Startup Weekend Milwaukee

As you may know, I’m helping to organize the first-ever Startup Weekend Milwaukee. A Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups! Here are some links to learn more:

Startup Wisconsin Launch Event

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the launch event for Startup Wisconsin (“StartupWI”) at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

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).

Scott Case

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:

  1. Twicketer
  2. Wom Street
  3. The Good Jobs
  4. Digital Iris
  5. Bushwack Apps
  6. Print Command
  7. We Do
  8. Our Ballot Box
  9. Ronin Studios and Consulting
  10. DocWrite

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!

Update: Tailwind Creative also has a nice summary of last night’s event along with a link to several pictures.

MiKE Council Meeting

Last night, I attended the Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE) Council Meeting at OpenMiKE at the Grand Avenue Mall. The meeting was opened by Telvin Jeffries of Kohl’s Corporation, who is Co-Chair of the MiKE Leadership Council. Mr. Jeffries had the pleasure of announcing Milwaukee Innovation Week which will be June 6-11, 2012. This first-of-its-kind event for Milwaukee promises to provide a whirl-wind of activity for local entrepreneurs. Steve Glynn and Laurel Osman of MiKE detailed the plans for the week, including the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference to be held June 5-6.

Next up was the keynote speaker for the evening, Daniel Isenberg. Isenberg is a Babson Global Professor of Management Practice and the founding executive director of the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project (BEEP). He is a leading authority on international entrepreneurship, and has taught at Harvard, Columbia, Insead, Reykjavik, Theseus, and the Technion. Isenberg has also been an entrepreneur, venture capitalist and angel investor.

Isenberg started by asking the attendees for their definition of entrepreneurship. It was interesting to hear the various answers. Isenberg’s definition is:

“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit, creation, and capture of extraordinary value.”

Isenberg also described entrepreneurship as an often a contrarian activity with opportunity driven by what others may view as “worthless, impossible or stupid.”

Some of his other points:

  • Entrepreneurship is not only “startups.”
  • His definition of entrepreneurship may exclude micro-businesses or “small businesses” since they are often more about self-employment than creating extraordinary value.
  • Entrepreneurship does not need “innovation.” He talked about how “copy cat models,” real estate, retail and trade, technology, professional services, business model innovation, construction, subcontractor manufacturing, and agriculture can all create high value without any significant innovations.
  • Isenberg talked about Lemonade Day and NFTE as being useful resources for teaching entrepreneurship.
  • He listed four “must read” books for entrepreneurs: Blue Streak: Inside jetBlue, the Upstart that Rocked an Industry by Barbara Peterson; Revolution in a Bottle by Tom Szaky; Starting from Scrap by Stephen H. Greer; and Stop and Sell the Roses: Lessons from Business and Life by Jim McCann.
  • Lastly, Isenberg presented the domains of his Entrepreneurship Ecosystem model, which included Policy, Finance, Culture, Support, Human Capital, and Markets.

In all, it was a fascinating presentation by someone who is clearly an expert in entrepreneurship. A big “thank you” to Daniel Isenberg for visiting Milwaukee and presenting at MiKE. Special thanks also go out to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and UWM’s Lubar School of Business for sponsoring the MiKE Council Meeting and to Transfer for providing pizza and drinks.

Update: James Carlson (@hypnagogic) tweeted to tell me he’s created a “sketchnote” of the meeting at j.mp/KoTSu6.

Madison Startup Weekend

This past weekend I participated in the first-ever Madison Startup Weekend. This was the first Startup Weekend in Wisconsin and, from my perspective, it was a huge success.

If you’re not familiar, the Startup Weekend organization is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities.

Each Startup Weekend brings together 75 to 100 software developers, graphics designers and business people to share ideas, form teams, and launch startups during an intense 54-hour event which focuses on building web and mobile applications in a friendly yet competitive format.

Madison Startup Weekend had 106 would-be entrepreneurs who pitched 61 ideas. Of these, 15 were selected by the participants for development into startups. Teams self-organized on Friday night and then worked Saturday and Sunday on their applications and business models. On Sunday night the teams presented the results of their work and a panel of judges selected winners.Mentors and organizers were available throughout the weekend to give advice, and several successful Wisconsin-area entrepreneurs told their stories and answered questions.

The event was held at the West location of the Madison Area Technical College, which turned out to be a really great facility with lots of space and super fast wireless Internet access. Meals, drinks and snacks (which were more than plentiful and delicious) were provided by local restaurants, and the event was sponsored by a panel of local and global sponsors.The winning startups/applications were:

  • 1st Place: Bushwhack Apps is building a platform for the next generation of leisure sport technology (@bushwhackApps)
  • 2nd Place: PACMapper will provide market intelligence to post-acute care providers across the nation (no links yet)
  • 3rd PlaceSeatSwapr lets you swap seats with another passenger on your flight; they’re price, your choice! (@SeatSwapr)
  • Honorable Mention: Ringterest lets you design the engagement ring of your dreams. Guys, ask for help. Girls, tell him what you want. (@Ringterest1)
  • Best PresentationTrovu facilitates dating in pre-existing social circles by requiring mutual interest before alerting both parties (@TrovuApp)

The remaining startups are listed in alphabetical order:

  • babbleSPARK, a web service providing events for singles with similar interests to connect
  • Blazonly creates unique “blazons”, images that can be used for personal branding, conferences, and networking (@Blazonly)
  • Create Madison plans to provide retreats to bring professionals together to start creative projects (@CreateMadison)
  • Dandelion connects all your devices to other people’s devices, like VPN 2.0. Personal VPN network (no links yet)
  • FindFresh is an app geared towards helping Farmer’s Market enthusiasts learn about products and vendors (@FindFresh)
  • InfoActive is “a game changer in visual storytelling” (@InfoActive)
  • OnePetPass is an online health record and registration management system to license, board, and travel with pets (@OnePetPass)
  • StalkStuff is a social, fun & simple way to stalk items you want until they go on sale (@StalkStuff)
  • Trinker is an app aimed at encouraging responsible drinking (@TrinkerApp)

Overall, Madison Startup Weekend was an amazing experience full of interesting people with passion and energy. The organizers and sponsors deserve much credit and many thanks for their part, as do the participants who made this one of the most memorable events I can recall.

I enjoyed the Madison Startup Weekend so much I’d like to help organize a Startup Weekend for Milwaukee. Is this something you’d be interested in attending? Any thoughts on dates or a venue? Would you like to help organize, too? Let’s start the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #SWMilwaukee.

Update: You can sign-up to be notified about Startup Weekend Milwaukee by visiting: http://Signup.StartupWeekendMilwaukee.Org 

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