Chicago-based 1871 program seeking Wisconsin startups

BMO Harris Bank seeking financial entrepreneurs

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In the second year of its Chicago-based BMO Harris/1871 Innovation Program, BMO Harris Bank has announced it is accepting applications from Wisconsin financial technology startups.

The entrepreneurs who particpated in the BMO Harris/1871 Innovation Program in 2017.

BMO will accept six to eight startups for the upcoming cohort, which is now open to both Chicago-area and Wisconsin applicants, and three winners will be selected at the conclusion of the three-month startup mentorship program. Winners will split $50,000, and gain working space at the 1871 co-working space in Chicago, three months of mentorship and resources from BMO and the potential opportunity to pilot their technology with the bank.

Emily Penate, a spokeswoman for BMO Harris Bank, said Wisconsin startups would not necessarily have to move to Chicago.

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“The market (in Wisconsin) is really booming and there’s great talent, so we want to capture that,” Penate said. “We’ll leave it optional, but they definitely can use the space at 1871. Our hope is that they will utilize that space, but we will pair up those appropriate startups with BMO executives in Milwaukee, too.”

Milwaukee- and Madison-based startup accelerator gener8tor and Oshkosh-based entrepreneurship organization Kinnektor have partnered with BMO to get the word out to startups in the state.

“We see this as a great way to increase the engagement between the banking industry and the startup community,” said Joe Kirgues, co-founder of gener8tor. “This is a great step forward. We hope there’s more to come.”

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“Last year’s program was a great success; we continue having discussions with all three winners to pilot their services because we find value in what they have to offer,” said Ernie Johannson, group head of U.S. Personal and Business Banking at BMO Harris Bank. “This year we are excited not only to continue the partnership with 1871, but also to welcome new partners in Wisconsin to amplify our talent pool and create new synergies all around.”

Applications to BMO Harris/1871 Innovation Program are due May 29. The participants will be announced June 29, and the program will kick off in July. The winners will be announced in October.

“We’re looking at working together and fostering these synergies and looking at the prods and services these startups bring to us,” Penate said. “We’re focused on learning what they have and how that can fit into our strategic priorities.”

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