It was standing room only earlier this year when over 50 students crammed into MadVentures’, UW’s student run co-working space, cozy office on the third floor of the Student Activities Center in the Lucky building. These Badgers, representing both undergrad and graduates students across multiple disciplines and majors, had all braved the February 9th wind chill to take part in Partner Up!, the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship’s recently launched program which looks to help build connections between students with venture ideas and those who would like to work with them.
“Not every student on campus interested in entrepreneurship necessarily has an idea for a company,” says Dan Olszewski, Director of the Weinert Center. “And not every student who has an idea for a company necessarily has all the skills to bring their concept to fruition. The idea behind Partner Up! is to serve as a bit of a match maker—to get students with complementary skills together in the hopes of taking UW-Madison’s student ideas to the next level.”
Co-sponsored by INSITE, the Entrepreneurship Association, Net Impact and Transcend, this event, the fourth of its kind for Partner Up! was casual in nature. The hour long event began with a welcome by Oleszewski, who promptly opened the floor to students who wished to present their projects. The pitches ran the gamut--from a freshman with an already-launched social media tool looking for marketing help to a second year MBA candidate in need of manufacturing connections for her planned energy bar for dogs.
After all the pitches were through, the event became focused on lively networking, with students seeking out opportunities to talk with the people behind the ideas that most interested them. Attendees left that evening not only with the emails and cell phone numbers of potential partners for UW-Madison born startup companies, but also with an invigorated sense of purpose and many new connections with fellow entrepreneurially-minded students from across campus.
Lisa Collins, Associate Director of the Weinert Center said, “When we held our inaugural Partner Up! in the fall of 2015, we knew we had a good idea, but we weren’t sure it would become one of the Center’s signature programs. But with each new iteration and the tremendous enthusiasm we felt at this past February’s event, we are confident that giving UW students with startup ideas the opportunity to connect, in person, with those who want to leverage their skills, knowledge and expertise to help others, is something we should continue to do.”