Milwaukee startup accelerator gener8tor hosted its Milwaukee 2017 Premiere Night on Monday at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
At the event, Tim Schaefer, executive vice president-client and digital experience at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., described the Milwaukee-based company’s recent efforts to foster a technology hub in Milwaukee.
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Northwestern Mutual and Aurora Health Care recently launched the $10 million Cream City Venture Capital Fund to support Milwaukee startups. And it is garnering innovative new solutions via an entrepreneur competition called Reverse Pitch MKE that will pay out up to $85,000 to the winning team.
“We’ve been in the industrial age for a couple of centuries at this point,” Schaefer said. “When you switch ages, you have to go through some revolution to get there. To stay competitive, to be competitive, to thrive in this digital age requires something different than it did in the industrial age.”
A vibrant technology and startup economy doesn’t just happen, he said. Milwaukee must support entrepreneurs, unite community efforts, change the business community mindset, build and strengthen the tech community, advance STEM education, attract and retain top tech talent, and listen to the voice of the tech community, Schaefer said.
“This is not a top-down thing. It really is a more organic experience,” he said. “We’re stepping up…to get things moving from a tech ecosystem standpoint.”
Schafer encouraged attendees to join Northwestern Mutual in supporting a vibrant startup community, via capital, mentorship and office space, but also culturally.
Gener8tor co-founders Joe Kirgues and Troy Vosseller updated attendees on the growth of the organization to include gBeta and gAlpha programs in several new cities, as well as the progress the startups made during the 12-week program. Gener8tor invests up to $140,000 in each participant in return for a 6 percent equity stake. The class gains access to its vast network of investors, experts and mentors during an intensive 12-week program.
And the six startups that completed the most recent Milwaukee cohort, three of which are based in Milwaukee, presented their business plans.
The companies were:
Chicago-based FactoryFix, which connects manufacturing companies with skilled temporary workers;
Chicago-based Keyo, which uses biometric palm scan identification to replace keys, credit cards and tickets;
Brookfield-based GenoPalate, which provides genetic testing-based nutritional recommendations;
New York-based Nonnatech, which uses IoT patient monitoring to predict patient deterioration;
Milwaukee-based Ideawake, which created a SaaS idea management platform for employers;
Milwaukee-based SteamChain, which developed a hardware-as-a-service platform for manufacturing equipment;
The startups reported gaining large new customers, increasing revenue and adding new product lines during the gener8tor program.
Yi “Sherry” Zhang of GenoPalate Inc. described the startup’s plans to add a monthly personalized snack subscription service called GenoNourish to its offerings in 2018.
The company also began advertising and marketing efforts during the gener8tor program, and pulled in more than $18,000 in revenue in October alone. Zhang projected it will have $480,000 in revenue a year from now.
Coby Skonord of Ideawake described the major companies the company has landed, including Aurora Health Care Inc., InSinkErator and American Family Insurance. It helped one customer, ExamOne, save $1.4 million in the first six months of implementation.
Using gamification, Ideawake can help companies incentivize employee engagement and improve their bottom lines, Skonord said. By January, Ideawake expects to be at $17,000 in monthly recurring revenue, he said.
Steamchain has also been able to get its foot in the door with large customers during the gener8tor program, Cromheecke said. It has pending installations at Canadian company Transformix Engineering, a $20 million assembly machine builder, and at an unnamed $2 billion product manufacturer.
In the next 12 months, Steamchain aims to have 60 machines installed with its platform and $500,000 in revenue, he said.