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StartUp Starts the Year Right

by Sari Judge Friday, November 9, 2018

The StartUp Learning Community entered its second decade earlier this semester when it welcomed its 11th cohort of 64 freshmen interested in exploring entrepreneurship onto the second floor of Tower A in Sellery Hall. Since its founding, StartUp (formerly the Entrepreneurial Residential Learning Community, a self-selected group of predominantly freshman has had the opportunity--via a unique partnership forged by University Housing, the Madison Undergraduate Initiative, and the Wisconsin School of Business--to engage in programs dedicated to fostering their interest in all things e-ship. From late night brainstorming sessions in the community lounge, to enrollment in the StartUp-exclusive seminar on the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, our students are poised to hit the UW-Madison campus running when it comes to entrepreneurial action. The residents of this year’s Learning Community echo many of the changes at UW-Madison, with nearly a third of residents coming from international locals including India, Sweden, Kenya and Thailand.  We of course, have a terrific contingent from all across the state, as well.

After a jam packed Welcome Week, which included the opportunity to learn design thinking skill during a workshop with StartUp Faculty Director, John Surdyk, this year’s class, has enjoyed the opportunity to volunteer at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurship Showcase event and the amazing speed networking event that immediately follows. We have already had three community-based teams apply for Dream Big grants that will help them launch ventures right from the 2A floor. The majority of students chose to participate in one of the StartUp’s signature programs—the 100-Hour Challenge—earlier this month. An “entry-level” UW-Madison entrepreneurial contest that is popular with students from all disciplines and backgrounds, the 100-Hour Challenge invites teams of students to use donated materials from campus’ Surplus with a Purpose (SWAP) to come up with a new product prototype in 100 hours or less (essentially over a long weekend). The teams then make a short video or slide deck pitches of their big idea for the chance to win prize money.  


Prizes were awarded in three categories, “Most Potential Revenue Value” for Smokelet, “Most Potential Social Value” for Port Spring and “Most Creative” for Talk To Me Teddy—our first full slate of winning teams spearheaded by female leads! It is surprising and delightful to see what groups of creative undergrads can do with discarded test tubes, material from old curtains and boatload of springs and hooks.


StartUp is always looking for ways to connect its current residents with alumni in the entrepreneurship community. If you are interested in becoming more involved, feel free to contact Faculty Director John Surdyk at or Program Coordinator Sari Judge at