto, California. Chamber president Zach Brandon hopes those investors will have an epiphany of their own after hearing from Madison’s start-ups.
Afterward, 80 people attended a reception hosted by Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., a sponsor with the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm.
“I was a little reluctant when I went out,” Jensen said. “I didn’t know that they really understand the market that we’re in. But they actually were very excited about what we were doing.”
He said he got nibbles from potential investors in Fishidy’s next funding round — the company closed on $1.5 million in June. Jensen said Silicon Valley investors have deeper pockets than those in the Midwest.
“I had one say to me, ‘I just raised a very small fund of $1 billion.’ It was clear the amount of capital they have to deploy is greater than we have here,” said Jensen.
Brandon said he hopes to make the West Coast trip a regular outing, adding, “The ultimate goal is bringing them here.”