Milwaukee Startup Week expanding statewide

Nine Wisconsin cities to highlight entrepreneurship

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Milwaukee Startup Week is growing much larger in its second year, expanding to become Wisconsin Startup Week, with events in nine cities statewide.

Ideawake founder Coby Skonord, right, addresses a group of business representatives and entrepreneurs during Milwaukee Startup Week 2016.

It will be held Nov. 6 to 12, with programming at a variety of locations. Startup Milwaukee founder Matt Cordio and startup consultant Ed Javier are again organizing the event.  Communities exploring hosting events during the week are: Milwaukee, Kenosha, Beloit, Madison, Oshkosh, Wausau, Green Bay, La Crosse and Stevens Point.

After attendance at the first Milwaukee Startup Week more than doubled organizers’ expectations at 2,600, and attracted people from other cities, the co-founders decided to expand the week to include other communities.

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The aim of Milwaukee Startup Week was to bring together entrepreneurs, investors and local business and government leaders. With Wisconsin Startup Week, startup communities can also share their experiences with other startup hubs in the state.

“We heard from leaders in various communities that they … really liked the energy that was created by Milwaukee Startup Week in the Milwaukee region, and we heard that from basically everyone we talked to,” Cordio said. “We also, through the years, have built up various relationships with these grassroots entrepreneurial organizations across the state.”

Each city will be responsible for its own programming during Wisconsin Startup Week, Cordio said. Some of them will have their own name for the aligned events, such as Kenosha Startup Week. Kenneth Murray is leading the efforts to organize Kenosha Startup Week, which he hopes will introduce Kenosha entrepreneurs to each other in a more organized format than what currently exists, Murray said.

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“Especially in this first year, I think the best way for the community to utilize a compilation of events like Kenosha Startup Week is really for discovery,” Murray said. “So, to get as many people as possible at the same table, and identify who is in the area doing work that is innovative, creative and compelling.”

Murray hopes to host four or five events, with higher education institutions and other stakeholders, like the Kenosha Creative Space, also putting on events aligned with the week of programming.

“There are leaders like Ken in Kenosha, where he comes to (Startup Milwaukee’s) Emerge events and is looking at some of the programming that Startup Milwaukee is doing in Milwaukee and says, ‘This is valuable stuff; How do I bring it to my community?’” Cordio said. “We really feel like we can share best practices, but also we’re learning stuff from other startup communities, too, and it’s a unique opportunity.”

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Cordio and Javier are in the early stages of planning Wisconsin Startup Week, but plan on a similar format to last year, with workshops for entrepreneurs, events that connect startups to companies that could be customers, programs supporting entrepreneurship on college campuses, and events that highlight activity in entrepreneurial communities such as Milwaukee’s Ward4. They are currently seeking corporate sponsors and organizations interested in participating.

By promoting high-growth entrepreneurial activity across Wisconsin, Cordio said he hopes the events drive growth and job creation in the state’s economy.

“Just bringing together the unique experiences of people trying to build the startup communities in their respective cities is a unique thing that I think hasn’t been done before,” Cordio said. “What we’ve found through hosting Milwaukee Startup Week last year is we uncovered a lot of startup activity that was happening in our community that we weren’t even aware of, and we hope Wisconsin Startup Week has a similar effect on the rest of the state.”

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