The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery filled with students and business founders Wednesday as they joined to network and meet members of the Madison’s startup community.
In its second year, the 2014 Madison Startup Fair drew in a crowd of 40 companies and countless visitors.
Event organizer Forest Woolworth, chief operating officer of PerBlue and co-founder of Capital Entrepreneurship, said the event had nearly doubled since the previous year and had gained lots of additional traction over the first year.
Dominic DiMarco, co-founder of LYFT.io, was displaying a quadcopter at his booth. He said they were developing software to allow the quadcopter to inspect bridges and their company specialized in “smart technology.”
“I’ve gotten a lot of interest in internships today,” DiMarco said.
LYFT.io, which was advertising two internships, was not alone. Woolworth said the majority of the companies were actively looking for interns and full-time employees. He said they wanted to keep the startup fair focused on Madison.
Google, who was already in town, had asked to participate in the event and was denied.
“We told Google they couldn’t come,” Woolworth said, emphasizing the community comes first.
Capital Entrepreneurship’s local focus was appreciated by company leaders at the fair. Woolworth said there are many difficulties small tech startups feel when they are competing directly with giants such as Facebook.
Woolworth said the fair does not charge any fee to the companies that participate. He said “a couple hundred dollar fee” may not mean anything to Facebook or Google, but it might inhibit a smaller operation from accessing this event.
Patrick Stoddard, a UW sophomore who attended the event, said he found various startups he was interested in.
“It’s an event where you can look for jobs that not only allow, but seek people who’ll take creative license as opposed to disposable burnout corporate jobs,” Stoddard said.
DiMarco said Madison had an “entrepreneur culture.” He said he saw the largest boom in startup exposure in the past 12 to 18 months.
“The ecosystem is developing rapidly,” DiMarco said.
Woolworth said there was a disconnect between students and the off-campus Madison community. He said students do not have to move to Silicon Valley to get involved because Madison has a strong community of startups.
David Elderbrock, representing the health care software startup Wellbe.me, was not actively pursuing interns but used the fair as an opportunity to notify students of future positions that would be opening soon.
“I don’t even care what major they are. I don’t care if they’re history majors or whatever,” Elderbrock said. “We’re looking for people who thrive in rapid change, are quick learners and work well in teams.”
Woolworth said next year’s startup fair would feature more space, more participants and more publicity.