Philly startup community builder to consult on Milwaukee’s tech needs

Archna Sahay contracted by Northwestern Mutual, Aurora on Tech Hub

Archna Sahay

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:04 pm

Archna Sahay, who helped build the Philadelphia startup community into a nationally ranked hub of entrepreneurial activity, has been contracted by Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. and Advocate Aurora Health Inc. to help guide Milwaukee’s tech hub initiative.

Archna Sahay

Northwestern Mutual and several other corporate stakeholders have been working to position Milwaukee as a “tech hub” to attract talent and build the technology ecosystem, including by hosting an annual Tech Hub Summit.

From 2015 to 2017, Sahay served as director of entrepreneurial investment for the City of Philadelphia. Sahay managed the growth of Startup PHL, a $6 million city-backed venture capital fund, and helped the city go from not being included on the 1776 and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Innovation that Matters rankings in 2015 to coming in third place in 2017.

She recently visited Milwaukee to share the lessons she learned from the experience at Madwaukee Talks, which was held by the Milwaukee Institute at the Technology Innovation Center in Wauwatosa. While she was here, Sahay said she made the connections that led to this consulting project.

Sahay arrived Oct. 1 and will be in town through Dec. 14. She is describing her role as “ecosystem builder in residence.”

She plans to begin by attending as many startup and technology events around town as possible, and will hold Entrepreneurs Office Hours from noon to 2 p.m. every Thursday, beginning today, at Stone Creek Coffee/88.9 Radio Milwaukee, 158 S. Barclay St.

“It was a program that I did in Philly,” Sahay said. “We would try to do it at the different co-working spaces around the city and it was a great way to meet the entrepreneurs where they work.”

By getting to know entrepreneurs, what they’re working on and what challenges they’re facing, Sahay plans to find common threads, and then identify challenges that need to be addressed to reduce friction for founders, as well as successes she can champion to tell Milwaukee’s entrepreneurship narrative more widely.

She’ll also define what exactly a tech hub looks like in Milwaukee.

“I’m very sensitive to going about this in an authentic way,” she said. “We tried these things in Philly and this is what worked and didn’t work. Let’s figure out specifics for your community.”

Coming in as an outsider, Sahay hopes to provide fresh perspectives on Milwaukee’s tech and startup communities, and help formulate future goals for them.

“That’s something I’m looking for in Milwaukee is, what is the story here? What is the narrative? And where do we want to be?” she asked.

James Hischke, director of tech advancement and outreach at Northwestern Mutual, helped bring Sahay to Milwaukee.

“We are always looking for additional perspectives, ideas and action to help build the tech and innovation economy for the Milwaukee region,” Hischke said. “Archna is someone who brings some great experience and valuable lessons from her time in Philadelphia focused on entrepreneurial ecosystem building.”

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