Milwaukee Startup Week Hosts ‘Building a Stronger Startup Community’

Nov. 2, 2016
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Key players in Milwaukee’s business community and spectators alike congregated in the Global Water Center on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 2 for “Building a Stronger Startup Community,” a special edition of the popular 1 Million Cups series co-organized by Startup Milwaukee.

The event was a part of the inaugural Milwaukee Startup Week, and focused on how metro Milwaukee, which lags behind similar sized areas in terms of entrepreneurial activity, can become competitive in the startup space moving forward. 

Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch opened with a few Wisconsin business success stories and talked about the state’s 10-year business survival rate, which is the best in the Midwest, 

The Water Council’s director of entrepreneurship and talent, Elizabeth Thelen, took the stage next to talk about the BREW Accelerator program and growing Milwaukee into a water tech superpower.

Much has been talked in recent months about Milwaukee being ranked last in the Kauffman Index for startup activity. To quell many people in the room’s anxieties, Colin Tomkins-Bergh of the Kauffman Foundation spoke about how the index works. He stressed that it should only be used as a tool, and not a definitive indicator of the city’s economic state. He also spoke about how government policy can champion entrepreneurship. 

Bram Dalemans, director of the Wisconsin Angel Network, spoke next. He talked about the group’s portfolio, and geography of investments, citing that companies in the Madison area made up over half of their investments last year.

The final speaker was Zach Brandon, president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. Brandon referenced former America Online CEO Steve Case’s book “The Third Wave,” and applied concepts of the book to Milwaukee. 

He called Milwaukee “one of the original cities of disruption,” citing companies such as Harley-Davidson, Miller and A.O. Smith, among others.

He went on to talk about the 3 P’s, which he believes makes for a strong startup community: policy, partnerships and perseverance. 

He ended the talk by encouraging everyone to be a maker saying, “Make a startup, and if you aren’t going to make a startup make a career, and if you aren’t going to make a career, and if you aren’t going to do that make a life here in Milwaukee, and if it won’t be a life, at least make a difference while you’re here.”

You can watch the entire talk via WTMJ 620 below:


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