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Lisa Johnson, VP of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at WEDC

“Dreams don’t work unless you do.”
– John Maxwell 

Wisconsin Tech Summit to Host “Speed-Dating” for Emerging Companies

March 20, 2015

“Speed-dating” is not a term you hear very often in the business world, but at the 2015 Wisconsin Tech Summit, participants will be able to do just that to connect with other entrepreneurs and businesses.

Emerging businesses will be given the opportunity to connect with larger, major firms to network and explore business relationships concerning technology needs and innovation during 15-minute “speed date” meetings.

The day-long event will be held March 23 at the GE Healthcare Institute in Waukesha, Wis., and will feature an opening panel of large firms, open meeting times with major companies outside the scheduled 15-minute meet ups and a closing keynote speaker.

The Wisconsin Technology Council created the Summit under the assumption that small and large companies exist in different “orbits” and only collide by chance, which means opportunities to communicate and exchange ideas must be fostered by events like the Summit.

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The second-annual event, produced by the Wisconsin Technology Council, will include major firms to host the 15-minute meetings:

  • American Family Insurance
  • Aurora Health Care
  • Direct Supply
  • GE Healthcare
  • HP Enterprise Services
  • Intel
  • Johnson Controls Inc.
  • Kraft Foods/Oscar Mayer Information Systems
  • Rockwell Automation
  • Total Administrative Services Corp.

More information on the event can be found at www.wistechsummit.com.

 

Capital Catalyst Program Sparks Business Development in Whitewater

March 17, 2015

After receiving grants from WEDC’s Capital Catalyst Program for three consecutive years, the Whitewater community has experienced an increase in startup activity and business development. WEDC provided a $150,000 Capital Catalyst grant to the Whitewater Community Development Authority (WCDA) in 2013, an additional $250,000 in 2014, and a recent award of $200,000. This funding, along with the required match provided by WCDA, has made $1.2 million available to area companies.

WEDC officials were on hand March 13 to present a $200,000 Capital Catalyst grant to the Whitewater Community Development Authority.

WEDC officials were on hand March 13 to present a $200,000 Capital Catalyst grant to the Whitewater Community Development Authority.

Capital Catalyst provides matching grants to seed funds that support new and emerging high-growth companies. The program is designed to stimulate capital investment at a local and regional level, to support R&D-to-commercialization, and to increase the number of high-potential startups in the state.

Through the program’s funding, Whitewater startups and businesses in the early stages of growth have been able to greatly accelerate the business development process. Pat Cannon, Whitewater’s CDA coordinator, explains that many of the companies that have received assistance are in their infancy and are using the funds to pay for small, yet important, startup costs such as patents, new equipment and rent for a business space.

“These grants are significant for local companies that are just getting started,” said Cannon. “We’ve seen these companies use the funds to get to the critical scale-up phase, and it’s great to see the increase in business activity that’s stemmed from programs like Capital Catalyst.”

Meeper Technology, LLC is using the funds to prototype and tweak the design of its product, MeeperBOT, which adds a motor to a Legos® vehicle, operated by Bluetooth through an application that can run on any smart device. Cofounded by Jim Brandon and Liz Eversoll, Meeper is housed in the Whitewater Innovation Center and uses 3D printers to design and build its product. Brandon believes that as the company expands, it will be able to remain local by drawing from resources available in Whitewater and throughout Wisconsin.

Another Whitewater Innovation Center-based company, Thermodata, markets temperature monitoring systems for the health care, food service, scientific research, and public health sectors, and recently received a Capital Catalyst grant as well. Up until a few months ago, Thermodata was headquartered in Massachusetts, but was drawn to Wisconsin through its work with iButtonLink, which is also housed in the Center.

iButtonLink produces sensors that are an integral feature within Thermodata’s temperature monitoring systems. Company officials at Thermodata decided it would be advantageous to relocate to the same facility as iButtonLink, so they could work closely and continue to provide high-quality monitoring systems.

Learn more about the Capital Catalyst program.

Applications for “America’s Pitch Tank” Due April 9

March 13, 2015

Entrepreneurs and innovators from across Wisconsin will have the chance to pitch their ideas in front of a panel of experienced and successful judges at “America’s Pitch Tank” on May 14 at the Performing Arts Center in Appleton. The judging panel includes one of the most recognized faces in innovation—Kevin Harrington from ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

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The event, which is sponsored by UW-Oshkosh’s Alta Resources Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce, invites all Wisconsin entrepreneurs, startups or businesses to enter for a chance to present their ideas.

Marketing Strategist Kyle Sexton will join Harrington and two other entrepreneur-minded judges to pick the best new idea out of Wisconsin. Additionally, local and national venture capitalists and investors will be in the audience during the pitch event to evaluate pitches and possible investment opportunities.

Entrants must have at least one Wisconsin resident on their team and must be able to present their idea in person at the “America’s Pitch Tank” event. The deadline to enter the contest is April 9, and interested candidates can apply on the event website.

UWM Seeks Applications for Startup Challenge

March 11, 2015

The UW-Milwaukee (UWM) Startup Challenge is currently seeking applications from talented and creative entrepreneurs and innovators for its 2015 contest. Current UWM students and recent graduates are invited to share their vision with an experienced panel of entrepreneurs and advisors for the chance to win funding and access to expertise to make their idea come to life.

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Winning ideas will receive up to $10,000 to design, develop and launch a company based on their innovative concept, with the help of student and professional entrepreneur teams. Ideas will be judged on viability as a new product, novelty and appropriateness for prototyping and development.

The Challenge will fund up to 10 ideas from themes including:

  • Product development
  • Software applications
  • Water technologies
  • Energy-based research and design
  • Social entrepreneurship and sustainable communities
  • Consumer products

To submit an idea for the 2015 UWM Startup Challenge, students and recent alumni must fill out the online application and be sure to include a clear articulation of an idea, the problem it solves and how they envision it to function. Applications can be submitted in any form, including documents, images, videos, presentations or other media, and will be accepted through May 31.

Winning entries from last year’s competition include:

  • MKE Grind: a career development organization for Milwaukee youth
  • Stage Right Theatre: a collaborative theatrical experience for senior care facilities
  • Ginkgo: a cloud-based mobile application used to share medical information and appointments
  • Abakus: Education Adventure: an educational video game used to teach state-standard mathematics in a space-themed game
  • Level Camera Products: a kit that allows users to build their own camera equipment
  • WiPark: a prototype placed at the entrance to parking lots during major events to let users know parking space availability