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In late 2012, a group of Madison’s young entrepreneurs, including Troy Vosseller (gener8tor), Forrest Woolworth (Capital Entrepreneurs), and Scott Resnick (Capital Entrepreneurs) joined forces with other entrepreneurial, tech and civic leaders, including Madison Gas and Electric and the UW’s Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic. Their idea was to bring together in a single location the critical components that local entrepreneurs need to start and grow businesses, create jobs and stimulate the regional economy.

The founding team evaluated other cities’ entrepreneurial hubs, including 1871 in Chicago, MassChallenge in Boston, 1776 in D.C., The Water Council in Milwaukee and CoCo in Minneapolis. Committed to building an entrepreneurial ecosystem organically from the ground up, the team also employed and continues to use an open and inclusive model in developing the project, welcoming input and involvement from a wide variety of individuals and entities throughout the community. Although these collaborations and partnerships play a critical role in shaping the project, StartingBlock remains committed to its “By Entrepreneurs, For Entrepreneurs” mentality.

In June 2013, the group retained George Austin to guide the development process. Mr. Austin is an experienced project manager for community-based projects, including the Monona Terrace, the Overture Center and the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. In late 2013, the group officially formed StartingBlock Madison, Inc. as a Wisconsin non-stock corporation. In May 2014, StartingBlock received federal nonprofit status. The project is scheduled to open in 2018.

Meet the Team

Chandra Miller Fienen, Director of Operations and Programs

Chandra has been part of the StartingBlock Planning Team since 2013. Prior to joining StartingBlock, she was VP and a co-founder of a Boston-based biotechnology startup (now Bioarray Genetics, Inc.); Senior Advisor to the Governor; in executive leadership at the Wisconsin Department of Commerce; and an associate at a San Francisco litigation firm (now Arnold & Porter). She holds a J.D. from UC-Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) and a B.A. from Macalester College.


Lucas Frisbie, Startup Team Strategist

Lucas has over a decade of experience recruiting in Chicago where he assisted Fortune 500 companies and advertising agencies build their creative and technology teams. His focus areas include UI/UX Design, Development (Front/Back End and .NET), Project Management (both Digital and Technology driven) and Content Creation. He’s also a certified intermediate sommelier, talented amateur photographer, and the proud owner of a very friendly rescued pitbull named El.


Scott Resnick, Entrepreneur-In-Residence

Scott is the COO of Hardin Design and Development. The company focuses on web and mobile applications for Fortune 500 companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Coleman Camper and FedEx. He primarily oversees new business development, account management, and portfolio investments. Scott is a former member of the Madison City Council.


George Austin, Building Project Facilitator

George is president and founder of AVA Civic Enterprises, which provides planning, project development and project delivery services to private and public sponsors and owners of complex development projects. In addition to StartingBlock and the Spark project, George has shepherded many of Madison’s most ambitious projects, including Judge Doyle Square; Overture Center for the Arts; Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and Morgridge Institute for Research at UW–Madison; Block 100 Foundation development on the 100 block of State Street and the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.

Our Board

Terry Sivesind, Board President & Treasurer
Terry is an established entrepreneurial leader, whose background includes early stage involvement at Promega, PanVera, Mirus, Takara Bio USA, Metabiologics, Renovar, Poseidon Probes, and Cellectar. In addition to being a StartingBlock Founding Member, Terry also co-founded Wisconsin’s first angel network, Wisconsin Investment Partners along with MERLIN Mentors and MadWorks seed business accelerator.

Anne Smith, Secretary
Anne is a co-founder and Director of the Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic at the University of Wisconsin Law School. She previously served as the General Counsel for Winterthur U.S. Holdings Inc. and Promega Corporation. She also runs a small family business and has serves on a variety of nonprofit boards of directors.

Pam Christenson, Director
Pam is the Economic Development Director at Madison Gas and Electric (MGE). Prior to joining MGE, she was the Director of the Bureau of Entrepreneurship and Technology at the Department of Commerce, and the Director of Public Affairs for the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. Pam is also a co-owner of a family-owned restaurant on Madison’s Lake Waubesa.

Peter Gunder, Director
Peter Gunder is Chief Business Development Officer for American Family Insurance and is the executive responsible for AmFam Ventures, American Family’s venture capital fund. Prior to joining American Family in 2008 was co-founder, chief investment officer and managing director of Cardinal Investment Advisors in Chicago. He began his career at Procter & Gamble and Atlantic Richfield (now BP, plc). Peter earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, later receiving an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. Peter is a chartered financial analyst (CFA).

Israel Lopez, Director
Israel is owner of Madison Noteworthy, which produces video blog on business and startup issues, and is founder of The Chin Ups Foundation, an IT non-profit organization whose software matches collegiate student-athletes with youth. A corporate attorney at Neider & Boucher, by day, Israel represents closely held businesses and individuals and specializing in Business and Cyber Law, Early Stage Growing Businesses, Business Entity Planning and Formation, and Ownership Succession Planning.

Mark Richardson, Director
Mark is CEO and founder of GigBlender, a software tool that allows employers to incorporate their diversity values when finding and attracting talent. Mark is also President of Unfinished Business, which helps professionals prepare for, navigate, and accelerate career transition. Before stepping into entrepreneurship, Mark served as Vice President of Workforce Development at the Urban League, Division Administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Commerce’s Housing and Community Development program, and Deputy Secretary for Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

Laura Strong, Director
Laura is the CEO and Founder of Propogate Health, a problem-oriented innovation network built around a core of advisors & entrepreneurs from healthcare, life sciences, & technology. She previously started and led a cancer drug development company that advanced a drug into a Phase I clinical trial in patients. Laura is also an Adjunct Professor at the UW-Madison, School of Medicine and Public Health. She has a PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.