A new resource for budding businesses spanning across all industries is now available. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has officially launched its Innovation Incubator aimed at giving early-stage startups the knowledge they need to become “pitch-ready” ventures that can gain funding.
Matthew Friedel, co-founder of Milwaukee Venture Partners and senior lecturer at UWM, is the director of the new program.
Kaushal Chari, dean of UWM’s College of Business, first came up with the idea for the incubator and approached Friedel to help launch it due to his background as an angel investor and his passion for supporting entrepreneurship.
“We’re farther down the food chain (than other incubators). We’re probably somewhere either ahead of or behind gener8tor. We’re looking for fundable ideas,” said Friedel.
The 11-month incubator is split up into two parts. In the fall, there will be a series of general entrepreneurship workshops on topics ranging from sales and negotiation to IP and customer discovery. Participants will also get to tour UWM’s prototyping lab.
These workshops will be held once a week on Wednesdays within UWM’s Lubar College of Business.
“I get to leverage two entities. I get to leverage UWM, an R1 research institution with tons of expertise, and then I get to leverage what Milwaukee Venture Partners does. You’ve got the chocolate, you’ve got the peanut butter, and we’re going to have peanut butter cups, which is hopefully good,” Friedel said.
In the spring, each company will get more customized consulting based on their specific needs. This part of the incubator is dubbed “Meet the Entrepreneur Where They Are.” During this time, different experts from several local organizations will be called on to lend their expertise to the young companies.
“Essentially what you’re going to get is coaching and mentoring, not only from me, but my entire network of other angel investors and, frankly, very successful entrepreneurs,” Friedel said. “It’s a question of where you are in your venture and what’s the domino we want to push over to get the other dominoes to fall over.”
An ideal candidate is already generating some sort of revenue and is gaining some traction early on. The company may be in the beginning stages of seeking funding. The Innovation Incubator already has support from other initiatives aimed at supporting local entrepreneurs. The FOR-M incubator, a joint venture between the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition and The Commons, is helping promote the incubator to some of their past participants who may be a good fit.
“Our tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem here is what I would call fragmented. A lot of great people are doing different types of initiatives but what I’m trying to do with this (incubator) is have a collaborative approach,” Friedel said.
The Innovation Incubator has 10 slots available for its inaugural session. Steve Glynn from Experience Milwaukee and Sandy Padala from Rex Academy are soft commitments to participate in the new incubator. Additional information on how to apply can be found online. There will also be an info session on Aug. 2 for those looking to learn more.