The night started out with an hour of networking and hors d’oeuvres. It was fun to see so many people involved with the Wisconsin startup ecosystem gathered in one place, connecting and re-connecting with each other. I estimate there were close to 200 people in attendance, maybe more.
The presentations for the night were kicked off by A-Sun Truth, Founder and CEO of Twicketer. He introduced a video that lasted about 10 minutes. It interlaced short segments about Wisconsin’s historical business successes with short segments about several of Wisconsin’s current startup companies. It was inspirational and very well received. I understand StartupWI may make that video available for viewing online in the near future.
Next, Cindi Thomas of Translator Digital Cafe made the official announcement of the launch of StartupWI, the 23rd region of the Startup America Partnership. Cindi introduced the founding group and emphasized the need for everyone present to support the startup ecosystem in Wisconsin.
Following Cindi was Paul Jones of Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, the premier sponsor of the event. He talked about his entrepreneurial background and his experience with venture capital (including co-managing a large early stage venture capital fund).
The keynote speaker for the night was Scott Case, CEO of the Startup America Partnership (and founding CTO of Priceline.Com) Scott gave a dynamic and interesting talk about his entrepreneurial experiences and his current work to create the Startup America Partnership. His suggestions for building a strong startup ecosystem were: (1) Build communities, (2) Celebrate success, and (3) Integrate those communities and hold events. Scott urged every startup in Wisconsin to join the Startup America Partnership.
Last up was the ‘Fast Pitch Competition’ in which representatives from 10 Wisconsin startup companies pitched their businesses to the crowd in a competition to win $1,500 in cash prizes. Pitches were given by the following companies:
- Wom Street
- The Good Jobs
- Digital Iris
- Bushwack Apps
- Print Command
- We Do
- Our Ballot Box
- Ronin Studios and Consulting
The pitches were a lot of fun to watch and reminded me of the pitches at Startup Weekend Madison. Later in the evening it was announced that first place went to The Good Jobs, and second place went to WeDo.
In all, this was a significant event for the Wisconsin business community, especially for startups and their founders. It shows, once again, our entrepreneurial spirit and ecosystem is alive and growing. I’m looking forward to seeing what StartupWI (@StartupWI) does next! A big “thank you” goes out to the organizers and sponsors of last night’s event!