Startup Spotlight: Project Foundry

Project Foundry Team At the northernmost edge of Walker’s Point, Project Foundry is tucked away in a timeless Cream City brick office overlooking the Milwaukee River. Ellen Jennings, the Director of Operations at Project Foundry, answers the door and leads me to an open concept office reminiscent of an academic study. Among the M.C. Escher prints, model sailboats, and fern-lined bay windows, a team of six welcomes me as they work at desks spread throughout the space.

I sit down with Bill and Camille Mortimore, the CEO and the Chief Learning Officer of Project Foundry who inform me that while Project Foundry is not a startup, the company is young, emerging, and is committed to student success from Milwaukee and around the US.

About Project Foundry:

Project Foundry sprouted from the non-profit Homeboyz Interactive, a program designed to get kids off the street, teach them to code, and provide meaningful job placement. The launch of Project Foundry in 2006 was the result of years of cultivated research based on the success of those students in a project based learning environment.

“Project Foundry emerged to assist teaching new educational models as a means to adapt to the needs of a 21st century student,” Bill compares current education models to that of factory line workers, where the methods are the same year after year to produce mass amounts of product. “We meet students where they are [in their education], line out what to do next, track their progress and then repeat.”

Project Foundry helps implement project based learning systems and provide coordinating tracking software. Bill cites that students gain autonomy from this methodology and teachers gain the appropriate oversight so they can ask the right questions at the right time.

On Challenges:

“When you design a product like this, you need to line up the resources and make sure you’re in the right place at the right time,” Camille describes that changes in the market and needs of the student/teacher necessitates flexibility and ease of accessibility.

“By designing a highly customizable platform, you can adapt the language and the system… we don’t force our schools to use a particular model.”

Project Foundry works with stakeholders in an industry that doesn’t make changes very quickly, so searching out the right clientele was paramount in testing and improving their product. Alternative education programs from public schools were first to lean into project based learning and became the first users of Project Foundry.

On Staying in MKE:

“Being in Milwaukee was crucial… the reality is this movement (charter schools and PBL) has been predominant in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We have students on each coast, [but] Milwaukee prototyped the project.” Project Foundry has served over 250 schools across the country and maintains 10,000 active users. While many startups look to gain traction from investors in Silicon Valley, Project Foundry’s roots are strongly planted in the Midwest. Bill goes on to clarify, “There’s no reason for us to be anywhere else. To do something transformational, you can’t always go to the coast.”

On Advice for Startups:

The team at Project Foundry believe strongly in the power of community. Camille points out that more than half of their client base comes from referrals and that being an emerging business is consistent hard work for everyone in network. Camille recommends, “Find the others, find your kin, find your like minded. Invest your time in building your network. Find help and give help, [and] all those relationships will attract others.”

Many thanks to Bill, Camille, Ellen, and the rest of the team at Project Foundry for this opportunity to learn more about their mission and help inspire the rest of the Milwaukee Startup community with their story. Check out their website at

Startup Spotlight is a summer series and collaboration between Pomelo Productions and Startup MKE.

Author Alycia Griesi is the Lead Graphic Designer and Content Creator for Pomelo Productions. Alycia works remotely in Salem, Wisconsin, and spends most of her free time baking, biking, and playing with her dog Vinnie. For article inquiries, email

Rebooted Milwaukee startup, Nightstir, wants to be the ‘AIM Buddy List’ for your nightlife shenanigans

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After dissolving the company three years ago, nightlife mobile app Nightstir recently relaunched at Milwaukee and Chicago area universities. The app, available currently only in the App Store with an Android version in the works, claims to take the guesswork out of the pivotal question facing most 20-somethings come the weekend: “who’s doing what, tonight?”

At it’s core, Nightstir wants to solve the logistical problems of nightlife planning between close friends and new acquaintances. This platform offers a unique way to express your nightlife intentions and plans. The app tells you when and where your friends are “pregaming,” “going out,” or “nightcapping” (going to a party after bar close) -- all in real-time. If a user doesn’t want to be bothered because they’re staying in for the night, they can indicate that using the app, too.


