Local tech, startup communities look for connection in time of social distancing

Downtown Milwaukee skyline
Downtown Milwaukee skyline. Photo by Shutterstock

Social isolation is not usual for the tech and startup communities, but its members are finding ways to keep up the grind and hustle in a time of social distancing.

NEWaukee is launching a new multi-channel series called “The Cloud Café,” a series that delivers a variety of resources so the Milwaukee community can stay connected. The series includes access to NEWaukee’s Slack Workspace, curated meetups for coffee or lunch breaks as well as virtual events, which include a speaker series, performances and wellness programs.

Even before coronavirus, communities were already entering a “social recession,” said Jeremy Fojut, NEWaukee co-founder and chief idea officer. NEWaukee has always focused on combating social isolation through its programming and has adapted when virtual connection is the only option.

“What we’re trying to do is have a smaller version of NEWaukee online and help people find connection when they’re going to become even more isolated than they already are,” Fojut said.

Forward Capital fund manager Dan Voell is also offering an opportunity for startup founders to reach out, especially those who feel as though they can’t talk to investors, or have nowhere to turn, he said.

“On these startup conference calls, its been mostly learning about each other, trying to connect the dots and not letting people feel isolated or like they don’t know who to reach out to,” Voell said. “Everyone needs to continue these conversations even though it may not be face to face.”

Gener8tor has also rolled out an emergency one-week virtual program for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The program will feature daily webinars designed to identify, understand and help small businesses secure resources to withstand the crisis. One-on-one offices hours will also be available.

Milwaukee startup founders can also sign-up for Startup Milwaukee’s free founder peer group, which has more than 100 tech founders in the Milwaukee region. Membership includes access to a private slack channel and weekly virtual happy hours.

Startup Milwaukee, Startup Wisconsin and 5 Lakes have plans to roll out additional programming in the coming weeks, said Matt Cordio, co-founder and president of Skills Pipeline and Startup Milwaukee.

“We want to make sure we’re bringing the community together to discuss the challenges and also the opportunities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cordio said.

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Brandon Anderegg
Brandon covers startups, technology, banking and finance. He previously worked as a general assignment and court reporter for The Freeman in Waukesha. Brandon graduated from UW-Milwaukee’s journalism, advertising and media studies program with an emphasis in journalism. He enjoys live music, playing guitar and loves to hacky sack.