The Commons announces headquarters, launch of pilot programming

The Commons has established a home in a 4,000-square-foot office space at 170 S. 1st St. in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood, according to an announcement made on Monday by the nonprofit collaborative.

 

The Commons, first announced in August, is a venture headed by the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE) initiative and Startup Milwaukee, with foundational support from a host of academic institutions and businesses across southeastern Wisconsin. The Commons plans to operate a mentor-driven, seed accelerator program through which entrepreneurial-minded college students can grow early-stage companies and connect with area corporations seeking talent.

The nonprofit collaborative located its headquarters in an up-and-coming innovation district in Walker’s Point with support from Mandel Group Inc. and Pierce Engineers.

The headquarters will play host to the launch of the initiative’s pilot program Nov. 7-9, when students from 21 regional colleges and universities will assemble over 48 hours to create startups or tackle real-world innovation challenges presented by area companies.

The weekend will culminate in a pitch event during which student teams will present their work and explain their plans for the coming semester.

The Commons offers programming for two types of student entrepreneurs – students interested in growing their own startups and others wanting to find solutions to businesses’ innovation challenges.

Students pursuing the startup route will gain experience in hands-on leadership, business development, sales and critical thinking, according to MiKE and Startup Milwaukee. During the launch weekend, those students will be able to flesh out their own startup ideas and construct teams to advance their ideas. They’ll also have a chance to jump onto another team’s startup. Students will then develop a prototype product and build an initial customer base, using their weekend progress as a springboard for work to be completed during the spring 2015 semester.

Students in the so-called corporate innovation track will form teams and address real-world business challenges laid forth by area companies. Their work will also carry into the spring 2015 semester.

Along with support from 21 area institutions, The Commons has secured partnerships with nine companies: Briggs & Stratton Corporation, Direct Supply, Kohl’s, ManpowerGroup, Potawatomi Business Development Corporation, Okanjo, The Milwaukee Bucks, The Good Jobs and Workshop Architects.

Mentoring will be a critical component in each track as corporate professionals, academics, entrepreneurs and investors advise students along the way during a series of spring meetings and workshops.

MiKE and Startup Milwaukee aim to put the full program into motion after the spring 2015 semester.

For more information on The Commons’ weekend launch event, which is free for college students, visit www.thecommonswi.com.

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