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Local entrepreneur gaining success despite state ranking last for start-ups

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MADISON (WKOW) -- In 2014, Matt Davis, an avid gamer with a degree in marketing, was working at a local credit union when he told his friend about his idea to start a software business named GameFi.

GameFi, gives financial service companies a fun way to award employees with positive feedback. The software allows managers to give feedback instantaneously by sending employees a message and sending them digital coins which they can in turn redeem for various rewards.

"So opposite of an annual performance review, we're giving feedback in some cases every ten minutes to employees, about how they're doing on important metrics," said Davis, who is among the hundreds of entrepreneurs who brought their start up company to MG&E University Research Park on Madison's west side.

The Research Park works with the University of Wisconsin and acts as a real estate hub for local entrepreneurs who need space to help start their companies.

"A lot of times a start up company doesn't know how big they're gonna be a year from now. We help them grow by bouncing around our incubator or around the park," said University Research Park Executive Director Aaron Olver. "I'm really excited about helping to write the next chapter and continuing to see great innovation coming out of the university, and hopefully thriving and making a difference across Wisconsin."

That difference appears to be sorely needed, after a recent study by the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation ranked Wisconsin last in start-up activity for the second year in a row.

But officials from the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce say Madison is an exception.

"What we're seeing in Madison is this resurgence, amazing growth of entrepreneurship, and what we're doing here can happen anywhere can take take root anywhere in the state of Wisconsin, we just need to start to export it," said Commerce President Zach Brandon.

As for Davis, he's found the city to an advantage rather than a problem.

"For me, I see the plus sides of where we have a really great community and some really smart people here and it's a lot cheaper," said Davis. "Certainly there's a much deeper world of start ups in Silicon Valley, California and some other cities, but here I wouldn't change it for the world."

According to Davis, the company has made nearly a half a million dollars in revenue and he's already getting bites from several international companies to purchase his software.

"A lot of our legacy companies [Harley Davidson, Oshkosh] were once start-ups and we need that kind of activity all over if Wisconsin is gonna thrive," said Olver.

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