Expert pushes clean technology connections

Wisconsin entrepreneurs interested in “cleantech” projects may feel a bit isolated from investors and support, but regional competitions and networking are a solution, experts said Thursday.

Banging the drum for a five-month accelerator program that serves about 150 entrepreneurs a year was Justin Kaster, co-founder and executive director of the Midwest CleanTech Open, a nonprofit catalyst for energy-based emerging businesses.

Kaster said entrepreneurs should apply by May 1 to become part of a program designed to accelerate their progress by using mentors, training, software, and connections to sources of financial investment.

“For 2014 we are accepting one-page applications from entrepreneurs in a lot of these clean energy sectors,” said Kaster, who is based in Minneapolis. “This is a five-month process that teaches companies how to build their businesses and make connections to investors and corporations that can be sources of funding and potential clients. It also helps them refine their business model.”

At the end of the five-month accelerator, CleanTech, a national 501(c)(3) corporation, makes targeted introductions and gives the entrepreneurs the ability to showcase and present to over 1,000 people in two fall events, Kaster said. “This would apply to any solution in any sector that is using resources more efficiently and impacting the environment in a more strategic and sound way.”

Kaster addressed about 40 people who gathered at a forum at the Wisconsin Energy Institute. Wisconsin’s clean technology sector includes agriculture companies, power systems, controls, alternative fuels, and energy distribution.

Joe Kremer, CEO of Isomark, LLC and former director of the Wisconsin Angel Network, said the forum Thursday was one of a series of events designed to develop a community of clean energy emerging businesses in Wisconsin.

“We don’t have many investors here in Wisconsin that do clean tech,” Kremer said. “We are trying to ask what can we do to build a better clean tech market.”

The forum was produced by the Wisconsin Technology Council, the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium, and Godfrey & Kahn. For more information, contact Kremer at

— By Patricia Simms