Posted tagged ‘Matt Younkle’

Who Speaks For Tech?

September 23, 2014

So if Wisconsin is trapped in yesteryear politics and economics, as I argue in the story posted above, the business group Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is the exemplar of this thinking.  Here’s how I began this related piece, also in Isthmus:

This is a problem.

The state’s most powerful business voice has conspicuously little contact with Wisconsin’s rising technology industry.

Wisconsin Manufacturing & Commerce, which claims more than 3,500 businesses as members, brags that “the success of the WMC government relations team in projecting and accomplishing a proactive business agenda has been second to none.”

Well, yeah. On the surface, WMC has never been stronger. The support WMC has thrown to small-government, pro-business Republicans has paid off big time, to say the obvious.

Wisconsin has a Republican governor, a Republican Assembly, a Republican Senate, a Republican-favoring Supreme Court and a Republican-dominated congressional delegation.

But critics say that WMC’s success is mostly in pursuing a savvy political agenda — not a savvy growth agenda. And the group’s legislative wish list tilts heavily to helping Wisconsin’s legacy manufacturers. The problem: These venerable corporate citizens usually burnish their bottom lines by adopting strategies that emphasize tax avoidance, lessened regulatory costs and dampened labor costs.

Do they add new jobs to the payroll? Not so much.

To read more, including how the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce has embraced the tech industry, please go here.

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Hearing Out The Tech Center Skeptics

October 28, 2013

StartingBlock Madison, the proposed tech home for an incubator/maker space/etc. could prove crucial in growing the downtown startup scene. That is, if it’s built and financed smartly. In this Isthmus column I look at  the arguments made by skeptics who question the $15-20 million it might cost to build the complex at the old Mautz paint factory site.

[Tech leader Matt Younkle  says:] “When you look at this kind of money, you have to ask how many startups could you invest in for that? You really have to start asking questions about the profits and cost of that kind of capital. I think the community could do this on a leaner basis.”

Joe Boucher, a tech industry attorney who chairs the city’s Economic Development Committee, worries about StartingBlock’s proposed location, which is a mile from the Capitol Square. That’s too far away to catch the downtown buzz the tech crowd likes, he feels.

“These kids want to be within two or three blocks of the Capitol for practical matters,” says Boucher. The Mautz site “is just a little too far away for 25-years-olds. I know it sounds crazy, but they don’t want to go out eight or 10 blocks — a mile out on East Wash.”

He adds: “If they don’t hit the sweet spot on location, they better hit the sweet spot on everything else — the quality of the building, the cost of the rent. That has to be perfect.”

Craig Stanley, a commercial real estate broker with Broadwing Advisors, shares Boucher’s concern. He can’t see why tech companies would lease market-rate space on East Wash for $18 per square foot when they could pay the same rate for space one block off the Square and be moments away from five cool restaurants.

Stanley says he likes the concept of StartingBlock, but adds, “I don’t see the demand to fill the space.” The veteran broker describes a very soft downtown office market with high vacancy rates. Overall it’s at 17.2%, but even higher at 21.2% for the class B space StartingBlock would offer, he notes.

To read more, including the rebuttals from project advocates, pls go here: http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=41227

And for an  update over the Mautz site negotiations, pls go here: http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=41243

What Next For Sector67?

November 23, 2012

Sector67, the tinkerers’ workshop at 2100 Winnebago St., is a key component in Madison’s emerging entrepreneurial  subculture.  I write in this Isthmus story about its successes and search for new space.

There’s a deep literature on creative spaces like Sector67. Most famously: MIT’s Building 20, the Bell Labs and the legendary Homebrew Computer Club that helped catalyze Silicon Valley. At UW-Madison, David Krakauer is trying to unleash that creative juice at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.

Matt Younkle, who founded the cloud-based music storage and sharing service Murfie.com with [Preston] Austin, thinks Sector67 has bottled the magic. He says when he was an engineering student at UW-Madison, “it was hard to walk into the lab and say, ‘I have this great idea, and I want to build it.’ That’s the beauty of Sector67. It’s a totally open door, and there are people there to help you turn your ideas into a prototype.”

Younkle’s assessment underscores why finding a new home for Sector67 is so important. The most logical site is in the city redevelopment zone known as the Capitol Gateway District. It contains many of the old industrial properties along the east rail corridor. Indeed, Meyer says he would love to relocate across the street from the two business incubators run by Commonwealth Development. The Metro Innovation Center, operated as a startup site by the University Research Park, is close by.

“I know a lot of what we’re doing fits in well with what the UW is doing and hopefully with what the city wants in furthering the entrepreneurial spirit,” [founder Chris] Meyer says. Unfailingly upbeat, he adds, “I love it when someone takes the world by the ears and starts a business. Every day I get up I want to help someone do that.”

To read more, please go here.


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