Scott Resnick is the Founder and first Executive Director of StartingBlock Madison, a 50,000 sq. foot entrepreneurial hub in Wisconsin, USA. He has also helped raise millions for the start-up scene around Wisconsin University. Ahead of his appearance at our 2018 Summit, Scott shares some lessons for the Macedonian start-up scene.
1. You have an impressive list of achievements behind you. Currently, you are the Founder and first Executive Director of StartingBlock Madison – 50,000 sq. foot entrepreneurial hub, which was opened in 2018. Could you give us a short overview of your professional background, and how you reached the point of founding StartingBlock?
Back in 2006, a few friends and I had an idea for a technology company to answer the following question: “what if folks could watch television online?” The concept was excellent. However, we were unable to commercialize the idea. Our team learned much from our failure and several of us continued on to build a second company together. Years later, Hardin Design & Development creates enterprise web applications for companies such as FedEx, Toyota, and American Family Insurance. I am still the company’s Chief Operating Officer.
While the company was going well, several entrepreneurs were looking to make a larger impact in our community. We wanted to be able to “pay it forward” and help other startups succeed in starting new companies. StartingBlock is an incubator that will provide young companies with the education, tools, resources, and capital to thrive in the 21st century.
2. You led efforts to raise millions of dollars to build the “beacon for Midwest startups” particularly around technologies spurred by the University of Wisconsin. What is the main purpose of this organization and how it is structured?
Madison has a population of less than 250,000 yet is in the top 15 in the world for venture capital investments per capita. What Madison lacks in population, we make up for in startup density. One goal of StartingBlock is to amplify the message that anyone can create a startup, and that Madison is one of the best place in the country for entrepreneurs. To accomplish our goals, we’ve partnered with our local and federal government partners, and the local university and colleges to highlight the strengths and competitive advantages of our region. We structured our organization as a not-for-profit and shared the vision with community institutions who were supportive of the project.
3. You are a former two-term member of the Madison Common Council and you created the first 1.5-million-dollar seed fund to spur women and minority entrepreneurship. How important do you find social responsibility and advocacy for societal issues that really matter?
Social responsibility should be at the heart of all professional decisions. As a young business leader who entered politics, I felt I had a duty to ensure all members of our greater community were treated with respect and equal opportunity while holding myself to the highest moral standards. The 1.5M fund came out of an opportunity analysis. Women and underrepresented groups receive a fraction of the venture capital funding as white males. Given that underrepresented founders often have higher returns, I spearheaded this founding as an opportunity to grow the venture community and grow our startup community.
4. At the upcoming Macedonia2025 Summit, you will share your experience and know-how on how to build an entrepreneurial district. As the Macedonian startup ecosystem is still fairly young, what would your suggestions be for the Macedonian entrepreneurs?
Be a cheerleader for your local ecosystem and startups. Too many people focus on the negatives of why an idea can’t work or why a startup can’t thrive in a particular region. Embrace your local strengths and become a champion for your community. You can do this by supporting fellow startup companies and offering assistance whenever possible. When one company succeeded in the region, the entire community succeeds.
5. Is there anything else you would like to share so our Summit registrants can learn more about Scott Resnick?
I ask every startup who I work with the single question: “How can I help?” I love working with young companies to help them discover their business model, find a new consumer, or locate financing. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to speak at Macedonia2025, and share my insights.
Interview by Dimitar Chatleski, Diaspora Relations/Business Development Officer