Madison’s tech industry is booming, driven by UW innovation
From February through June, we’ll highlight the ways UW – Madison is fueling the state’s economy through research and innovation, educating the next generation, and reaching out to Wisconsinites to improve their lives. April’s theme is innovation. Watch for more on #CantStopABadger and #UWimpact on social media. Your support can help us continue this work.
The strong growth of Madison’s tech sector is attracting national attention.
The boom is in part fueled by UW – Madison, which provides cutting-edge research, entrepreneurship graduates and researchers, and a well-educated local workforce that is motivating some employers to open offices in Madison.
In 2020, the biggest increase in the country’s tech migration took place in Madison, according to LinkedIn data released by Great technology December 17, 2020.
Madison’s tech job market grew by 47% between 2014 and 2019, based on data provided to Wisconsin Public Radio by Lexi Russell, associate director of research and analysis for CBRE, a company of San Francisco investment that follows national real estate trends.
In addition to these statistics showing real growth, Madison’s growth potential stands out: In 2019, the Brookings Institution and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation ranked Madison first out of 35 cities with potential to become innovation hubs. .
Technology presence linked to UW – Madison
Several large tech companies have had offices in Madison for years, attracted by collaborations and recruiting opportunities at UW – Madison.
“Google, Zendesk, and Microsoft are all here and are all recruiting,” said Jason Fields, six-term Wisconsin state assembly member and president and CEO of the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) since January 2021.
Google opened its first office in Madison in 2007 and now has over 100 employees in Madison; Senior scientist and site manager Jeff Naughton, a former professor of computer science at UW-Madison, told the Cape Times in 2019 that Madison’s office allows Google to hire UW-Madison talent.
Zendesk’s Madison team has grown from 5 employees in 2013 to over 300 in 2021, and the Madison office is Zendesk’s regional hub in the Midwest.
Microsoft’s Gray Systems Lab (GSL) is based in Madison, and the GSL team collaborates on research projects with UW – Madison graduates and professors affiliated with the lab. The team designs, develops and evaluates new database system technologies, focusing on the transition from the most successful concepts to Azure Data products. Microsoft also owns Madison-based video game development studio Roundhouse Studios.
These big tech companies help anchor Madison’s tech startup community, which is largely led by UW – Madison.
UW– Madison drives tech entrepreneurship
The first three tech startups of UW professor of computer science – Madison Jignesh Patel, a spin-off of his research, were acquired by Teradata in 1997, Twitter in 2013 and Pivotal in 2015. His fourth tech startup DataChat, founded in 2017, makes data science accessible to everyone. The company has 20 employees and recently received $ 4 million in funding from venture capital firms in Silicon Valley.
To spark excitement for tech entrepreneurship among UW – Madison students, Patel launched the CS NEST Business Creation Program and the Creative Destruction Lab. He says having big tech companies in Madison improves the city’s image as a tech hub.
“It helps to have Microsoft and Google with big labs here, creating basic and cutting edge computer technology right here in Madison,” Patel said.
Fields cites another way UW – Madison is fueling the growth of the Madison area tech sector: Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) support for startups.
“WARF files patents, licenses academic technologies and invests in companies like C-Motive Technologies,” said Fields. Madison-based C-Motive Technologies was founded by Dan Ludois and Justin Reed, both with doctorates from the renowned UW – Madison research group, the Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium (WEMPEC).
WARF Ventures funds promising technology startups based on UW – Madison research, including AIQ Solutions, from the Translational Imaging Research Program at the University of Wisconsin.
“AIQ is a prime example of how UW researchers teamed up to find an innovative solution to a real clinical problem, attracted investment from Wisconsin venture capital funds, and built a product,” said said Mike Partsch, WARF Business Director. “The company’s software platform has the potential to revolutionize the way clinicians treat complex diseases, starting with metastatic cancer. AIQ’s ability to make early predictions about the effectiveness of treatment and the risk of toxicity will ultimately prolong life, while decreasing the money spent on expensive but ineffective drugs.
UW – Madison’s leadership and expertise in fusion technology and quantum computing are frequently sought after by investors, and WARF recently invested in quantum computing start-up ColdQuanta, which uses UW technology – Madison in her product and raised $ 35 million last year. Mark Saffman, professor of physics at UW – Madison and director of the Wisconsin Quantum Institute, is the chief quantum information scientist at ColdQuanta. Based in Boulder, the company has an office in Madison.
Teams of UW – Madison alumni who started startups in Madison have managed to leave the country. In 2018, ResMed acquired Madison-based Propeller Health, a smart inhaler maker founded by UW – Madison alumni, for $ 225 million. UW-Madison alumnus Brian Raffel and his brother Steve sold Raven Software to Activision in 1997, and the company continues to produce video games for well-known franchises such as “Call of Duty” and “Star Wars”.
“The Madison area and UW – Madison have produced great leaders in our technology space,” said Fields. “People understand that these well-known video games and other technologies were created in Wisconsin, and Madison is a great place to work, play, live long and raise a family. It’s the strengths we have that I think attracts people here.
A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
Fields stresses the importance of bringing in a diverse variety of tech workers who might want to move to Madison.
“We all know the Stanford guy’s land, but what’s the land for African Americans, Latinx or Hmong to bring them here?” We need to send a message that everyone is welcome here, ”said Fields, who is also an angel investor and personally invited the African American founders he invested in to relocate their businesses to Madison. “We are talking about innovation, technology and a welcoming environment. For generations X, Y and Z, diversity is important. “
Several MadREP programs are designed to support a healthy tech industry, attract tech workers to Madison, and support the local community.
“We are working on a broadband initiative and on housing,” Fields said. “We need to have broadband in our surrounding areas and send the message that we support remote working.”
MadREP is also working on a housing fund in partnership with developers, to attract people who want to stay or move here, coupled with a revolving credit fund that does gap financing, so underserved entrepreneurs have access in the capial. This includes companies that surround the tech ecosystem.
“It makes an entire community and fuels the culture,” Fields said, adding that MadREP also focuses on supporting longtime residents who can benefit from tech jobs and roles adjacent to the tech sector. “Kids are phenomenal when it comes to tech, and we can show them that they can be a part of this community and be the leaders of where this community goes, and if our older population needs to acquire new skills, technology can help level the playing field. “
At UW – Madison, the Dream Up Wisconsin competition encourages technological innovation for social good, and the 2021 winner ConnectRx Wisconsin is a partnership with Epic that aims to integrate Dane County’s health and social service systems into s building on existing electronic health record technology. Second place winner, Opportunity Calculator hopes to develop a mobile platform to give workers fast and accurate information on how career and training opportunities might affect their bottom line earnings. Both teams have diverse community leaders and partners.
“DreamUp Wisconsin offers innovators in the region the exciting opportunity to apply technology-based strategies to increase the incomes of 10,000 Dane County residents,” said UW-Madison Director and Professor Lonnie Shepherd. “We couldn’t be more proud of the accomplishments of the winning teams and their commitment to increasing family incomes and reducing racial disparities in income and employment.”
UW – Madison contributes $ 20.8 billion a year to the Wisconsin economy, and UW – Madison-related start-ups contribute an additional $ 10 billion. Find out more here.