On November 10, the Weinert Center led an applied learning trip to Milwaukee. The group included ten Fellows in the Enterprise Development program accompanied by Dan Olszewski and Jon Eckhardt for a day of diverse visits and speakers to learn more about Milwaukee’s growing entrepreneurship scene.
The day began with a visit to the Water Council, an industry led venture development organization devoted to fostering solutions to the world’s water problems. There, the fellows met with Scott Mosley, the Water Council’s dynamic Director of Investment Strategies. In addition to a tour of the Water Council’s beautiful new facilities, we were able to have an insightful question and answer session with several Water Council based startups. The fellows were extremely impressed with the Water Council’s ability to bring together government, business, and local universities to foster innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing water challenges.
Next on the agenda was a working lunch at Milwaukee’s newest accelerator, Ward4, with Badger alum Heather Johnston. Hearing Heather speak candidly about the challenges, excitement, and rewards of growing her company, Find My Spot, was the highlight of the day for many of the fellows. There was more great advice to follow as we transitioned to a panel discussion organized by gener8tor, an extremely competitive Wisconsin-based accelerator program helping young startups grow through its 12-week accelerator program. Gener8tor’s program manager, Abby Taubner, moderated a dynamic discussion with Maria Santaceterina of Bright Cellars, Shan Krukowski of Project Foundry, Betsy Rowbottom of The Good Jobs, and Petr Bambasek of Scanalytics. The fellows felt extremely fortunate to listen to their entrepreneurial journeys and advice as we contemplate pursuing a start-up life post MBA.
The day culminated with a tour of the incredibly beautiful Ward4 office space by Brian Taffora, managing director of the venture capital firm, CSA Partners – the brainchild behind Ward4. It was easy to see how innovation can happen in such a bright, open, and collaborative space in the historic Pritzlaff building. Brian was then joined by his CSA Partners colleague, Patrick Farley, for a conversation on how venture capital firms approach their investment decisions. After taking a quick caffeine and cookie break, we heard from Marc Cayle and Matt Cordio. Marc shared his experience growing Onkol, his startup that uses technology to connect the elderly and those with special needs to their family and caregivers. Matt wrapped up our day by sharing the story of the Commons which helps college students from 23 college and universities in Southeastern Wisconsin launch startups through its 10-week program.
My head is delightfully still spinning from everything we took in during our trip to Milwaukee. It was a great opportunity for us to bring all of those classroom discussions into context and meet people who persevered to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality. Special thanks to everyone for their time and sight!