If Scott Resnick had his druthers, he’d be mayor of Madison now. But the 28-year-old techie and former city council member was drubbed in April by longtime Mayor Paul Soglin.
“The outcome was not necessarily one that I’d hoped for,” mused Resnick, who took a short time off after the election to ponder his future before he was named executive director of the new StartingBlock entrepreneurial hub. “But this new position allows me to stay in Madison and do what I enjoy doing, which is promoting innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit of our city, state and region. This is a critical project and I’m excited to lead it. This is a critical time for Madison and the state itself.
His most urgent task now is to raise $3 million for the project. Roughly $1.7 million has already been raised. In addition to fundraising, he’ll also be working on outreach and programming for the Madison-area startup community.
Resnick, a native of Wausau and a UW-Madison grad, described StartingBlock as an entrepreneurial hub aimed at supporting local startups. It is scheduled to open early next year. In the meantime, Resnick will retain his part-time post as chief operating officer of Harding Design and Development, a nearly 9-year-old company he co-founded. The company builds mobile applications and websites for companies like FedEx, Coleman and Mercedes Benz. He and a partner started it in their dorm room, and now they have offices in Madison and Dallas.
Resnick said StartingBlock will be located in a 50,000-square-foot technology incubator in the 800 block of East Washington Avenue, across the street from the 12-story-tall Constellation building.
“The space will include quite a few different functions,” he said. It will be the new home to Sector 67, – a makerspace and hackerspace – and home to gener8tor, a tech accelerator. It will also be a meeting space for Capital Entrepreneurs, and have subsidized, flexible office space for resident entrepreneurial companies, he said.
Resnick said he wouldn’t have described himself as a techie in high school or even the first few years at UW-Madison.
“If you would have asked me what I was going to do, I would have told you I was headed for law school,” he said. “I thought that was the path I was going to take. But I chose a different road. My business partner and I met in the dorms, where we were on the same floor. Since then, we’ve worked on hundreds of smaller projects.”
Resnick said he views StartingBlock as one of the bookends of the so-called “IQ Corridor” that stretches from Milwaukee to Madison.
“On the Milwaukee end, you have Ward4 – a startup hub with space and entrepreneurial programming — and the Water Council, which focuses on water technology,” he said. “We believe StartingBlock will be the Madison bookend.
“Other cities have these kinds of tech incubators like 1871 in Chicago and 1776 in Washington, D.C. They are a usually a hub of entrepreneurial activity, essentially a nexus where established local companies can meet and find the startups in their own community to create innovation. We hope Starting Block will be that for Madison.”
Resnick said he views StartingBlock as a “soft landing space” for three categories of entrepreneurs: UW-Madison and Madison College students, grads and professors who are working on companies and need a place to explore; EPIC employees and their knowledge of healthcare IT; and mid-career entrepreneurs “who know a trade or industry incredibly well, but need help with the basics of how you start a company.”
Resnick said StartingBlock is a non-profit funded by community partners, including the city of Madison, MG&E, American Family Insurance and the Evjue Foundation, the charitable arm of the Capital Times newspaper.
“Unlike certain centers that open with partners from outside the state and are aimed at poaching companies, we are right here, Madison driven and Madison-focused,” he said. “There are a lot of resources (for startups) that didn’t exist 10 years ago, whether it’s Capital Entrepreneurs, gener8tor or Sector67. We’ve seen Madison grow as an entrepreneurial hub in the Midwest. We believe this center will further catalyze those kinds of industry connections and new technology companies.”
Though Resnick gave up his council seat to run for mayor, he said he may not be done with politics.
As for the immediate future, Resnick said he and his wife are planning to buy a house, which would move them out of the downtown and campus district he represented for two terms.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the council,” he said. “But right now my wife and I are glad to be young and living in the city of Madison. This is the perfect time for not only young professionals, but also a great city for young families. We’re excited to see what the next few years has in store for both of us.”
— By Brian E. Clark