Long known as a biotech and health care hub--from which university graduates often fled to bigger cities--Madison today is home to rising wages, plenty of incubators, and booming upstarts. And, finally, there's financing for all the innovation.

Companies To Watch

PerBlue, an indie gaming studio launched from its founders' college apartments, sold one game for $35 million in 2016 and just built another with Disney--Disney Heroes: Battle Mode.

Food-ordering startup EatStreet works with 15,000 restaurants across 47 states and is armed with nearly $45 million in venture capital funding.

Where To Talk Shop

You can always find someone in VC or startups at Colectivo Coffee on the Square. If the weather's nice, treat visitors to bratwurst, cheese curds, and a view of Lake Mendota from the iconic chairs at Memorial Union Terrace.

Red Flag

While some local entrepreneurs say there are plenty of technology and engineering graduates to recruit, others disagree--and say they struggle to hire seasoned managers.

Talent Pipeline

The massive medical-record software company Epic Systems is perhaps best known locally for its seven-million-square-foot campus comprising themed areas such as Hogwarts and Grand Central Station. Now that it has grown to nearly 10,000 employees, its alums are not only building local wealth--they're also spinning out their own companies. Three former Epic Systems employees in 2014 founded Redox, a communications platform for health care systems that's raised $50 million.

For years, the Badger State bemoaned its post-graduation "brain drain" from schools such as University of Wisconsin-Madison. Now, a burgeoning startup scene, plentiful tech jobs, and an abundance of remote work are compelling graduates to stick around and enjoy the city's vibrant culture and reasonable cost of living.

Recent Exit 

$225 million: What ResMed paid for Propeller Health, a maker of smart inhalers, in 2018. 

Startup Neighborhoods

Madison's entire downtown area, dubbed the Isthmus, is sandwiched between two lakes. On the southwest end, the University of Wisconsin is connected by a pedestrian walkway to Capitol Square, which is home to dozens of upscale restaurants and early-stage funding firm 4490 Ventures. A nearly 300-person incubator resides at 315 West Washington Avenue, which also hosts tech companies like Understory, Filament Games, and Datica.

Capitol East, once known for car dealerships, now hosts a new Google office, women's entrepreneurial group Doyenne, and incubators StartingBlock and Gener8tor.

The Players 

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Scott Resnick: The serial entrepreneur and former city alderperson served as executive director of local entrepreneurial hub StartingBlock. He's a force behind the Forward Festival, the region's major tech and entrepreneurship gathering--and a founding member of startup advocacy group Capital Entrepreneurs.

Mark Bakken: The Milwaukee native behind Goliath Networks (No. 97 on the 2001 Inc. 5000) and Nordic Consulting is now managing partner of HealthX Ventures, and a major player in bringing early funding to Madison's promising health care founders.