The Commons expanding to Madison

Student entrepreneurship program to open office in StartingBlock

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Milwaukee student entrepreneurship program The Commons is expanding to Madison.

A rendering of the 50,000 square-foot StartingBlock Madison building.

The Commons offers a mentor-driven seed accelerator program for entrepreneurial college students, as well as other programming, like its Hack-It Bracket hackathon. It was recently announced as one of the tenants of StartingBlock Madison, a co-working space and entrepreneurial hub that is slated to open this summer.

The Commons was launched in 2014 by Startup Milwaukee and the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s Innovation in Milwaukee to give students from Milwaukee-area colleges and universities exposure to entrepreneurial activities, as well as local corporations and mentors.

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The Commons’ seventh accelerator program just wrapped up in Milwaukee, which draws from 24 colleges and universities in the southeastern Wisconsin region. Each cohort is capped at 75 participants.

Program director Joe Poeschl and Michael Hostad, executive director of MiKE, have recently made connections in Madison so it was a good time to expand the program to that market, they said.

“We continue to see higher numbers of applicants into all of our programming,” Poeschl said. “Any time we do a program, we’ll average about 18 to 21 different schools being represented.”

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At StartingBlock, The Commons will have a few desks and access to the co-working space and a classroom for its programming, Hostad said. The Commons will begin with some of its one- and two-day programming in Madison before launching the accelerator, which will give the leaders time to develop relationships with three new schools and the corporations in the area.

“Those relationships and trust are really critical if those students are going to make those connections and retain them in the area,” Hostad said.

The Commons is funded mainly by corporate partners, who gain a talent pipeline from the program. Poeschl said the program does pre- and post-accelerator assessments that show 80 percent of students who complete its accelerator are more likely to consider staying in Milwaukee for work after they graduate.

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StartingBlock also announced that startup accelerator gener8tor will be a tenant.

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