Several Milwaukee-area entrepreneurs have formed a new collective that aims to give startup founders a sense of ownership over the city’s startup ecosystem.
The new group is called the Milwaukee Founder Collective, and its members define it as an “asynchronous” and “decentralized” community of startup founders, said Nick O’Brien, co-founder of Milwaukee-based startup WorkAround.
The Milwaukee Founder Collective will launch its first inaugural event called “Founder/Fest” for startup founders, investors and other startup ecosystem supporters on Aug. 12. The free event will take place at Penrod LLC’s office in downtown Milwaukee and will feature networking, music, food and various programming designed by local startup founders.
O’Brien says the new organization was born from connections established between founders at Wantable cafe, which has become a hotbed for collaboration among entrepreneurs and for startup founders in particular.
Its members include washbnbCEO Daniel Cruz, Investiico-founder and CEO Nishant Deshpande, Like Minded CEO and co-founder Jeremy Fojut and more.
What makes Founder/Fest unique? It comes down to the “ethos" behind Milwaukee Founder Collective, O’Brien said, adding that its vision is to build a community “for founders, by founders.”
“I think that is the distinction honestly,” O’Brien said. “Very rarely do you have startup programming being organized by the people that it’s for.”
In a recent discussion with MKE Tech Hub Coalition leaders, O’Brien and WorkAround co-founder Erin Magennis were asked, “How can we best support founders?” Their response – “founders don’t need leaders right now, they need supporters.”
As O’Brien describes it, corporations and resource providers play a critical role in any startup ecosystem, but these stakeholders need to be in a role of support rather than dictating the direction of the ecosystem, he said.
Milwaukee-area corporations and resource providers have organized to build Milwaukee into a hub for startups and tech talent – now it's time for founders to come together, O’Brien said.
“There’s a sense of responsibility now among this group of founders because now they’re a part of it,” O’Brien said. “They’re the ones putting it on, showing up and creating this energy and now there’s a sense of ownership whereas maybe it didn’t feel that way before. Maybe it felt as though these programs and events were pitched to founders.”
The Milwaukee Founder Collective has already held several informal events including a startup founder running group called Pitch and Run” and Founder Feature, a storytelling series on Mondays at Frondesk Inc. where founders share their entrepreneurial journeys.
Click hereto register for Founder/Fest and for an event itinerary.