The startup aims to give students a taste of the time when social platforms like pre-public Facebook and AIM were primarily used to exchange plans and availability for the night (without being judged by the prying eyes of parents, coworkers, and prospective employers) -- as opposed to the more political, media-centric Facebook of today.

“When I was in college in 2009, we utilized a combination of the then college-dominated Facebook, with AIM to figure out who, what, when and where it was going down that night,” says LeMarc Johnson, Nightstir cofounder. “Those days are long gone, but the need for a discreet, social, nightlife logistics platform is still alive and well. That’s what we’ve built. It’s like an AIM Buddy List for your nightlife. Nobody likes group texts”

Back in July 2013, Startup Milwaukee featured Johnson as Startup Milwaukeean of the Week. He and his team graduated from Vetransfer’s inaugural business accelerator program with a $20,000 seed investment.

“To put it bluntly, we failed. But we failed forward. It was my first venture and due to a couple of bad decisions, we ran out of funds when it came time to execute our user acquisition strategy. I was a novice entrepreneur, making novice business decisions,” says Johnson. “But it didn’t fail because there was no need for it -- it failed because of poor execution. This time, we know exactly what needs to happen. We’re going to be the world’s first major nightlife logistics app.”

This time around, they’re currently bootstrapping while they continue to grow their user base in Milwaukee and Chicago. There are significant changes to the core team behind the venture, which is still lead by CEO Johnson.

You can follow Nightstir at @nightstirapp.

Startup Community News & Events: Week of May 10th

Launch Milwaukee will promote the rapid creation and development of hardware and software startup ideas in Milwaukee. Held June 5th through 7th at Ward4, participants are given the opportunity to pitch an idea and ask for help building their idea during a 60-second window on opening night. Teams organically form around shared interests and the building process begins. Participants do not need to have an idea to pitch, and can come individually or with a team. Register at using discount code: STARTUPMKE for a 30% discount. WERCbench Labs announced they looking for teams of engineers, scientists, and programmers to participate in their summer program for technology innovators. WERCbench provides entrepreneurs access to unique production capabilities, including high performance computing, rapid prototyping facilities and small scale production and testing equipment in addition to a $20,000 grant, learn more about WERCbench here.

Subscription wine delivery service BrightCellars has announced they are moving from Boston to Milwaukee with the help of Ward4 and startup accelerator program gener8tor, read more here. is hiring a Business Development Manager in Milwaukee, apply for the job here., a crowdsourcing startup based in Milwaukee that helps entrepreneurs launch new products was recently profiled by the Journal Sentinel, read more here.

The Wells Building once a hub for telegrams is now becoming a cloud computing hub learn more about this initiative here.

Four startups recently won Marquette University's ImpactNext Business Model Competitionread all about them here.

Milwaukee-based Scanlytics' SoleSensor technology is being test-driven by a top five telecom firm, according to a recent press release.

To get the latest startup community news & events follow @StartupMKE on twitter!

Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch visits 96square

Startup Milwaukee Crowdfunding Event Matt Cordio Rebecca Kleefisch StartupMKE On June 12th Wisconsin's Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch visited 96square to celebrate the launch of Wisconsin's new equity crowdfunding law. The event featured MobCraft Beer from Madison the first company to use the equity crowdfunding laws to raise capital for their company and CraftFund a company based at 96square that is the first equity crowdfunding platform in the state.  For more pictures from the event, click here.

How to Build a Tech Startup if You Don’t Write Code

1) Come up with an idea that solves someone's problem. (Check out the ULTRA BrainStorm Workbook.)

2) Make a Powerpoint. Here's my example (I recorded it).

3) Go talk to 25 potential customers and show them your presentation. a) Try to sell it to them. b) Get feedback on your idea.

