@1403 Aims to Foster Innovation on UW-Madison Campus and Beyond
Since taking office two years ago, University of Wisconsin-Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank has championed the effort to make more resources available to members of the campus community who have ideas for new companies.
In 2013, Blank, who has previously served as U.S. commerce secretary, told UW-Madison’s news service she sees universities as “idea factories” critical to the nation’s economy.
“I want to make sure that UW–Madison is on the cutting edge of entrepreneurship and technology commercialization,” Blank said at the time.
Joining—or, one might argue, staying in—the vanguard of tech transfer will require UW-Madison to make sure help is available at every entrepreneurial juncture, from honing an idea for a product or service to forming a business around it, to obtaining the capital needed for growth. And it can’t hurt to have sources of help—people with technical, legal, and fundraising expertise—working in close proximity.
That’s why there’s excitement around @1403, a building smack in the middle of campus that’s been rebranded as a center of gravity for startups.
“When people think of entrepreneurship, hopefully they think of this building. Hopefully this is an accessible, entrepreneurial identity across campus,” says Will Robus, a project manager at Discovery to Product (D2P), a @1403 tenant that helps UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff turn ideas into companies.
In addition to D2P, tenants include the university’s Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic, where founders can get advice on things like incorporating and filing patent applications, and the Madworks accelerator, whose portfolio includes SmartUQ and Seiva Technologies. Exis, a startup whose software helps programmers establish a secure link between the mobile and Web applications they’re developing and servers in the cloud, has also set up shop at @1403.
Aaron Olver, managing director of University Research Park, a business hub located on Madison’s west side, says the organization purchased the building—named after its address, 1403 University Ave.—in 2013 and will continue to operate it. While the research park has many ties to UW-Madison, it’s also home to numerous life sciences companies, such as Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS), Cellular Dynamics, and Arrowhead Research (NASDAQ: ARWR).
Madworks previously ran its accelerator program from University Research Park, where it continues to operate a co-working space. Its move to @1403, completed earlier this year, has made the accelerator more conveniently located for people who work or live on campus. That group includes many founders of companies that have gone through the program, says Anne Smith, who co-founded Madworks as well as the Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic.
“Geographically, we’re in the middle of everything,” says Adam Sherman, a commercialization strategist at D2P, which moved to @1403 from another part of campus in August 2014.
@1403 is across the street from the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, an interdisciplinary center research that opened in 2010. And it’s only blocks away from the buildings that house UW-Madison’s engineering and computer sciences departments, one of which contains the school’s “Internet of Things” lab.
Though @1403 is located on campus, and most of those who pass through are affiliated with the university, D2P’s Robus says he’s hopeful the impact of ideas developed inside the building will be felt throughout the Madison area.
“D2P needs people from outside of campus to join these project teams and future companies because that’s the only way they’re going to be successful,” Robus says. “They can’t spin out successfully with just a bunch of university people running them.”
Putting different startup-supporting groups together in one building does not instantly make it a gestalt. Robus says that in the months since the legal clinic and Madworks accelerator arrived, he hasn’t experienced a lot of “water cooler moments.” He says that could change with time, but it also reflects the fact that some of the tenants in @1403 had known each other and worked together prior to moving in.
Smith says that since relocating the two organizations she co-founded, @1403 has started to create more buzz, on and off campus. But the building is not at capacity, she says, and it will begin to develop an identity as more people and ideas pour in.
“It’s like any entrepreneurial venture,” Smith says. “You think you know what you want it to be like and then as the market forces take over, it will change.”