Meet Startup Weekend Speaker, Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson, co-founder of DotCom Therapy,will be speaking at Startup Weekend Madison.

Rachel is a certified and clinically competent speech-language pathologist who has been in practice since 2012. When asked why she became a SLP she responded with, “communication is the most powerful tool we have in this world and through developing DotCom Therapy we are hoping to provide people that power from the comfort of home and with expert therapists not only in the field of speech but in the area of speech you need”. It is Rachel’s hope that DotCom Therapy will become a household name and who you turn to for all of your communication needs.

Therapy for everyone, everywhere™

Read more about the DotCom Therapy mission and journey in these two recent articles from


Meet Startup Weekend speaker, Emily Purdom

Emily Purdom, co-founder of DotCom Therapy will be speaking at Startup Weekend Madison.

With extensive experience in speech therapy provision and educational administration in rural areas, Emily’s role is to advocate for innovation and service excellence across all settings. 

“Parents really appreciate that schools are using innovation to bring the highest quality of speech therapy services to their child; they see that we are the trusted speech therapy provider.”

By removing barriers of accessibility, the DotCom team is eradicating the pervasive shortage of speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and mental health professionals. DotCom Therapy was created to connect patients, clients and schools with the best therapist to meet their needs, not just a professional within the localized area.

The highest quality of therapy services provided, combined with ultimate convenience, can lead to industry disruption and improved healthcare access for people worldwide.

Learn more about Emily and DotCom Therapy:

Meet Sydney Lai, Startup Weekend Facilitator

Get to know Sydney Lai, our 2017 Facilitator for Startup Weekend Madison

Sydney Lai is a gregarious community leader passionate about helping people pursue entrepreneurship. Sydney works domestically and internationally building startup ecosystems, leading accelerators, venture funds and community events. As a technical marketer and designer with an award winning background in sales and business development, Sydney grows products and services users want. Her work spans across industries and startups including finance, virtual reality, enterprise, and aerospace.

As a community leader building startup ecosystems, Sydney has worked in accelerators, venture funds, financial services, SaaS, government, virtual reality, and aerospace industries. As a technical marketer and designer with an award winning background in sales and business development, Sydney grows products and services users want.

In March, 2016 Sydney published a LinkedIn article on Linked in titled, “Design Startups That Accelerators Want” and in October 2016 she presented a TedX Talk you’ll want to check out at


Madison 2015 Summary Video

Thanks so much to Pauline for putting together interviews and a great summary the experience last year!

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Startup Weekend Green Bay 2015 Recap

Thanks to all the participants, coaches, judges, organizers, our speaker and Startup Weekend facilitator who made this event a huge success! 47 participants formed into 8 teams on Friday night, and the final results on Sunday were pretty amazing. Please check out the final pitches on YouTube (courtesy of the Toolshare team) to see the pitches if you haven't already.

Here is a list of our winning teams:

1st Place – Blaze Backcountry
2nd Place – Cards for Dudes
3rd Place – Paul Request

There were 5 other companies that also hustled and built amazing products all weekend:

  • Mystery Vacations
  • FiberStarter
  • Toolshare
  • Bean Dirt
  • Practical Safety Solutions

Teams, if the link to your project is incorrect or missing, please drop us a line with the correct URL to your project and we'll get it updated on our site.

Stay Connected

It's important to stay plugged in with other motivated entrepreneurs, designers and developers in your area. Here are a few ways to continue to cultivate these relationships:

SWGB 2016

The organizing team has not figured out exactly when the next event will be, but chances are it will be happening around the same time next year. We'll make sure to send out an email as the details are finalized and we'll keep updated with the latest info.

Thanks again for helping make this possible. It was amazing to see everyone pull together and accomplish so much in just one weekend. We hope you had as much fun as we did and that we see you at the next event!

Why Attend Yet Another Networking Event? Three Questions to Ask Yourself

This is a guest post from Robin Lawson of Lumen Electronic Jewelry, a startup from the Madison area. Thanks, Robin!


As an entrepreneur or aspiring entrepreneur, I get it.  Your time is limited and therefore valuable.

Like me, you may be bombarded with all kinds of networking events, pitch contests, hackathons, etc.  If we went to all of them we’d have no time to do the things you actually love.

And the ROI (Return On Investment) is nebulous.  I’ve been there, awkward and bored, saying the same 3 phrases over and over to strangers.  And then walking away feeling like my time was wasted.  No leads, no connections.

However I also know staying home means my baby may never grow.  I HAVE to put it out there and take a risk.  It’s what we entrepreneurs do.

But they have to be calculated risks.  Educated risks.  The stakes are high.

My baby is Lumen Electronic Jewelry, which I co-founded with my brother.  We custom design solar powered twinkling LED jewelry.  Yup, no batteries, all green energy and blinky lights.    It’s hard to explain in words, so take a moment and check it out!