(Related: Crazy Might Work? The Importance of Market Validation)

4) Repeat step 3 until you have five people willing to pay for it (not a friend or family member).

5) Go to CoderNights and tell anyone willing to listen to you about your traction.


About the Author Steve Anderson is an entrepreneur who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Steve is a co-founder of Snapifeye. He has a masters degree from the Wisconsin School of Business and is a previous Startup Weekend winner.

Does Your Business Have Innovation?

According to Eric Ries of the Lean Startup the difference between a small business and a startup is innovation.  A small business executes on an existing model and a startup creates a new one.  So what is innovation? “Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulated needs, or existing market needs.” – Wikipedia

A new restaurant can be innovative in it is marketing or styling’s.  A cheese company might age their cheese a bit differently than its competitors. It might do things in a distinctive way that is innovative. However, compared to Facebook it seems these businesses are a bit less innovative.  Restaurants and cheese have been part of the human fabric  for hundreds of years and Facebook has been around about ten.

So what is innovation and does your business have it?  This question is based on a false premise.  It is not a question about the existence of innovation, rather the questions is about the degree. We should be asking, “How much innovation does you business have?” or  ”How can your business be more innovative in its space?”

In general there are two kids of innovation, disruptive innovation and incremental innovation.  Incremental innovation is the improvement of an existing system.  It is an innovative way to make something that exists better.  Disruptive innovation is a new system that completely replaces an old one.  Stay tuned for to find out more about the differences between incremental innovations and disruptive innovation in a future blog post.

About the Author Steve Anderson is an entrepreneur who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Currently he is the CEO of Snapifeye.  In addition, he is the Founder of Laylines Consulting and previously worked at a San Francisco based consulting company.  Steve has a masters degree from the Wisconsin School of Business and was the winner of Startup Weekend Madison

Create Your Winning Press Kit


So you want to see your name in lights. Media coverage is one of the best and least expensive ways to let the world know about you and your company (or rock band for that matter). The trouble with media coverage is that you can’t buy it or send a regular email to get it. With a couple of simple tools you can create a press kit that will help you attract the attention of local media outlets.  (This is part 3 of a 3 part series. If haven’t already, start with Part 1: The Media List and Part 2: The Press Release.)

The press kit provides additional support for your media campaign. Typically you send a press kit to follow up if a journalist is interested in your story. Every press kit is a bit different. However, there are a number of standard documents you should include. You can be creative with the press kit and include more than what is listed here.

FAQ:  People are likely to have additional questions about you and your product. Provide answers to those questions here. Include relevant details that were not critical to your press release.

Bios: Provide background information about your core team in this document. This is similar to a resume--however, it is written out. Start with most recent items and work your way backwards. This should be fairly straight forward.

Fact Sheet: The fact sheet is a bulleted list of all the important information contained in your press release and press kit. Think of this as an outline of your press release and press kit.

Company Background: Write about your company's background and history. You can talk about previous accomplishments and important events.

Picture: Include a picture of you or your product. Make sure it is relevant to the story.

Now that you have a great media list, a compelling press release and an awesome press kit, it's time to find your business some exposure. Send your press release to the people listed on your media list, then follow up with your press kit when reporters and journalists contact you!

About the Author: Steve Anderson is an entrepreneur who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Currently he is the COO of LessonLogs and the Founder of Laylines Consulting. He has helped numerous companies obtain seed stage funding and is a previous winner of Startup Weekend Madison. In addition, Steve has a Masters Degree from the Wisconsin School of Business. Find him on Twitter: @LaylinesSteve


Roadmap to Protecting Your Company’s Value: Navigating Your Legal Issues

You can protect the value of your privately held company by working with your lawyer to make strategic business and legal decisions and by ensuring that your legal documents are consistent in implementing those decisions. Many privately held companies face similar legal issues and all can benefit from developing a legal plan to help protect company assets, both tangible and intangible. Use the following information as a roadmap when considering your company’s legal issues and driving your company’s business plan.

