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From Second City to Startup City: Wisconsin Fellows Take On Chicago

by Angie Peltzer Friday, April 15, 2016
Fellows Field Trip to Chicago (1)490

On Monday, April 11th, the Weinert Center led an applied learning trip to Chicago. 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 Chicago’s booming entrepreneurship scene.

The day began with a visit to ReviewTrackers, an enterprise-level review monitoring and reputation management software platform. We met with ReviewTrackers’s CEO and Founder, Chris Campbell, a dynamic serial entrepreneur. He discussed the importance of putting in time to recruit the perfect team and how his company’s first class customer service sets it apart from the competition.

Next on the agenda was a visit to Matter, a co-working space with startups that focus on health technology. We met with a growing startup dedicated to keeping young athletes safe, Player’s Health. The fellows learned what makes a great pitch, by watching Tyrre Burkes (CEO) and Blake Geoffrion (Director of Partnerships) give their investor’s pitch to the group. Our round-table discussion quickly turned into a lively brainstorming session where the fellows were able to help provide feedback on Player’s Health current growth strategy. All that brainstorming made us hungry and we moved on to a working lunch discussion with former Badgers, John Philosophos (Partner, Great Oaks Venture Capital)  and Heidi Lardner (former early stage Warby Parky employee). The fellows appreciated the opportunity to learn more about what a VC looks for in a company, starting with its founding team. Heidi was able to share the pains and gains of working with a startup that went from 20 employees to 250 employees during her time there.

The day finished with a visit to Stock Manufacturing, a startup that designs and produces premium American made men’s garments that are well made and affordable in its historic Chicago factory. We met with Jim Snediker, co-founder and CEO, who discussed how partnerships have been critical to their continued growth. Jim also discussed the companies design process and their most successful marketing campaigns.

All of the companies we visited had a Wisconsin connection – they were all graduates of Wisconsin’s most prestigious accelerator, gener8tor. Special thanks to Gener8tor’s Maggie Brickerman for facilitating our introductions and to all of our speakers for taking valuable time out of their incredibly busy schedules. With graduation looming in May and our own entrepreneurial journeys ahead, we left feeling inspired about the future.