Early in our journey friends and family told us our stuff was awesome and we should sell it at craft fairs.  So we applied to a lot of fairs.

And you know what?  We got rejected from a lot of fairs.  We brushed it off, it happens to everyone.

A few of the smaller fairs let us in so we went, all excited.  And did we sell bucket loads?  NOPE.  Almost nothing.  Many people loved our stuff but they didn’t put money down.   We were left scratching our heads.

Then we realized craft fair attendees are not our target audience.  Geeks are our market, and they don’t generally go to craft fairs.

Seems obvious in hind sight, but at the time we thought we could sell to everyone.

Do we think all those craft fairs were a waste of time?  Hells no,  we learned a ton.

First, we perfected our pitch.  We talked to hundreds of people and figured out what the common questions and confusions were.   We learned how to answer those questions concisely and clearly.  We also went through iterations of our display and packaging, observing what worked for other vendors at the fair.

Second, we made connections.  We talked to other vendors during lulls in the crowd.  We found out what fairs were awesome and which were not.  We learned how to display merchandise, what are their best sellers, how long they’ve been in the business, etc.  This information was invaluable to us and our business.

I could go on and on, I have dozens more examples of all the things I learned going to craft fairs we didn’t sell enough to break even.  And the same goes for other networking events.

I am pickier now, savvier.  Before considering any event I ask myself 3 questions:

  1. Is my target market going to be there?

This is the perfect place to try my pitch, learn more about my customer’s needs, concerns, and get their feedback.  Listen to them.  You may turn out to be wrong about your customer like we were.  We thought craft fair attendees would get our product.  Most didn’t.  We thought geeks would be there.   They  were, but in VERY small numbers, not enough to live on.  Do’h!

  1. Are friends going to be there?

Being an entrepreneur can be lonely.  Lots of long hours by yourself.  There are some things only a fellow entrepreneur can understand.  My support network is invaluable, it keeps me sane.  They are a sounding board for ideas and make connections that I wouldn’t think of.  And support when things inevitably get tough.  Face to face time is still the best, Facebook or Linkedin can’t replace someone looking you in the eye and saying “I’ve been there.”

  1. Are mentors going to be there?

Is someone or some company attending that I admire?  Learning from others is great, it prevents history from repeating itself.  Sure I’m tempted to launch into my pitch right away, but I’ve found it much more effective to build relationships by staying curious about successful people.   How did they get where they are?  How much money and sweat did it take?  What worked, what didn’t?  Biggest regret, hardest moment, biggest victory from the last year?  Most entrepreneurs love to talk about themselves and their business.  Some people may not be willing to share and that is OK, I don’t push.  I find the ones who are.

And guess what?  Startup weekend may have all 3 of these elements for you.  Take a chance, it’s what entrepreneurs do.

This is a guest post from Robin Lawson of Lumen Electronic Jewelry, a startup from the Madison area. Thanks, Robin!

Developers Wanted!

Developers, developers, developers!

Most Startup Weekend Green Bay (SWGB) teams will need one or more developers. Some startup teams work on mobile apps, computer games or other computer programs or systems. Even hardware startups or non-digital service startups should have a website and may want a smartphone app. So developers are needed for every Startup Weekend team.

Types of developers needed for SWGB 2015, February 6 – 8, 2015:

  • Application programmers
  • Systems coders
  • Website developers
  • iOS developers
  • Android developers
  • Game developers
  • Web services developers

I’m going to work with area organizations such as Northeast Wisconsin Developers Users Group, Northeast Wisconsin Association of Information Technology Professionals, and the Northeast Wisconsin Linux Users Group to invite all their members to participate in SWGB. We also need to contact:

  1. 1. Computer-related departments and instructors at northeast Wisconsin’s universities, colleges, high schools and middle schools.
  2. 2. Companies whose main business is computers, such as DMI Studios, Heartland Business Systems, Infinity Technology, Skyline Technologies and ZyQuest.
  3. 3. High tech companies where lots of coders work, such as Breakthrough Fuel, Plexus, Surface Mount Technology and Xenser.
  4. 4. Companies which have a significant number of developers, such as Kimberly-Clark, Miller Electric, Oshkosh Corp, Schneider and Schreiber.

To help make sure we have lots of developers at SWGB 2015:

  1. 1. If you know developers, please tell them about SWGB 2015 and encourage them to register.
  2. 2. If you know good contacts in the above listed organizations, please share their contact info with me; I’ll work with them to encourage their developers to participate in SWGB 2015.

To learn more, go to the SWGB website at

Bob Waldron

Startup Ideas Bootcamps

Do you have an idea for a startup that could use some refinement? Or do you want to be part of a startup, but don’t have a good startup idea?