Company Structure

Your company’s legal structure provides the framework for conducting your business operations. It is critically important that you take into account your long-range business, legal and tax planning goals when developing your company’s legal structure.

Three primary choices for your company’s legal structure include:

(1) limited liability company/tax partnership

(2) corporation/ tax C corporation

(3) corporation/ tax S corporation

Each alternative offers advantages, which you should consider in light of your long-term business strategy. In certain circumstances, a mature company may change its company structure in order to take advantage of benefits provided by the new structure.

Protecting company intangible assets

You and your executive team can protect your company’s intangible assets through a combination of legal contracts and protective filings. You may choose to protect intellectual property through patent, trademark and copyright filings. You will often need to protect your company’s intellectual property through protective contract provisions in license agreements and other customer or vendor agreements. Contracts with your employees also provide important safeguards, including non-competition agreements, confidentiality provisions and assignment of invention agreements, to assist in preserving company value.

Raising Capital For Growth Initiatives

Growth oriented companies often look to private equity groups for additional investment. Legal documentation defines the investors’ rights and shields the company from exposure. You may need to amend your company’s operating agreement or corporate by-laws to define the new investors’ economic rights. The operating agreement or shareholder agreement may provide contract rights that limit transfers of any new stock or securities that are issued in connection with the investment. Your company may need to issue a private placement memorandum and subscription agreement in order to comply with applicable securities laws and regulations and to protect your company from potential securities related claims.

Several common investment structures for a private invest- ment include preferred stock or units, common stock or units, participating preferred stock or units, convertible promissory notes and warrants (options to acquire stock or units in the future for a defined exercise price). Common issues that arise in the course of investor negotiations include investor rights in company governance (e.g., board seat, veto rights over certain defined actions and voting rights), future equity dilution if new investors or key employees are issued equity, future adjustments to investor equity based on post investment performance, and staged investment structures (i.e., the investors contribute additional post-closing funds as goals are achieved).

Incentivizing employees

You can use an employee incentive equity or compensation plan as a tool to protect the value that key employees provide to your business. Equity plans can include sales or grants of stock or units, options to acquire equity in the future and specially tailored cash bonus plans. Some cash bonus plans may provide special payouts on the successful sale of a company, which provides management a powerful incentive to remain with a company through the completion of a transaction. Vesting provisions help protect a company from risk that it will have to make a payment if the employee chooses to follow another opportunity or does not satisfy performance goals.

One frequently used tool to incentivize a key employee is a profits interest. A profits interest is normally attractive to an employee because, if structured properly, the employee is not taxed at the time of grant and future payments on exit can qualify for capital gain treatment if the company is sold at a profit. Meanwhile, if a company does not increase in value or produce operating profits after the grant, its preexisting owners will not experience economic dilution.

Corporate governance and shareholder agreements

Executives and owners should periodically review your company’s operating agreement, By-Laws and any applicable shareholder agreements to ensure that your company’s and its stakeholders’ interests are properly governed in light of current events, business strategies and legal developments. Operating and shareholder agreements often provide rules that limit or prohibit shareholders from transferring equity to certain parties, provide options or requirements that a company purchase equity from the owners in certain circumstances, such as termination of employment, death, disability, or bankruptcy, and require a company to make cash distributions to shareholders or partners if a company is a tax flow-through entity.

Dispute resolution

Defending and/or settling disputes with third parties in a cost efficient manner, potentially including former employees or governmental regulatory agencies, directly protects your company’s cash resources as well as its (and your) reputation. Creating an employee handbook with appropriate legal provisions can reduce the probability and impact of litigation with former employees.

