Forward Fest

Forward Thinking.

UW–Madison leaders, innovators and key partners joined the slate of entrepreneurial events presented during the 2021 Forward Fest, Wisconsin’s largest celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The events listed below were presented by UW-Madison’s Innovate Network, a collective of campus-affiliated organizations that provide entrepreneurial resources to innovators at UW–Madison and statewide.

The virtual events included a three-event Biotech Spotlight series, which focused on aspects of startups, tech and innovation within the biotech space. Launch, Learn and Pivot: Madison Startup Stories presented opportunities, challenges and lessons learned from several local entrepreneurs at various stages of growth in their respective businesses. The BookMarkIT event covered the many ways that libraries can be great resources for entrepreneurs.

The Forward Festival is Wisconsin’s largest technology and entrepreneurship festival, attracting more than 5,000 attendees and serving as host for more than 40 events over 8 days every August.

BookMarkIT: Free Tools, Tips & Resources from Your Local Libraries

Thursday, August 12, 10:00 am – 11:30 am

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When taking your business from idea to reality, you’ll likely have a lot of questions that need answered in order to get your business off to a strong start. For example: What do you need to know about patents for the product you’re trying to create? What legal resources are available? What can local demographics tell you about potential customers? How strong is the industry you’re looking to enter? What should be included in your business plan? Who are potential competitors? Luckily, there are FREE databases, resources, and specialized experts available to help you answer these and many other questions – all found in your local libraries! Want to learn more? Put this session on your Holds List, and “check out” some great resources from your local libraries.

This session is offered in partnership with the Madison Public Library; UW-Madison Patent & Trademark Resource Center; UW-Madison Wisconsin School of Business Library; David T. Prosser Wisconsin State Law Library; and the UW-Madison Innovate Network.

Biotech Spotlight: Startups, Scaleup and Growth

Friday, August 13, 10:30 am – noon
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Learn about startup, scaleup and growth at leading biotech companies, with panelists Ana Hooker of Exact Sciences, Tom Foti of Aldevron, Carter Cliff of Vascugen, and Cathy Rasmussen of the Forward BIO Institute. These industry leaders, startup veterans and founders can speak to companies at all stages, including how they leveraged UW–Madison-affiliated resources such as University Research Park, technologies, and partnerships. This panel is for biotech entrepreneurs and industry partners, those scaling any kind of tech or manufacturing startup, and those interested in lessons on scaleup and growth from some of Madison’s most innovative companies. Presented by UW–Madison’s Innovate Network and Forward BIO Institute.

Moderator: Aaron Olver, University Research Park
Host: Mary Carbine, Discovery to Product (D2P)

Biotech Spotlight: How AI and Advanced Computing are Driving Innovation in Biohealth

Monday, August 16, 2:45 – 4:15 pm
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Deep learning for healthcare management.  Software modeling of drug activity in the body.  Machine learning-based diagnostics. Increasingly, biotech and healthtech startups are solving problems and building solutions through advanced computing technology and artificial intelligence. Hear from leaders of some of the region’s most innovative startups working in the intersection of biotech and computing—Timothy Perk of AIQ Solutions; Shannon Bruse of Empirico Inc.; Jalal Sulaiman of PROMISS Diagnostics; and Joseph Grudzinski of Voximetry—who built their companies around UW–Madison technologies. This panel is for biotech entrepreneurs who have large datasets to analyze and complex problems to solve, and for software innovators who want to understand more about biotech and healthtech business problems, datasets, and how computing technology can be part of the solution. Presented by UW–Madison’s Innovate Network and Forward BIO Institute.

Moderator: Bill Murphy, Forward BIO Institute
Host: Jeanine Burmania, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF)

Biotech Spotlight: Forward BIOLABS Virtual Tour & Startup Flash Talks

Tuesday, August 17, 2:30 – 3:30 pm
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Forward BIOLABS helps biotech startups move faster, getting started with the right facility and equipment at the right time. Take a look at the co-working lab and hear from some of the game-changing startups working within our community. This panel is for entrepreneurs and industry partners, those starting or scaling any kind of biotech company, and those interested in lessons in innovation, technology de-risking, and early manufacturing from some of Madison’s most innovative companies.  Presented by Forward BIOLABS, UW–Madison’s Innovate Network, and University Research Park.

Flash Talks by Member Startups:

  • John Pattison, CEO & Co-Founder, Cultured Decadence, creating cell-cultured seafood that is nutritious, animal-friendly, sustainable, and provides an authentic experience to consumers worldwide.
  • Eric Spyra, President & Interim CEO, Endsulin, overcoming the limitations of diabetes treatments with gene therapy that allows the liver to produce and regulate insulin on its own.
  • Tobias Zutz, CEO/Founder, Gregor Diagnostics, building a better screening test for prostate cancer, the second deadliest cancer for American men.

Moderator: Jessica Martin-Eckerly, Forward BIOLABS
Host: Mike Partsch, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF)

Launch, Learn and Pivot: Madison Startup Stories

Thursday, August 19, 1:00 – 2:30 pm
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Every startup has a story, from creating the product or service to finding product-market fit, launching the business, and learning and pivoting along the way.  Hear from founders of innovative Madison startups, each with a unique business model, including Georgia Allen, Co-Founder & CEO, Soaring Independent Cooperative, Kit Chow, co-founder and CEO at Boosted Chews, Ian Oestreich, founder at Curbside Bicycles, and Erin Vranas, founder, Yips Yogurt Chips and co-owner, Parthenon Gyros restaurant.  Each founder utilized UW–Madison and community resources such as the Small Business Development Center, WARF Upstart program, UW-Madison Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic, or MERLIN Mentors to support their entrepreneurial journey.  This panel is for anyone interested in entrepreneur stories, starting a business, and learning about organizations and programs that can help. Presented by the UW–Madison Innovate Network.

Moderator: Cecily Brose, UW-Madison Discovery to Product (D2P)
Host: Heather Ferguson, Wisconsin Small Business Development Center at the UW-Madison School of Business