96square space is catalyst for startups

96square, a co-working space for entrepreneurs, was launched last fall at the Blatz Wash House building in downtown Milwaukee as the latest effort from Startup Milwaukee.

Named after the 96.12 square miles of land that make up the city of Milwaukee, 96square aims to be a convening force in the building momentum of the city’s startup community, giving entrepreneurs a low-rent space to grow their business and collaborate with and learn from other entrepreneurs along the way.

“We have to create a sense that Milwaukee has a strong startup scene,” said Matt Cordio, co-founder and executive chairman of Startup Milwaukee.

Eighteen different startup businesses and organizations have a presence in 96square’s 11,000 square feet of open office space in the building at 1101 N. Market St. 96square was formed through a partnership between Startup Milwaukee and a real estate company that has not been disclosed.

The cost to set up shop at 96square is $110 per month for a desk and WiFi, and rent starts at $400 per month for a private office. The Wisconsin Super Angel Fund and United Capital & Products have offices at 96square, which gives entrepreneurs access to potential investors in addition to valuable mentorship access. Additional counseling is available through Startup Milwaukee’s mentorship program.

“It’s really valuable to have those people who have been down that road before bringing along these young entrepreneurs who are in the space,” Cordio said. “(The goal of) having a space like this is to increase collisions.”

Through Startup Milwaukee, several events are planned at 96square in 2014, including regular workshops and events, along with special events.

Among these special events is “Techstars in Milwaukee,” on Feb. 12, in which Startup Milwaukee has partnered with Golden Angels Investors for an event with Techstars Chicago. Speaking at the event will be Sam Yagan, chief executive officer of Match.com and co-founder of OkCupid, and Troy Henikoff, co-founder of Techstars Chicago and SurePayroll. In addition to its main location in Boulder, Colo., Techstars, a top startup accelerator program, has programs in Boston, New York, Seattle, Austin, London and Chicago. Attendees will have the opportunity to apply to have a one-on-one discussion at 96square with the directors of Techstars Chicago.

“(Techstars Chicago) wants to come and recruit here,” said Cordio. “Golden Angels invested in Techstars, so our relationship with them is what helped bring them to Milwaukee and 96square is the right place to have an event like that. I think we’re on track to have a pretty large packed house. We had more than 70 people register on the first day.”

Madison-based startup groups 100state and Capital Entrepreneurs are organizing a complementary shuttle bus from Madison to Milwaukee for the event.

Cordio said building connections between Milwaukee’s startup community and the startup communities in Madison and Chicago is a definite goal of 96square and Startup Milwaukee.

Events partnering with the Madison-based startup groups, called “Capital Connections,” will be happening with regularity at 96square. 96square held one of these events last year, and Startup Milwaukee recently partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee-based Godfrey & Kahn s.c., Madison-based Forward Tech Festival and startup accelerator Gener8tor – which has offices in both Milwaukee and Madison – to send a group to Madison to promote further connections between the startup groups.

Another regular events that will be happening at 96square is “Coder Nights,” which is one example of Startup Milwaukee and 96square’s focus on technology companies.

“Coder Nights is one thing we launched last month … to create a group of developers that have the goal of trying to learn from each other and learn new technologies,” Cordio said. “One of the things we want to do at 96square is provide a home for these events.”

Cordio said these types of events could also prove to be valuable for recruiting talented developers.

As it stands, 96square has sold all of its private offices, Cordio said, and 96square is already looking to expand.

“There’s space in the building and it’s very possible that we expand to the first floor with more private office space in the next two to three months,” he said.

With a growing stable of startups in 96square and a growing number of events taking place at the space in recent months, the goal for 2014 is sustaining that growth, Cordio said.

“Last year was a year of growth, and this year is a year of sustaining,” Cordio said. “What I’m interested in is, how do we get more startups to Milwaukee? How do we become known as the place to go? What programming and what capital do we need to bring these companies to Milwaukee? It’s a long process.” n

Startups & companies in 96square

Rent College Pads

Find My Spot

EventPally

VoxelMetric

Digital Iris

Forever Interactive

Emergent Labs

United Capital & Products

Vaultus Data Centers

Onkol

SameGoal Software

Alithias

Wisconsin Super Angel Fund

Sar32 Technologies

Startup Milwaukee

Tracy Apps Design

Orphonic Multimedia

HTSS, LLC – High Tech Sports Science

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