Wisconsin Startup Week kicks off

10-city program packed with events for young companies


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

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett introduced the plenary session of Milwaukee Startup Week at Milwaukee’s Ward4 this morning by painting a picture of southeastern Wisconsin’s startup scene—and what it could be.


“I’m a day job county exec, but I love startup and I love venture,” said Abele, who is also a startup investor and helped establish the Ward4 startup co-working space via his company, CSA Partners.

While startup companies on the East and West Coasts are more likely to receive venture capital funding, Abele touted the value available to investors in the Midwest.

“In the Midwest, you are more likely to get about 10 percent of a company in a seed round of $1 million, as opposed to 1.5 percent on the coasts,” Abele said.

“A lot of attention is paid to what’s going on on the West Coast, on the East Coast and to some degrees to the Gulf Coast. And I think it’s time that people start to recognize what’s going on right here on America’s fresh coast,” Barrett said.

Barrett pointed to the tradition of entrepreneurship in Milwaukee, led by the founders of Harley-Davidson Inc. and Miller Brewing Co.


“As we fast forward a century later, what has changed is the people who are doing this. Still many immigrants, still many young people, still many people who have this hankering to try something on their own,” said Barrett, admiring entrepreneurs’ ability to step off a cliff of uncertainty. “I applaud everyone who’s involved in this.”

The morning session was a stop on the Road to GES, a national campaign to highlight the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, India, at the end of the month. Milwaukee was one of three U.S. cities chosen to promote the event. As part of that promotion, Mark Green, administrator of U.S. Agency for International Development, gave the opening keynote remarks.


“I have a cool job. I get to lead the world’s premier development agency,” Green said. “We work in over 100 countries, including some of the most difficult, dangerous places in the world. Wherever we can, we foster and strengthen inclusive economic growth.”

U.S. AID also provides humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as well as development assistance to help partner countries on their journey to self-reliance, he said.

“GES really is the preeminent annual gathering of emerging entrepreneurs, vendors and policymakers from all around the world,” Green said. “It is designed to make connections and help innovators take their ideas to the next level.”

Local event highlights

Wisconsin Startup Week, an expansion of the inaugural Milwaukee Startup Week last year, spans 10 cities, including Milwaukee and Kenosha. The full calendar can be found here: wistartupweek.org. Some of the local highlights:

Also on the docket today for Milwaukee Startup Week is Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.’s Reverse Pitch MKE competition, which will ultimately award $85,000 to the winning team.

The National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research Conference, which provides information about how to apply for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seed funding, will be held concurrently at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center beginning Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, a new organization devoted to supporting health care technology companies in Milwaukee, Healthtech MKE, will be launched at an evening event.

On Wednesday, Concordia University Wisconsin’s Healthcare Innovation Pitch event will showcase health care entrepreneurs pitching their ideas to a national panel for a chance to secure $75,000 in seed funds and other business services. And Startup Milwaukee Emerge will bring together startups and venture capital investors to discuss the state of southeast Wisconsin’s startup community Wednesday.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Lubar Entrepreneurship Center and the Marquette University Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship will team up for a design thinking workshop Thursday. And Disrupt Milwaukee, an HR thought leadership organization, will host its launch event with speakers including a Google executive Thursday.

On Friday, a workshop on startup investing will give potential investors an introduction to the space. Golden Angel Investors will also host an Open Deal Screening Friday.

And Milwaukee Startup Week continues through the weekend with a Commons Hack-It Bracket hackathon.

In Kenosha, a launch event will be held this afternoon. Tomorrow, sessions will focus on starting, funding, insuring and branding a new business, and a Quick Pitch Competition will be held at Carthage College in the evening.

On Wednesday, The Commons will host a Kenosha/Racine Leadership Summit focused on strengthening the area’s innovation ecosystem.

Foxconn’s Impact on Local Entrepreneurs will be the topic of discussion at an event Thursday at Gateway Technical College. On Friday, a new downtown Kenosha co-working space, The O at the Historic Orpheum Theatre, will be unveiled.

And on Saturday, Kenosha startup week wraps up with a Female Founders Panel & Networking Luncheon.

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