In just three hours, Startup Ideas Bootcamp will help you come up with new ideas, improve your ideas, determine the next steps, and maybe even recruit potential co-founders. This intensive, collaborative and worthwhile workshop begins with a talk by a startup founder designed to cover the components of good and bad startup ideas. For example, is your market big enough, is there organic growth potential, is there a clear path to profitability? After the main talk, attendees can share their ideas with both experts and peers to receive constructive feedback.

Time is your most precious resource during Startup Weekend. You won’t have enough time for everything you want to do during the event. In only 54 hours you will build a new company and a new product with a new team. To get the most done in that 54 hours, you should prepare for that weekend marathon. Startup Ideas Bootcamp helps you prepare to be as effective as possible during Startup Weekend Green Bay.

I’m currently working to organize Startup Ideas Bootcamps in Appleton and Green Bay. To do these bootcamps, we need three or four things:

  1. 1.  Venue host in Appleton (NWTC has already offered to host a Green Bay bootcamp)
  2. 2.  Main speaker / serial entrepreneur (to talk about choosing and improving startup ideas)
  3. 3.  Bootcamp participants (this means YOU!)
  4. 4.  Sponsor for snacks (not required, but makes the bootcamp more fun for participants)

If you’d like me to help you organize bootcamps in other areas, we could do them in Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Sturgeon Bay, Manitowoc and other northeast Wisconsin cities.

Here are three requests for you regarding Startup Ideas Bootcamp:

  1. 1.  Bootcamp speaker or mentors: If you’re a serial entrepeneur or know a serial entrepreneur who might be a bootcamp speaker, please contact me at the email address below.
  2. 2.  Bootcamp sponsor: If you’ll sponsor snacks for a bootcamp or know a sponsor, contact me.
  3. 3.  Bootcamp co-organizer: If you want to help organize and put on a startup ideas bootcamp, contact me.

Bob Waldron

Startup Weekend Green Bay, Feb 6 – 8, 2015

Check your calendar right now! Look at the weekend of February 6 – 8, 2015. If you don’t already have high priority events on that Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday, put Startup Weekend Green Bay (SWGB) on your calendar for those days.

Here’s the official explanation of what Startup Weekend is: “Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups.” You can find out lots more about Startup Weekends by poking around on the Startup Weekend main website,, or by doing a Google search for “startup weekend.”

The first SWGB event happened in February 2014, and people enjoyed it so much that they decided to make it an annual event. You can read a short summary of SWGB 2014 at

Startup Weekends are participant-driven events. If you live in northeast Wisconsin and are highly interested in the concept of this event, please consider helping with the planning and preparation for SWGB 2015. Your help is needed to make sure people know about the event, to personally invite people to participate in SWGB, to identify and help recruit mentors, and to generally make this a fantastically fun and worthwhile event. If interested in helping, email us at

We especially need help recruiting an interesting and effective mix of participants for the event. Creating a new startup company isn’t an activity for everyone, but there are thousands of people in the Fox Cities, the Green Bay area and other parts of northeast Wisconsin who will enjoy being part of a startup. We need to let those people know about SWGB so they can connect with like-minded people in the startup community. This year one of my goals is to maximize the variety of people participating on SWGB startup teams. Here’s a prioritized list of the demographic groups I’m targeting to connect with and recruit for SWGB 2015:

  1. Developers (computer programmers, website developers, app developers, etc)
  2. Designers
  3. Marketers
  4. Females
  5. Middle school and high school students
  6. Different ethnic backgrounds

There will be a series of blog posts on this website about SWGB, so come back often! Until your next visit to this blog, you have three assignments:

  1. Block out February 6 – 8, 2015, on your calendar for SWGB.
  2. Start making a list of ideas for launching a new startup.
  3. Spread the word to others about SWGB 2015.

If you are willing to help spread the news about SWGB to one (or more) of the above groups of people, and to help recruit SWGB participants from those groups, please contact me at

10 Essentials for Your Startup



1. Secure Funding

Not surprisingly, most startup companies face issues with having adequate funding – but that shouldn’t hold you back. In the first stages of your business you may need proof of concept, prototypes, research, inventory, marketing and packaging. There are several options that you can explore to obtain funds, including seed capital, potential grants, and various loans.

To help you determine exactly how much money you should be seeking, fill out a Financial Projections Template  (provided by SCORE, click will open link in a new window) to calculate startup expenses, payroll costs, and more!

2. Find Space to Grow

Sure starting out in your basement or your buddy’s garage may work now – but there is a good chance that eventually your business will need additional space and technology requirements. Looking ahead and planning will allow you to grow without breaking the bank and leaving your startup vulnerable.

Most communities have access to incubator facilities, such as the Chippewa Valley Innovation Center or Applied Technology Center.

