Innovation Trends: Venture studios are growing innovation in Wisconsin

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The Venture Studio model has been gaining popularity in recent years across the nation. Their popularity has been growing in Wisconsin as well, giving entrepreneurs trying to enter the market a real opportunity to grow locally.

What is a venture studio?

Shaniqua Davis, founder of gener8tor alumnus company Noirefy.
Photo courtesy of gener8tor

Venture studios are companies that provide the resources and knowledge necessary for startups to develop and grow, often focusing on building multiple new or young companies at one time.

A blog post written by experts at Tangelo, a Silicon Valley venture studio that works with midcap companies that have a product in the market, says multiple venture studio models exist and each studio’s level of involvement varies. However, most studios get involved in their startups’ day-to-day operations, taking on tasks such as raising capital funds, establishing staffing resources, conducting market research, developing brand strategies and running marketing campaigns.

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Venture studios also give the assisting organization an ownership stake earlier in the formation of a startup.

What advantage do venture studios provide to startups?

According to Craig Dickman, managing director of Green Bay venture studio operator TitletownTech, one big advantage for startups working with a venture studio is they can leverage the studio’s network and reputation to attract quality employees and build their own high-profile networks of reliable, knowledgeable stakeholders to help their companies scale. Dickman also said access to the pooled resources venture studios offer makes it possible for many startups to enter larger markets sooner than they would if they worked independently.

Additionally, each venture studio is equipped with a team of experts in the fields they focus on. Ben Stanley, managing director of startup accelerator gener8tor’s Madison and Milwaukee locations, describes having access to a devoted team of experts to help startups navigate day-to-day tasks efficiently and effectively as a “tremendous head start.” Stanley also says that venture studios offer a greater level of experimentation by reducing risk for the individual founders, thanks to risk being partly assumed by additional investment parties.

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Jeff Golfman, founder and president of gener8tor alumnus company The Raw Office.
Photo courtesy of gener8tor

With offices in Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis, gener8tor is a self-described concierge startup accelerator aimed at assisting startups being built from scratch.

Three times per year, gener8tor filters through a growing pool of applicants from all over the world and admits five startups to its program. Its traditional 12-week, equity-based accelerator program includes resources such as funding opportunities, network building and partnerships with an internal team of experts.

“Our spring 2019 accelerator in Madison attracted more than 1,000 applications and included startups from every continent except Antarctica,” Stanley said.

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“We initially chose the concierge accelerator model because we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to building a high-growth startup. While there are fundamentals everyone should follow, each industry, innovation and founder have a unique path to market,” he said.

Stanley believes the benefit of gener8tor’s approach is that founders get an intensive, personalized experience during the program to help them quickly and effectively identify and address new opportunities, identify and resolve issues, and position themselves to obtain the financing needed to scale.

“The best entrepreneurs make their own luck, and we help each company in our portfolio determine the best roadmap to do so,” he said.

Recently, gener8tor began experimenting with the studio model with the launch of an Accelerator Studio option it hopes to include in each cohort of gener8tor. The first iteration, in which gener8tor selects applicants to build a business from scratch in house, is included in the Madison cohort that runs through June 13.

Stanley believes gener8tor can add more value to the communities where it operates by creating new jobs and wealth from scratch.

“The core mission of our company is to help communities more effectively invest in themselves,” he said. “Like the rest of the programs run under the gener8tor umbrella, the Accelerator Studio is one expression of that mission.”


TitletownTech, under construction west of Lambeau Field in Green Bay’s Titletown District, grew through a partnership between the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft. This one-stop-shop will offer early-stage and existing businesses a customized opportunity to build, grow and scale within their respective markets through three components: an innovation lab, a venture studio and a venture fund.

Dickman is excited about the opportunities the venture studio will create for businesses trying to enter the market locally.

“Right now, we see too many organizations trying to enter markets such as technology leave (Wisconsin) for major markets,” he said. “Our goal is to bring the resources they need to grow here.”

“One reason we are excited about TitletownTech is that it gives existing organizations new ways to connect into the entrepreneurial ecosystem beyond just listening to a pitch at the end of an event,” he said. “We work in full partnership with early-stage businesses and offer a dynamic, customized model full of the resources they need to reach a point where they are ready to scale on their own within the market. We bring together the resources to build each venture, not ventures to fit the resources.”

The venture studio will not include a formal application process but will instead be fueled by organizations who are introduced to the studio through various sources.

“We are currently meeting with businesses who have interest,” Dickman said. “And we believe most of our venture studio partners will come from the venture fund and the innovation lab, but also through the five innovation councils that are being developed and through less formal meetings taking place with early-stage companies within the market.”

Dickman and his team plan to have four or five companies in residence at all times once the venture studio is operating at full capacity.

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