MMAC plans to bring MIT entrepreneurship mentoring model to Milwaukee

Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce plans to bring an entrepreneurship mentoring program developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the Milwaukee area.

It’s one of several new initiatives announced Monday by MMAC president Tim Sheehy and venture capitalist Chris Abele that are aimed at bringing more attention to the region’s startup and entrepreneurship scene.

Abele, who is managing director of venture fund CSA Partners and former Milwaukee County executive, said MMAC would be 113th organization in the country to adopt MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service model. The program matches prospective and experienced entrepreneurs with volunteer mentors who are themselves successful entrepreneurs.

Abele said the program has a “track record of effectiveness,” with the model being used across the country.

In an effort to bolster the association’s startup expertise, the MMAC board of directors has also nominated Milwaukee entrepreneur Andy Nunemaker, and Dana Guthrie, fund manager of Gateway Capital, to join the board. Chamber members have not yet ratified the nominations.

Nunemaker founded and was CEO of West Allis-based Dynamis Corp. before it was acquired by Applied Systems in October 2018. He was also part of a group of investors that purchased Glendale-based Sprecher Brewing Co. Inc. from its founder and former CEO Randy Sprecher last year.

Guthrie recently raised $12.5 million in under a year for the Milwaukee-based Gateway Capital Fund, which is designed to invest in pre-revenue startups in the area over a four-year period.

Sheehy and Abele also announced plans to develop and launch a startup activity dashboard in partnership with the Wisconsin Policy Forum. The public dashboard will track metrics like the number and size of investments in area startups and who is investing in them. That data is available in various places, but the dashboard aims to make it easily accessible in one location, Abele said.

Milwaukee has historically lagged on national and regional reports comparing its startup and venture activity to other peer cities. The initiatives announced Monday are part of an effort to change that narrative, Sheehy and Abele said. In total, they represent a roughly $500,000 investment over the next two years, Sheehy said.

“Milwaukee has a better story to tell here than we know, and we want to be an active part of the solution,” Abele said.

He added that when people become more aware of existing startup activity in Milwaukee, they are more likely to be inspired to launch their own company, make an investment or join an accelerator.

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