Startup activity in Milwaukee gains momentum
Wisconsin, and in particular Milwaukee, has traditionally struggled to create an environment to attract, start and grow startups. An article came out last spring ranking Wisconsin as 50th out of 50 states for the third straight year in Startup activity from 2015 to 2017 and Milwaukee as the 48th out of 49 metropolitan areas, just ahead of Pittsburgh. A major problem in our area.
That said, recently we've seen a lot of positive momentum in our city. Companies like Aurora, Concordia University Wisconsin, Husch Blackwell and Northwestern Mutual, not traditionally known for being involved in the local startup community, have all recently made statements that for our local economy to be healthy we need to support-high growth entrepreneurs. So far they have put their money where their mouth is, investing back into the community and launching initiatives like Cream City Ventures and Invest MKE, funds that combined will invest over $10M in local startups.
We have also seen a rise in programming recently, events I have not seen in this city since starting GGMM over 7 years ago: The Fall Xperiment, Tech MKE, Meet the Meetups, MKE Blockchain Conference (this week!), Gener8tors largest "Premiere Night" to date, and the rise of Startup Milwaukee Week, all events that have happened this fall that show a clear sign the city is moving in the right direction quickly.
Although Startup Wisconsin Week created a big splash in 2018, having over 200 unique events across 12 cities in Wisconsin and drawing over 8,000 attendees it is far from an overnight success.
In 2011 Startup Milwaukee was founded with the goal of helping high-growth entrepreneurs in Southeast Wisconsin gain access to the right resources to build and scale ventures in our community. Starting by hosting small events, meetups and even dabbling in having a co-working space Startup Milwaukee evolved and hosted its first "Startup Week" in 2016 with 25 events in Milwaukee. The fact that the event has nearly 5x'ed the amount of programs and expanded to 12 cities through Startup Wisconsin in two short years is another great sign of things to come.
As far as moving forward Matt Cordio says, "We will always put founders first and we are looking to continue to add programming that connects entrepreneurs to the resources they need to thrive here in Southeast Wisconsin."
During Startup Milwaukee Week we were lucky enough to host a live event at the GGMM HQ and had three young high growth Milwaukee entrepreneurs come on:
Joseph Taylor: Founder of Penrod Software, a Sales Force consulting company that has made the Inc 5,000 list the last 3 years and the Inc 500 list the last two years in a row.
Cindy Poiesz: Former Investment Banker on Wall Street turned founder of Evolve Brands (including Supernola and Gorilly Goods), increased market presence 40% in the last 6 months and is now in 2,200 retailers.
Dom Anzalone: Founded Rent College Pads as a college project in 2012 (Which he got a D on) and has since has grown the company to over 40 employees and made the Inc 5,000 list for the first time this year.
On the episode we discuss:
How they got they initial ideas for their businesses
Biggest surprise/misconception of entrepreneurship in the first couple years
Pros/Cons of starting a business in Milwaukee
What Milwaukee can be doing better as a city to create a better ecosystem for entrepreneurs
Biggest roadblock they had to push through
The one piece of advice they would give to someone starting a company
What they are most proud of
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