Get to Know a Murfie Staffer!

Here’s another chance to show off our great co-workers at Murfie! Ask anyone here, and they’ll tell you one of the best things about Murfie is the people.

This gal is not only great to work with, but she does a heck of a lotta important things that are essential to the daily functions of Murfie Operations—

GAO VANG

a765be64-d395-11e2-9dc3-de256bd96523Where are you from? > My parents are Hmong immigrants from Laos and I was born and raised in Eau Claire, WI.

How long have you been working at Murfie? What is your role? > It’ll be 2 years in August! I assist in customer support and managing operations. I handle everything about downloads.

What do you like about working at Murfie? > First, the people–I’ve made best friends working here. Second, the challenge of working in a startup–not everything has been done before. We have to create our own programs and our own standards. It’s fascinating and exciting to see what we can come up with.

What kind of music can be found in your Murfie collection? > Mostly Pop/Rock.

2066-largeWho are your favorite artists/bands of all time? > I’m a 90’s girl. I love Nirvana and Sublime. I will always sing along to Backstreet Boys and Mariah Carey.

If you could have coffee with any musician, from any time, who would it be and why? > Marilyn Manson. He’s incredibly intelligent and down-to-earth. I feel like we would have great conversations. The only topic I would avoid is my taste in music.

Are you a Beyoncé fan? > And a Destiny’s Child fan? Yes. Yes.

What album are you really digging right now? > I have Paramore on repeat at the moment. It’s fun to dance and sing with it.
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Do you have any pets? > Yes! Charlie, my dog, turned three last month. She’s still sassy as ever.

What is your favorite food? > Ian’s pizza. I’m trying everything on their menu.

What can people find you doing when you’re not at Murfie? > Chilling at the dog park with Charlie and DJ, my boyfriend.

Now you know more about Gao, our download expert extraordinare! We hope you enjoy seeing some behind-the-scenes stuff about us Murfieans, because some real cool peeps run this site!

Irish Creating Their Own Luck, Attracting Investment

When government officials and business professionals meet here in Wisconsin to brainstorm ways to make our State a better destination for technology startups and to attract more investment capital, we often look for ideas from nearby states like Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio. It’s certainly important to understand what Wisconsin’s neighbors are doing to promote their tech sectors, but Wisconsin should really set a goal to be the leader, rather than just keep up, here in the Midwest and beyond. Perhaps it’s time to seek some inspiration from farther afield.

My business partner, Preston Austin, and I recently had the opportunity to spend several days in Dublin, Ireland because our company, murfie.com, was selected to participate in a gathering of 150 of the top new companies from around the world (an event called START) that took place alongside the Dublin Web Summit. While in Dublin, we spoke with a wide variety of people on the public and private side of economic development in Ireland, including Naoise Ó Muirí, the current Lord Mayor of Dublin.

It turns out that Wisconsin and Ireland have far more in common than our ability to brew and drink great beer. Ireland’s population is 4.7 million versus 5.7 million in Wisconsin. The Irish GDP is $217 billion versus $251 billion in Wisconsin. In both Ireland and Wisconsin, about 25% of the general population has a college degree, and we both host a strong public university system.

Both Ireland and Wisconsin have made it a priority to attract and grow technology startups and the sources of investment these businesses require. We’ve both established venture loan programs and tax credit programs for angel and venture investors. Ireland has several venture co-investment programs in place similar to those currently under discussion in Wisconsin.

Ireland’s approach to growing its tech sector appears to be working. Many venture funds have opened offices in Dublin, and these funds now account for $800 million in available growth capital for Irish startups. Not all of this capital is guaranteed to go to Irish companies, but 70% of the capital invested by these firms last year did.

Companies here in Wisconsin often visit (or even relocate to) the coasts to gain access to pools of venture capital this large. I’d love to see that change. While I have no intent to give up my Capital Autumnal Fire in favor of Guinness, it’s worth looking at the similarities and differences and seeing what Wisconsin and Ireland can teach each other.

Snapshots from the Dublin Web Summit

It’s official: the people love photos. 1) Pictures are ooh! shiny! 2) Pictures are fun to look at when you’re bored.

Murfie co-founders, Matt Younkle and Preston Austin, are currently jaunting through Dublin for the Dublin Web Summit, Europe’s fastest growing tech conference. And they’re leaving behind a wake of photography.

Here’s a smattering of snapshots from the event and the city.

