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 ;)

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. ;)

A Solid Fundation

Fundation? Yep, I purposely misspelled that. I wanted to give a nice shout-out to the fact that Murfie is solidly funded for the year. In January 2012, we closed a funding round of $1.4 million, which gives Murfie a solid foundation to forge ahead with new phases of development. The funds will also help us scale up our technical and operational infrastructure as well as sharpen up our marketing initiatives.

Here’s the full press release »

So, why are we speaking of this solid fundation again? Well, some folks were quite dispirited by the recent unavailability of album art and audio clips on our site… but with our solid resources, Murfie is actually in great shape. Thousands of CDs arrive from our customers every week, sales and trades continue apace, and we’re presently negotiating to restore licensed access as well as contemplating options and alternatives.

If you’ve got any looming questions for us, please feel free to give us a shout at info@murfie.com. The crew at Murfie is there for you!

Murfie, Funding and TechStars

This post belongs to Murfie Musings–a series where folks at Murfie and our guests take the time to share what Murfie is up to as well as explore issues that matter to media ecology.

It raised a few eyebrows in the tech-startup business press when we announced raising money in conjunction with joining the TechStars Boston 2012 class. If we’ve already raised capital, the thinking goes, then what’s the point?

It’s true that a crucial objective of many companies at TechStars is raising their first real round of seed capital. Turns out there are also plenty of funded companies that participate in TechStars, too. Murfie can now be added to this growing list.

I’m a competitive guy. Most entrepreneurs are. The competition to make it into TechStars is intense for a startup at any stage of growth, and it’s an awesome group that gets selected to participate. I think that what our team has built is incredible, and it’s great to see recognition of that via our invitation into the TechStars community. We’re midway through the second week of the program, and I feel privileged to be surrounded by such an amazing bunch of entrepreneurs.

So why TechStars for Murfie? Because seed funding is only one small step along a long path toward success. We need help developing our marketing strategy. We need help simplifying our message. We need help nailing our metrics. We need help establishing strong connections to additional capital for our next big raise. Murfie has a long way to go, and we want to be able to crush it every step of the way. That’s why TechStars is absolutely the perfect place for Murfie right now.