Other key contracts:

Other key contracts often include finance-related contracts with lenders (e.g., promissory notes, security agreements, inter-creditor agreement, etc.), lease agreements with landlords, and key vendor and customer agreements. Contract terms must protect company access to critical assets and resources

Add-on acquisitions:

Companies that are poised for growth often accelerate their growth process through acquisitions of smaller companies that will add a critical market segment, technology or other component to the business. Legal due diligence and review of the target company’s contracts and legal rights (including the strength of intellectual property protection) helps the acquirer measure the value of the target’s business. Legal negotiation and documents play a key role in accomplishing the acquisition, including preparing and negotiating a letter of intent, drafting and negotiating the purchase contract and designing contracts with key employees of the target company.

Exit Strategies:

A privately-held company’s likely exit strategy should influence all of its le- gal decisions. Common exits include a sale to a strategic or financial buyer, management buyout, partial sale through a company recapitalization trans action, transfer to a family member or members, initial public offering and sale to an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan).

Your privately-held company’s executive team can use strategic legal planning to maximize and protect the value of your company’s tangible and intangible assets and to support your company’s overall business strategy.

About the author: Daniel P. Cooper is a shareholder in Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c.’s Business Law Practice. He can be reached at 414-298-8134 or

How to Write a Killer Press Release


So you want to see your name in lights. Media coverage is one of the best and least expensive ways to let the world know about you and your company (or rock band, for that matter). The trouble with media coverage is that you can’t buy it or send a regular email to get it. With a couple of simple tools, you can create a press kit that will help you attract the attention of local media outlets. This is part 2 of a 3 part series. (If haven’t already, start with Part 1: The Media List.)

The keyword in news is new. It's easy to communicate your news to local media with the standard format of a press release.  This format makes it easy for them to digest your information.  A well written press release can make or break your media campaign.

The 11 Critical Parts of a Press Release:

1. Media contact: The contact person at your company for questions or interviews.

2. Release date: Most press releases are either: “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,” or “UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL: Day, month, year.” (Under embargo means that the media should not publish the news until the embargo expires.)

3.  Headline: The headline should catch the reader’s attention and contain the main topic of the post. A good headline goes a long way. Here’s five easy tricks to writing catchy headlines.

4.  Sub-headline: This is a note or summary that contains other important information. Punctuate like a title and center align.

5.  Dateline: "MONTH, DAY, YEAR (City, State)." The dateline is almost always bold and listed in that order.

6.  Introductory paragraph: Write the most important information and any important details.  If someone reads this paragraph and this paragraph only, they should know what the story is about.

7. Body paragraphs: These paragraphs contain more information and details. The body should be about two paragraphs maximum.

8.  Quote: Supply a quote from an executive or founder. This can be used as a statement from your company in lieu of an interview.

9.  Other information: This is for other details that are not critical to the story. Keep this section short.

10.   "ABOUT [YOUR COMPANIES NAME]" Include information like your corporate mission, website, history, etc. This should be single spaced.

11.  After the article, include three hash marks (###) to mark the end of the press release. (See example below.)



Stayed tuned for Part 3: The Press Kit

Part 1: 5 Easy Steps to Unlock Media Coverage

Part 3:  The Press Kit

About the Author: Steve Anderson is an entrepreneur who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Currently he is the COO of LessonLogs and the Founder of Laylines Consulting. He has helped numerous companies obtain seed stage funding and is a previous winner of Startup Weekend Madison. In addition, Steve has a Masters degree from the Wisconsin School of Business. Find him on Twitter: @LaylinesSteve


Five Easy Steps to Unlock Media Coverage

png_base64ba751f0bc4484f2f-300x125So you want to see your name in lights. Media coverage is one of the best and least expensive ways to let the world know about you and your company (or rock band, for that matter). The trouble with media coverage is that you can’t buy it or send a regular email to get it. With a couple of simple tools, you can create a press kit that viagra shop usa will help you attract the attention of local media outlets.

This is the first part of a three part series. Let’s get started!

The first part of your press kit is your media list. The media list is a collection of names and email addresses for local reporters and journalists. Pick reporters and journalists who are likely to cover you and your business. The best way to get ignored is to send a press release about a new product to a reporter who covers music and arts (don’t be this person). If you don’t have a good media list even the world's best press release will fall flat. This is the leg work that will make your media campaign successful.

