Helping orbits align is the goal of the annual Wisconsin Tech Summit, which is designed to connect major national and global companies with a presence in Wisconsin to emerging companies in a “speed-dating” setting. At this annual event, established firms and early-stage companies hold brief meetings to determine if there’s enough chemistry to build a fruitful relationship, with the hope of bringing a startup’s novel solution to life through the established company.
“Helping those ‘orbits’ come together in ways that foster connection between the large and small planets in Wisconsin’s business solar system is the goal” of the Wisconsin Tech Summit, co-chairs Vivek Bhatt, chief technology officer-Life Care Solutions of GE Healthcare, and Sujeet Chand, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Rockwell Automation, wrote in their welcome.
And this year’s event, held Monday, March 18 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, brought another orbit into play: the growing entrepreneur ecosystem in Northeastern Wisconsin. Now in its sixth year, Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom Still noted that Northeast Wisconsin was chosen for this year’s event thanks to the region’s growing commitment to startups and entrepreneurs, along with the evolution of TitletownTech, a partnership of the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft.
“This is an incredible event, and what Microsoft and the Packers organization are doing, is what I believe to be a transformative investment,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, who spoke during the event’s opening session. “As I think about TitletownTech, I think we have something special in Northeast Wisconsin… We have the opportunity to be a leader, right here in Northeast Wisconsin.”
The goal of TitletownTech is to spark economic expansion in Northeastern Wisconsin by bringing world-class digital innovations and expertise to Greater Green Bay by joining together companies, technologists and industry experts to collaborate on and address challenges in industries of importance in Wisconsin.
“It is a place to dream big and create impact,” said Pete Romenesko, director of the TitletownTech Innovation Lab, who presented an overview of TitletownTech at the conference.
TitletownTech’s vision is sustained by three core areas: Innovation Lab, Venture Studio and Venture Fund. “All these work together to accomplish a few goals,” says Romenesko.
Innovation Lab: The Innovation Lab is designed to bring together industry leaders, tech experts and creative thinkers to explore solutions to market challenges across five selected industries, including:
- Sports, media & entertainment
- Digital health
- Advanced manufacturing
- Supply chain technology
- AWE: Agriculture, Water and Environment
Driven by collaborative councils of regional executive leaders known as Innovation councils, the lab seeks to explore market opportunities as well as new and emerging technologies; identify significant industry challenges that are bigger than one company; develop viable, disruptive solutions and assess those solutions for potential; and create new business models to launch solutions as a new venture.
Venture Studio: The Venture Studio works with early-stage and existing business to build their concepts into scalable digital ventures.
“Success in the venture-building process,” said Romenesko, “will enable the new business to successfully compete and scale in their marketplace.”
The Venture Studio, he added, is supported not only by the connection with Microsoft (Microsoft has committed to always having someone from the Microsoft network onsite in Green Bay), but through a growing network that includes the UW System, UW-Green Bay, visiting fellows and more.
“The network will continue to expand and grow. These connections are completely unique, not just for Green Bay, but for Wisconsin, the Midwest and arguably, unique for the world.”
Venture Fund: TitletownTech is building a $25 million venture fund; Microsoft and the Packers have each invested $5 million into the fund. The fund will close in about a month, Romenesko told the audience, adding that TitletownTech has talked with 250 to 300 startups and a select few will be chosen for investment.
“Through all of this, we want to create a competitive advantage for our startups that’s more than just money, but adds a layer of strategy and support,” he said. “This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the region and the state.”