Judging from the crowds at Startup Wisconsin Week earlier this month, Wisconsin is home to a booming entrepreneurial community. The excitement and innovation on display at more than 150 events in 12 cities across the state lived up to a recent study ranking Milwaukee as a top 10 city for young entrepreneurs and a report highlighting Madison as a top 10 tech city.
Wisconsin is home to many startup success stories, including larger, more mature companies like Exact Sciences, Epic Systems and Promega, and younger companies like Jamf, Fasetto and TAI Diagnostics.
Here are five reasons why Wisconsin’s startup scene has taken off in recent years:
- Access to funding and capital : Wisconsin’s venture capital ecosystem is thriving, with investments being made in communities across the state. According to Wisconsin Inno, more than $126 million was invested in 34 deals in the first half of 2018 alone. The Wisconsin Technology Council has collected some information on grants, loans and other funding sources, and is a great place to start for companies that are looking for funding or want to learn more about how to do so.
- Low costs of living and starting a business: Wisconsin combines an excellent quality of life with low business startup costs. The cost of living here is 6.5 percent lower than the national average, and it’s 23 percent cheaper than on the East Coast. The U.S. News & World Report Best States list ranks the state third for overall quality of life. As for business startup and growth, this tool compares Wisconsin to other markets around the country.
- Strong startup ecosystem: Wisconsin’s many communities are thriving hubs of innovation, and now important work is being done to connect them. Leading the charge is Startup Wisconsin, a consortium of 12 cities across the state that will engage in a shared forum for programming and networking events aimed at developing and supporting emerging companies. Participating cities include Appleton, Beloit, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Kenosha, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Racine, Sheboygan and Stevens Point.
- Less competition: Entrepreneurs, particularly in the tech sector, often think that Silicon Valley or the East Coast are the only places to start and grow successfully. Wisconsin is proving otherwise, and the companies that are starting here are thriving in part due to the lack of competition for employees, working capital and other core components of a successful launch.
- Community support and resources: Wisconsin has a strong startup support system and a plethora of resources available to entrepreneurs. This list of WEDC programs designed with entrepreneurial activities and startups in mind can serve as an entry point in accessing the available resources.