I’ve been interested in the Wisconsin and Fox Valley Startup community for quite some time. I’ve also been a part of the Digital Fertilizer startup community in Green Bay for awhile.
I heard of Launch Wisconsin when it first started last year, but I’m sort of a cheap ass when it comes to conferences, and didn’t go. This year it was announced that Steve Case (a founder of AOL) was going to be there along with the RISE OF THE REST team.
From their website:
Revolution’s RISE OF THE REST with Steve Case is a nationwide effort to work closely with entrepreneurs in emerging startup ecosystems. Our view is that this is the beginning of a new era for entrepreneurship across the U.S. — high-growth companies can now start and scale anywhere, not just in a few coastal cities.
Since I’ve been building a startup (mplyees) in my free time, I put together a pitch deck, a demo, and all the other info needed for the RISE OF THE REST Green Bay competition. I didn’t get to pitch as a finalist, but I did get a free ticket to attend Launch Wisconsin.
I’m really glad Green Bay was chosen to host RISE OF THE REST. Our startup community is still in it’s infancy and needs a lot of work. RISE OF THE REST helped bring even more eyeballs to the Fox Valley startup community, and we are surely thankful.
The RISE OF THE REST Green Bay finalists were all good picks and I was impressed. It was a very fun experience to be a part of, and I hope the attention it brought will eventually bring about more Risk Capital in the Fox Valley.
There were 8 startups that were chosen as finalists to pitch. The winner of the 100k and RISE OF THE REST Green Bay was Lanehub. Lanehub is a social network for the trucking and logistics industries. The other finalists were:
When first arriving to Launch Wisconsin I recieved a badge to pass security and up to the event. The badge said “kinnektor” on it which was a little confusing, but it was clear after arriving that they had changed the name of the Launch Wisconsin event.
From a brand perspective I understand why they wanted to change the name to kinnektor, but I think they could’ve picked something with more formal spelling. I’m not sure I’ve spelled it correct once while looking for it a handful of times. I guess the one thing they did do right was change it at the beginning of the conference so everyone attending would at least know the new name.
I tried to attend a workshop for every time slot, and there were a handful of good ones throughout each day.
Brian is a successful entrepreneur who built a minimal bike tool named Fix It Sticks. He took an idea, found out if people would buy it, made a product, marketed it, and sold a lot until finally selling the company.
Brian gave us way more than 11 tips, but the overall theme was clear. Get sales as early as possible, even without a product. This allows you to see what people will pay for and the direction of the product or service before you invest too much time or money in the wrong direction.
Matt & Scott Johanek are brothers and co-founders of DROPP, a fintech startup. DROPP helps people build credit using on-time rent payments. They shared a lot of knowledge on founder dynamics and how they work together.
Playing off each others strengths and being open and honest can get you far in the startup world, and these brothers are living proof.
There were a lot of good perspectives from both venture capital and entrepreneur sides. Entrepreneurs should know what type of investors they’re looking for. They should also be prepaired with all of their pitch knowledge and important metrics and goals before pitching.
Treating the people working for the Venture Fund with a little respect can go a long way. They deal with a lot of requests so the second you become defensive or disrespectful you’ve already lost.
Zach Brandon is the President of the Madison Chamber of Commerce, so it was natural for the discussion to revole around Madison’s clear success over the past decade. We learned how companies like Google and Zendesk have opened offices in Madison due to all the talent oozing from the University of Wisconsin Madison.
The concentration of tech talent in Madison increased by more than 30% over the past two years. I can only imagine Madison’s success will continue for a long time and it will become one of the top picks for those fleeing expensive cities over the the next decade.
Living in a building where the first floor is buzzing with business and startup activity is a boon to everyone. Rise & Grind in Oshkosh is the best coworking space in Fox Valley Wisconsin and has space to live in the 2 floors above. Rise & Grind will also be the new home of kinnektor (formerly Launch Wisconsin). If that wasn’t enough great news for you, Rise & Grind is in the works to open another coworking facility in the top of the Green Bay library!
Althought Wisconsin ranks low on overall startup activity, we have plenty of low risk accelerators that are oversaturated by startups from Wisconsin and every other state in the US.
This is one of the areas I think Wisconsin could improve greatly on. Maybe we need an accelerator or 2 that only allows Wisconsin startups to apply? I also think we should try a hybrid accelerator incubator approach so we can remove the risk of requiring applicants to not have a job during the process.
This workshop had one of the most interesting startups that I’ve seen in a while. Paul Ryznar is the Founder of OPS Solutions, aka, Light Guide Systems. They project light systems and augment them into manufacturing processes. This makes manufacturing and training a lot faster and less prone to error. One of their customers is Chrysler!
Get a sale and then we’ll think about investing in you, maybe.
The last and best workshop of the event. Wendy Lea has a vast amount of experience growing a fragmented startup ecosystem. She’s been solving the same problems in Cincinnati that the Northeast Wisconsin startup community is currently facing.
The corporations in Fox Valley Wisconsin need to invest more in their startup community if they want to retain talent and not slowly errode. Wendy also shared how after companies invested in their city’s startup ecosystem, venture capital was right behind. She also saw a lot of core things in place for Fox Valley startup scene. Northeast Wisconsin could use someone like Wendy to lead us down the path she has already traveled.
With 5 to 10 years of hard work I think we could turn the tide and be where Madison and Milwaukee are now. I made connections with a few of the finalists at RISE OF THE REST. I’m glad I met them so I can continue to watch them grow and change, and maybe lend a hand when it’s needed.
Without the RISE OF THE REST I doubt I’ll pony up the admission price for next year’s Launch Wisconsin.