3. Get On Board with Teamwork

Small team dynamics can become hindering if two or more individuals don’t get along. In addition to getting along, small startups have to find an team of individuals with experience and talent. Unfortunately, most startups  aren’t able to offer competitive salaries – making it even more difficult to secure a team that will build the company up to something great.

Don’t let the daunting task of pulling together the right team be overwhelming, there are several ways to connect and network to find those individuals who have the skills your company needs to grow. The most important component is to have a team that is as passionate as you are about the startup’s mission and goals.

4. Locate a Mentor

A mentor can help you navigate through the ins and outs of getting your startup off the ground. The easiest, and perhaps easiest to overlook, source for mentors is someone who you already know. Take a look at your Facebook or LinkedIn account and post that you are seeking a mentor – there is a decent chance that you may be able to connect with someone.

Face-to-face more your style? Not a problem, there are several state and local organizations that you can connect with to help locate a mentor: SCORE, Wisconsin Dairyland, and the Small Business Development Center are all great places to start.

5. Establish a Clear Direction

There is no one way to get your business up off the ground. Nor is there a quick algorithm that you can use to guarantee success – but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have options to help yourself. Business plans are a great tool, but are lengthy and often don’t have the flexibility that most startups require.

The Lean Startup Model is used in startups to quickly determine the most feasible path towards market fit. Using the Lean Startup Canvas, businesses are able to layout key elements of their business to help make decisions, and invest their time into actively building products or services.

Click here to download the Lean Start Cheat-Sheet.

Learn more about the Lean Startup Model and Business Plan Development by clicking here.

6. Find Your Niche

Very rarely is an idea completely new. Innovation typically comes in the form of a unique or revolutionary change in an already existing idea. Because of this, it is difficult to cut through the noise and have your company stand out from the crowd. You have to find your niche … and it needs to be something no one else is doing (hint: everyone thinks they are the best at what they do, so saying “we are the best” is not going to cut it).

Your niche could consist of enhance of current products in the market, or be a completely new innovative take on how something is done. The goal is for your idea to make people’s live better, easier, more affordable, or flat out awesome!

7. Set Realistic Goals

“Reach for the stars!” may have sounded great when you were in second grade, but when running a startup you are going to want something more measurable and obtainable.

Don’t short yourself (and set your business up for failure) by setting poorly derived or immeasurable goals. Take the time to really think about what you want to accomplish and how you can get there. Two popular methods for setting goals:

  • SMART goals (Specific Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic & Time-based)
  • HARD goals (Heartfelt, Animated, Required & Difficult)

Regardless of the methods you choose – it helps to write them down and continue to revisit them periodically to make adjustments.

8. Listen to Your Audience

By now you should have already filled out a Lean-Startup Canvas (if not go ahead – we will wait here) and you have probably noticed that one of the best things about the canvas is that it is really easy to update- particularly if you used pencil.

If your product release is met with a lukewarm approval, don’t be afraid to return to your original idea to see what can be improved. Do you think the first Mac computer was awesome? No – they went back to the drawing board several times until they got it right.

9. Embrace Creative Problem Solving

While working at 3M, Spencer Silver attempted to make a super strong adhesive. This goal was an utter failure. Instead of adhesive that was so strong it could be used in the aerospace industry to build planes, it wasn’t even strong enough to hold two pieces of paper together. Management agreed with Silver that this was a failed product and it was shelved.

Fast forward to Art Fry, a Product Development Engineer at 3M, almost a decade later who also happened to sing in a St. Paul, MN choir. After continuously losing his song page markers in his hymn book, he used the adhesive to make the markers stick to the pages without damaging the book.

It was this creative problem solving that generated one of the most widely used office products today – Post-It Notes.

Using creative problem solving can turn what some see as a failure into a completely new innovation!

10. Balance Expansion with Quality

Growing too quickly or without solid funding in place can leave your startup on shaky ground. Take the time to set up a plan for expanding, remembering that every change your company undergoes effects the quality of your product.

Hire too many too quickly? You could be making the mistake of hiring individuals who aren’t the best fit for your organization, or you could be hiring beyond your budget.

Expecting to work from a couch and laptop only to you realize you need to have office space? If you have at least considered this possibility, it won’t be such a shock to your company (not to mention your budget) if you need to change your plans to keep up with your company’s growth…and you can always move that couch to the office.

In conclusion, starting a new company is not something to take lightly and will require a lot of thought. Lucky for you, there are a lot of resources to help you along your way. Organizations such as SCORE and the Eau Claire Area EDC are here to help individuals make their business dreams feasible, and programs such as the Idea Challenge and Startup Weekend can assist you with planning and finding mentors. With a lot of planning and passion – and maybe a bit of luck – you can set yourself and your business up to become something amazing!