Here are five easy ways to make a targeted media list:

1) Define your audience. Who are you trying to reach? Who are your customers?

2) Identify the publications that your audience reads.

3) Look at each of these publications and get to know the type of content they publish.

4) Find the journalist who has previously covered topics similar to yours.

5) Find that journalist’s contact information and add it to your media contact list.

Follow these five easy steps to find a handful of reporters and you will be well on your way to a successful media campaign!

Part 2: The Press Release

Part 3: Create Your Winning Press Kit

About the Author:
Steve Anderson is an entrepreneur who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Currently he is the COO of LessonLogs and the Founder of Laylines Consulting. He has helped numerous companies obtain seed stage funding and is a previous winner of Startup Weekend Madison. In addition, Steve has a Masters Degree from the Wisconsin School of Business. Find him on Twitter: @LaylinesSteve.

EatStreet gives back

Recently, our friends from EatStreet, a Madison-based startup company, shared an inspiring blog post about their Give Back Program. Here’s an excerpt from “101 Ways to Give Back,” originally posted by Danny Mulligan of Dishin’ it Out ( on July 2, 2013:

It may come as a surprise to you that the minds behind EatStreet are preoccupied with more than just the quick alleviation of your hunger pangs. While providing you with the simplest route to local takeout and delivery may be our bread and butter, we also like to dish out a more common, less edible form of currency – charitable checks.

When our three co-founders forged a fledgling website in 2010 called “BadgerBites,” they also formed our Give Back Program, wherein EatStreet promised to donate 5% of its profits to local non-profit and student organizations. We let you decide where the donation goes. Every time you place an order on our website, you are presented with a list of our partnering organizations. You then choose who receives the 5% of profits from your order.

With the help of our locally-based Brand Managers and Brand Ambassadors, we’ve also sponsored countless community events and hosted special fundraisers where we’ve donated 100% of our weekly profits.

The Give Back Program supports over 100 nonprofits and organizations across America. These include the American Red Cross, The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, Autism Speaks, ReMIND and many more.

To learn more about this wonderful program and how to become a partner, please continue reading the full blog post on Dishin’ it Out: 101 Ways to Give Back.

Startup Milwaukee Launches a Founders' Club

Startup Milwaukee is excited to launch the Founders’ Club, an exclusive group of technology entrepreneurs, executives, angel and institutional investors. Anyone can apply to join the Founders’ Club, but only a limited number of individuals will be admitted. Members must meet one of three criteria: 1) Technology Entrepreneur: You must be able to show us your working product. Whether it be hardware, software, web or a mobile app, we must be able to verify it exists.


2) Technology Executive: You’re a founder, VP or C-level executive at a technology company in Wisconsin or northern Illinois.


3) Institutional or Angel Investor: You must have a track record or interest in investing in technology companies in Wisconsin.

To join the Startup Milwaukee Founders’ Club, apply today.

Startup of the Week: VibeTech

Have you ever suffered from a sports-related injury such as an ACL tear or ankle sprain? Do you know someone who recently had joint surgery? Or perhaps you have a family member who uses a wheelchair or walker. Whether age, disability, illness, inactivity, injury or surgery keeps you off your feet, it’s important to engage in physical therapy before muscle weakness, balance impairment and reduced flexibility take hold. VibeTech founder and CTO, Jeff Leismer, PhD, invented the foundation vibration technology of the VibeTech One (TM) Rehabilitation Chair as a countermeasure to disuse atrophy in astronauts whose strength had been compromised due to the negative effect of long duration space flight. In collaboration with VP of Product Development, Nadder Sahar, PhD, VibeTech has developed a quick, relaxing, non-weight bearing neuromusculoskeletal stimulation device for the treatment of patients in physical therapy clinics, rehabilitation centers and elder care facilities. Learn more at