Posted tagged ‘Paul Barford’

This Startup Could Be Big For Madison

May 22, 2014

MdotLabs, the fraud-fighting startup that detects faked page views of online advertising, captures a lot of what’s good about the Madison tech scene. Co-founder Timur Yarnall moved his internet company here from New York in 2005 because he liked the Madison action. His partner, Paul Barford, is a tenured professor in UW-Madison’s Computer Science program and the co-teacher of CS’s groundbreaking entrepreneur class. Their company, founded in mid-2013, has an office in Palo Alto, but expects to keep its main office  in Madison because the town is so deep with code-writing talent. What could be better?

Well, that MdotLabs strikes it big and becomes a major player in the Madison economy. It could happen, observers say.

 “Anytime someone can develop a heavy technology solution to a complex problem that has large market opportunities, that interests us, and that’s what these guys have done,” says John Philosophos, whose Great Oaks Venture Fund is one of the startup’s seed-stage investors.

Philosophos sees online ad sales fraud as “a massive problem,” but also puts his finger on MdotLabs’ challenge: The industry may not be ready for reform. For some, scammery is simply a cost of business. And paying for it might even seem easier and cheaper than subscribing for MdotLabs’ validated data. Besides, he muses, are the ad agencies prepared to tell their national brands how much money they’ve wasted paying for robot-generated page views?

….

Zach Brandon, president of the tech-minded Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, says MdotLabs is a local startup to watch. He sees it as a game-changer in a lucrative industry. He compares MdotLabs’ potential to that of Exact Sciences, the local biotech company that is piloting a noninvasive test for colorectal cancer. He even compares its potential competitive position to Epic’s with electronic health records.

“I think MdotLabs could be not just a success story,” says the chamber chief, “but the creator of a new employment base in Dane County.”

To read more, please go here.

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An Economy for the 21st Century

February 26, 2014

The past few years almost all of my writing has focused on documenting the rise of Dane County’s technology industry. This cover story for Isthmus begins:

This is the big question: How far can Dane County ride Epic’s success?

Done right, we’re talking about the foundation for Dane County’s 21st-century economy being built on the medical software industry: lots of good-paying information technology jobs that fuel an expanding housing market, a glittering downtown with hip restaurants and music clubs, a rising tax base to fund new community services and a lot more resources to deal with the serious problems of poverty.

Call it the “Epiconomy.” Madison advertising executive Andy Wallman, who coined the name, should trademark it. “Epiconomy” nails the fact that Epic now drives the Madison area’s prosperity.

Founded in 1979 by its mastermind Judith Faulkner, Epic Systems Corp.is the world leader in the burgeoning health-care software market. The privately owned Epic has 6,800 employees at its Disney-like headquarters in Verona and recorded $1.66 billion in sales in 2013. The company is renowned — notorious, say its critics — for hiring only the smartest young people and working them hard. Salaries for these twentysomethings range from an estimated $60,000 to $100,000 a year.

More are coming. Lots more.

“They could have as many as 10,000 employees by 2018,” says Madison planning chief Steven Cover, who was among top city officials briefed by Epic’s chief administrative officer Steve Dickmann in mid-January. (The media-shy company declined to be interviewed for this story.) Epic expects to add 800 positions a year for the next four or five years, Cover notes.

“They have an international operation that is growing very quickly. This will fuel their continued growth,” he says.

As heartening as that message is, the good news doesn’t stop there. Epic will continue to run its worldwide operation out of its nearly 1,000-acre Verona complex.

“There won’t be a European headquarters,” says Cover. “Their international operation will be staffed and operated from here.”

It’s big news that Epic will not decentralize its operation with regional headquarters. But for Dane County, the even larger payoff hinges on the answer to that opening question: Will Epic’s success give birth to an even larger health industry?

To read more, please go here.

I’ve written on Epic over the years.

For my 2002 story on how Epic wound up in Verona, please go here. You’ll see that back then the campus was valued at only $45  million.

Here’s another story from 2002 that describes how real estate speculators cashed in when they sold Epic the land for its new campus.

This cover  story from 2008 cited Epic as an example of “green sprawl”.

Here is a timeline up to 2008 that details Epic’s growth over the years.

This column from 2010 details how strikingly ignorant city leaders were when they lost Epic to Verona.

And here a mayoral candidate Paul Soglin talks about his Epic regret .

UW Startups Get a Boost

October 14, 2013

Yup, things are happening. A New York venture capital fund has pledged to invest $500,000 in student startups. The UW Research Park has made move some moves to help software startups as well. I write in Isthmus:

Great Oaks’ investment in student startups coincides with an uptick in entrepreneurial ferment on campus. Mark Bugher, who’s retiring on Nov. 1 after a long run as director of the University Research Park, noted several new moves in a recent wrap-up interview.

This includes the decision to redesign the Metro Innovation Center, the Research Park’s startup site at 1245 E. Washington Ave. Regarded as the park’s “stake in the ground” on the east side, the site has never taken off, despite occupying only 6,000 square feet in the old Gisholt factory complex. Just two of 10 suites are occupied. Bugher and his deputy Greg Hyer expect the space to be redesigned along a more open concept with cheaper rents than the current $700 to $800 a month.

The bigger news is the Research Park’s purchase (with funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation) of the old Luther’s Blues building at 1401 University Ave. Hyer put the price at “more than $2 million.” Perhaps better known today as “that purple building,” the site is strategically placed for tech incubation — next to the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and near the computer science building.

“It has some real interesting entrepreneurial opportunities for the interaction of students, faculty and the private sector,” notes Hyer, adding that student coworking space will be installed.

To read more, please go here.

In a sidebar, I report that Bugher feels that the Legislature complicates the UW’s efforts to commercialize its biotech research.  Find it here.

The Next Jobs? The Next Zuckerberg?

January 11, 2013

UW-Madison’s Computer Science program broke new ground this fall by offering its first class ever aimed at student software developers who want to start their own businesses. Profs Paul Barford and Remzi Arpaci-Dusseau are so committed to helping these kids that they  taught the class on top of their normal instructional load without added pay.

Here’s a chunk of what I wrote:

“These are really bright, really hardworking kids,” says Barford. “We heard some wonderful pitches, everything from social networking, to gaming, to educational solutions. Some were a little bit out there, but others have real possibility for commercialization if they’re given a little more guidance and the right environment to blossom.”

Underline that last point. UW-Madison is one of the world’s great research universities, and the computer science department, as one of the stars in the UW constellation, has its share of illustrious graduates. They include Epic’s Judith Faulkner, John Morgridge of networking giant Cisco Systems, Ramu Sunkara of Qik video sharing, and Carol Bartz of Yahoo.

But the surprise is that UW-Madison, despite bringing in more than $1 billion a year in research grants, hasn’t fared particularly well in spinning off businesses. A new report by the Association of University Technology Managers notes only four university-related startups in Wisconsin in 2011. In contrast, Illinois had 20, Michigan 11 and Minnesota nine.

This modest state of affairs has consequences for the shaky Madison and Wisconsin economies. The Capitol City hasn’t added any new jobs over the past year, while the stagnant state economy isn’t even close to recovering the jobs lost in the Great Recession.

Experts say that startup businesses are key to turning things around. But a 2011 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis had bad news on this front: All of the upper Midwest states have been hit with job losses in startup companies over the last 15 years and “none harder than Wisconsin, which has seen employment at startup establishments drop by almost 50% since 2000.”

Ouch!

To read more, please go here.


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