Funding Campaign Launched After Explosion Injures Sector67 Founder

Sector67, a nonprofit “maker space” used by entrepreneurs and other residents of Madison, WI, and surrounding communities, says its founder, Chris Meyer, was seriously injured in a propane explosion last week.

As a result of the incident, Meyer will be hospitalized for at least a month, according to a page on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe called “Help Sector67 and Chris Meyer.” Meyer, who founded Sector67 in 2010, is in “stable condition” and “good spirits,” according to the campaign page, although he’s not expected to fully recover from his injuries for a year or longer.

The campaign, whose goal is to raise $50,000, had raised more than $48,000 as of Monday afternoon.

The accident happened Wednesday evening, according to the GoFundMe campaign page. Meyer was working to renovate a building that is to become a new, larger home for Sector67 when the explosion occurred. He was transported by ambulance to the University of Wisconsin Hospital and has received treatment in the hospital’s burn unit, according to local news reports.

Members of Sector67, as well as other people who take classes or attend events at the space, can use tools like computer-aided design software, 3D printers, and various metalworking equipment to build all manner of product prototypes there.

Meyer and others involved with Sector67’s day-to-day operations knew the organization would outgrow its current home. Last year, they decided to buy and renovate a 9,600-square-foot warehouse a couple miles east of downtown Madison. A major part of the renovation involved raising the building’s roof to create room for a second story, Sector67 says on its campaign page. “Chris has been the leader and heartbeat of this massive undertaking.”

In a Wisconsin State Journal report published not long after the explosion, police said they “believe a beam fell and ruptured a propane gas tank, causing the small explosion.” Fire investigators said at the time that “the integrity of the structure had been compromised,” according to the report. It’s not clear how far away Meyer was from the tank at the time of the explosion, or if he had been doing anything with it earlier in the day. On its website, Sector67 calls the explosion a “freak accident.”

Meyer’s wife, Heather Wentler, is also closely involved with Sector67 and Madison’s entrepreneurial community. Wentler is the co-founder of The Doyenne Group, an organization that supports businesses led by women and people of color.

According to a separate State Journal report, published early Monday, the work to prepare Sector67’s future home involves installing insulation in the building and putting in some new windows. Meyer and his team’s goal was reportedly to complete these structural tasks by early November.

Sector67 faces a “looming deadline,” after which it will no longer be able to stay in its current facility, the organization says on the campaign page. In addition to cash donations, Sector67 is seeking “any expertise, materials, or general labor” that volunteers can provide.

The explosion and Meyers’s subsequent hospitalization has brought forth support—in the form of both words and financial contributions—from leaders in Madison’s innovation community.

The GoFundMe campaign was organized by Justin Beck, co-founder and CEO of the Madison-based mobile games company PerBlue, and also a member of Sector67.

John Neis, executive managing director of Madison-based Venture Investors, and his wife Chele Isaac pledged $25,000 to Sector67 on top of the money being raised through the crowdfunding campaign, the organization says.

Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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