MILWAUKEE — Entrepreneurial leaders told a pre-NGA event that a key role for government is fostering connections between startups and established companies.
The leaders at a WisPolitics.com-WisBusiness.com event yesterday at the Mandel Group-managed Boston Lofts also said in addition to increasing access to capital — aided by the new venture capital law — government can also help by easing administrative burdens and doing things that allow young companies to recruit and keep good employees.
The panelists described a robust entrepreneurial community in Wisconsin with demand beyond capacity for training and other services offered through business incubators and accelerators.
Greg Meier, who’s involved with numerous organizations for startups such as Revolution Labs and Victory Spark, said the state can help with financial capital and assist with training, but a major reason for a company’s success is social capital, or the amount of connections they have with other successful businesses.
“The state and others can wrap around the entrepreneurs, make connections, connect people and provide those kinds of things that are really important to us as entrepreneurs,” Meier said.
Troy Vosseller, founder and owner of Sconnie Nation and Sconnie Beverage and co-founder of Gener8tor, a startup accelerator in Madison and Milwaukee, said having a big-name customer can help a new company gain credibility and attract business and investors.
He said the government could help connect existing companies to the entrepreneurial community through events such as entrepreneur-led pitch sessions.
“It’s not just about capital or being an investor, it’s about being a customer or a mentor or whatever other resources they could provide,” Vosseller said, challenging the government officials in attendance if they arranged the connections, he’d provide the food and drinks.
He stressed entrepreneurs aren’t looking for charity, but can offer real products and services that will provide value to the larger corporations.
Michelle D’Attilio, president of the social marketing firm sōsh, said the entrepreneurial community in Milwaukee holds frequent events.
“I would love to see more of our top CEOs come along, walk into those events, have a conversation,” D’Attilio said. “This isn’t about investing, this isn’t about becoming a customer, it’s about building relationships.”
She said politicians can play a key role in bringing people together.
“I’m not asking for a handout. I’m asking you to introduce me to the person that I can start building a relationship with,” she said.
— By David A. Wise