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Bright: Entrepreneurship academy to kick off with June road trip

By Brian E. Clark
For WisBusiness.com

Entrepreneurs may not yet be the rock stars of the decade, but their stature is gaining along with the understanding of how important they are to a growing economy.

Which is why Michael Bright, a self-described recovering contract lobbyist, has started the Wisconsin Academy for Entrepreneurship & Enterprise Growth.

He’s plans to launch WAE2 on June 10 with its first-ever road trip, in which 14 entrepreneurs will be will be chauffeured around Madison by limo to meet with 10 businesspeople who know the ropes of successful entrepreneurship.

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They include Bill Linton at Promega, Chad Sorenson of Flame Disk, Raven Games’ Brian Raffle and Ave Bie, managing partner at Quarles and Brady.

“They all have different stories to tell,” explained Bright, who said the fee for the road trip is $200. “Some people have said it’s worth that much just to be in the same vehicle with other entrepreneurs and sharing stories and learning about what they are doing.”

He said participants will meet with people who have started biotech firms, professional services, manufacturing companies and other enterprises.

“It’s not one specific thing,” he said. “This will reinforce what entrepreneurship is all about, regardless of industry.

Bright said WAE2 was born out his own experience of running a lobbying firm for 15 years.

“I look back on what I learned in my formal education and how little it prepared me for the kinds of things I needed to do as an entrepreneur,” he said. “In talking to others, I realized this was a common thread.”

Bright said WAE2 will be a different form of executive education for entrepreneurs.

“This is about getting your hands dirty," he said. "The traditional model is chalk and talk. This will be a practical, hands on ways for entrepreneurs to learn. It’s based on experience. It’s very much peer-to-peer learning.”

WAE2 is also based on neuroscience, he said.

“Since the 1990s, we’ve begun to learn so much more about how the brain works. Our brains are constantly active, battling between excitement and inhibition. And that decision-making model is far more complex than we realized.

“We want to bring that to bear on entrepreneurs in particular. Things like loss aversion are really important to understand. Our brains are wired to avoid loss, more than they are to seek out gains. Those things affect all the decisions we make, whether we are buying Cheerios in the grocery store or deciding on a partnership with a company."

Bright, a Wisconsin native who earned a graduate degree in public policy at UW-Madison two decades ago, called Wisconsin and Madison a “wonderful” place for entrepreneurs.

“Interest in the academy has been extraordinary and I think entrepreneurship is exploding everywhere. It’s as important as oxygen and water.

“There is an awakening in all sectors -- public, private, not-for-profit -- about the importance of entrepreneurship. The ground is fertile."

Bright said his organization is taking a broad view of entrepreneurship.

“That word means so much to so many different people. Kind of like ‘sustainability’ in the environmental community. It's a phrase of expansion proportions. What we are really talking about is decision-making and action and the intersection of those two.

“Regardless of demographics, this applies to people of all types. Regardless of the sector they work in: public, private, non-profit, even academic. So we are talking about helping entrepreneurs learn where ever they are. That’s a bit new.”

Bright said he plans to offer a number of courses and workshops starting this summer. A free reception will be held at the Continental, 2784 South Fish Hatchery Rd. in Fitchburg on June 10.

For more information on the WAE2 Road Trip and other activities, go to www.wae2.com.

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