Tech start ups are taking note of Madison

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Posted, Thursday, February 5, 2015 --- 9:55 p.m.

A lot of times, when we think about tech businesses, we think about California and the Silicon Valley. But over the years, Madison has become a Midwestern hot spot for up-and-coming tech start ups.

Zach Brandon, President of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, explains, "A decade ago, the story of Madison was it was a boomerang town. What we would say is you would come to go to school here, then you left, got your, built your business chops somewhere else and then you came back here when you wanted to start a family because it was a great place to raise a family."

But oh, how things have changed. More and more, Madison is becoming a hub for technology companies, like Drifty.

Drifty co-founder Max Lynch says, "I actually co-founded the company with Ben, one of my best friends since kindergarten."

It began to take shape in 2012. The beginnings were humble.

"We started, we had no office," explains Lynch.

Today, they just finished raising a million dollars. The company is focused on one project, it's called Ionic and simplifies how mobile apps can be built.

Lynch says, "Right now, mobile development is still like, you have to be kind of a low-level developer, like you have to be a really strong developer to develop mobile apps. So we want to change that."

More than 300,000 apps have been designed with it world-wide. Just down the road, PerBlue has been developing mobile games since 2008. It's latest release, Titan Empires, had a million downloads in a matter of weeks.

Forrest Woolworth, Chief Operating Officer of PerBlue says, "That was definitely one of the things that was a lot different from our earlier games, you know where Parallel Kingdom took over three years to reach the million player mark and it took us three weeks with Titan Empires."

Started by undergrads on-campus, PerBlue now has a full-fledged office with 23 full-time employees.

Woolworth adds, "I think our average age is about 30 years old. We have a lot of folks who are right out of school or a couple of years out of school."

Brandon says, "We want to be a place not just where people are known for using state-of-the-art technology, but where people are known for developing state-of-the-art technology."

Zach Brandon, President of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, explains Madison has the talent and the resources, and the young tech industry has been taking note.

Brandon adds, "The next generation is thinking about quality of life, they're choosing location first and job second, which is, their parents didn't make those decisions."

Woolworth says, "Especially early on, we had contemplated early on about locating out to San Francisco or California because that's what you do as a start-up, right? But we actually really liked Madison as far as the lifestyle, the city goes."

Lynch says, "Over time, I think it's become a source of pride for us. We've always been a little bit different and I love that a lot of our competitors are in the Valley and kind of have to play that game and we don't."

Although based in Madison, both Drifty and PerBlue have an international presence. In fact, Drifty's Ionic is one of the top 50 most popular open source projects in the world and Lynch has been listed as one of this year's 30 brightest stars under 30 years old in Forbes Magazine.