Room full of startups, media & investors @ Dublin Web Summit
Our lil booth @ Dublin Web Summit
Murfie CEO, Matt Younkle, with the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Naoise Ó Muirí
Matt, UW-Madison alum, shares the W @ Dublin Web Summit
No trip to Dublin is complete w/o a Guinness Storehouse stop

Start It Up: Murfie Selected to START 150

Here’s to me, and here’s to you! The reason for good cheer—Murfie has been selected to join START, the new, invite-only sister event to the acclaimed f.ounders. START brings together “150 of the world’s most exciting and disruptive startups” plus a mix of investors and media at an exclusive gathering in Dublin on October 17 and 18.

The START event is organized by the team behind f.ounders and the Dublin Web Summit, Europe’s largest tech conference. In making their 150 selections, the organizers were looking for “incredible young companies” under 3 years old, from any corner of the world.

Matt Younkle and Preston Austin, Murfie co-founders, will be tripping it to the Emerald Isle to represent Murfie Inc. at the START 150 event.

“Coming from Madison, Wisconsin, we’re honored to be recognized alongside such a small and exclusive group of early-stage startups from around the globe,” said Younkle. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to network with global business leaders and entrepreneurs and share our innovative business model. Of course, we’re also excited to conduct some in-field research on the differences between Irish and Wisconsin beer!”

Expect another START-related blog post to come from Matt and Preston. They’ll be sharing their impressions with us on location in Dublin :)

Silver Ain’t Too Shabby

I am so very pleased to announce that Murfie bagged a silver medal this week. The event? Madison’s Favorite Tech Start-up, as voted by readers of the Isthmus, the most used alternative newspaper in Madison, WI. The real question is, does this pretty much make the Murfie crew Olympians?

Here’s proof of our silver medal:

Thanks so much to all the cool cats who placed a vote for us. Please know we’re thanking each and every one of you in our acceptance speech. It’ll be in front of a mirror, but hey ;)

Pass It On: 2012 Forward Tech Festival

Calling all Wisconsin entrepreneurs (established OR aspiring!)—the 2012 Forward Technology Festival is taking place right now, right here in Madison, WI. One of the event planners is Matt Younkle (you know him as CEO & Co-founder of Murfie), so I asked him a few Qs about the fest and local startup communities in general.

Here are the As.

Sum up the 2012 Forward Technology Festival in 3 sentences or less.
FTF is the premier event series for Wisconsin entrepreneurs that has grown to 16 events over 11 days. The format encourages cross-connections across all areas of tech: software, web, biotech and nanotech. Many of the events involve free beer.

Who’s wearing their event-planner hat in order to make this year’s festival happen?
The best part about this event is that it’s organized by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs. More than a dozen startup founders from around Madison are involved in making things happen, including Preston and myself here at Murfie.

Is there anyone in particular who should be psyched to attend the fest?
FTF is perfect for anyone who has founded a startup or is thinking about starting something.

Why do you think the Midwest, specifically Madison, is gaining steam as a hub for high-tech development?
It wasn’t that long ago that launching a tech company was incredibly expensive. In that environment, smaller markets like Madison were at a distinct disadvantage. Tools and techniques for launching companies are now widely known, and the capital required to launch a startup is as low as ever. Take away requirements for major capital, and Madison looks pretty attractive. We have the necessary IQ (Madison has the most graduate degrees per capita of any city in the U.S.) and work ethic required to succeed, without the attitude.

In your opinion, what are the key ingredients to building a robust tech scene?
An environment that fosters creativity, innovation and great ideas, and the talent and capital required to turn those ideas into reality.

Got any nifty tips for aspiring entrepreneurs? (Things at Murfie are going pretty darn well.)
Stay lean: involve real customers as early as possible in your product development process. And, start building your network now, so you’ll be ready when you need to raise capital later.

Vote Murfie 2012

You guys, we have the opportunity to make Murfie (that’s us!) Madison’s Favorite Tech Start-up. If you like us, I mean really like us, please cast your vote by Sunday, June 24 on the Isthmus‘ Madison’s Favorites Poll page.

Just enter “Murfie” in the “Favorite Tech Start-up” field (which is located under “Places Around Town” on the ballot). The best part is you don’t even have to fill out the entire ballot in order to submit it, so just make sure to fill in that one blank with Murfie.

Results will be published in August in the Isthmus‘ Annual Manual, as well as on their website Isthmus.com.

Did you vote yet? Good. Now tell your friends to do the same! We’ll be darn sure to send you an air five AND thank you in our acceptance speech. ;)