A new venture from transportation management company Breakthrough Fuel called StageThree aims to stimulate innovation for companies that have already achieved success.
“For the most part right now, we’re working almost exclusively with Fortune 100-type organizations,” said Craig Dickman, founder of Green Bay-based Breakthrough Fuel. “We help them go through the process of innovation, the process of assessing and understanding business models for those innovations.”
With about 70 employees in downtown Milwaukee, Breakthrough Fuel caters to businesses in 46 countries, optimizing routes and fuel usage to improve shipping. After working with large organizations on disruptive projects for over a decade, company leaders decided to spin out this new venture in early 2018 to get more deeply involved with that consulting work.
“We talk about the process of creating new ideas and getting excited about those ideas,” he said at a discussion event held last week in Appleton by the Wisconsin Technology Council. “We’re also going to get involved in helping them launch the new ventures.”
That includes connecting these clients to external capital and bringing in resources of other kinds.
StageThree helps them assess the business models of potential business ventures, and develop strategies for launching them. That means building a team and developing prototype technologies before testing the idea in the market.
Dickman says the process usually starts with a client identifying a problem or opportunity. StageThree then begins researching what competitors are doing, even looking at future plans of other startups.
“It doesn’t always have to be invented with us; sometimes it’s connected through us,” he noted. “It usually involves bringing in some subject matter experts, as well as non-subject matter experts, that can look at things freshly.”
He emphasizes the importance of this collaborative approach for finding the best ways to solve the problem in question, or to capitalize on an opportunity.
“The entrepreneur in me wants to take a process that we’ve worked internally for 14 years and see if it has legs externally,” he said. “I think it’s so important that we continue to build this entrepreneurial ecosystem and culture in northeast Wisconsin.”
With StageThree, Dickman hopes to prove a healthy startup environment can be cultivated outside of New York and Silicon Valley.
“We have a process that we think works, and I think we’ve created this unique bridge where we work really well at the C-level, in large corporations, and we can work pretty well with startups and folks working out of a garage,” he said.
“That’s a harder skill than you sometimes think it is,” he continued. “So often I see young startups that would just get crushed walking inside of these large organizations… we have the ability to create some credibility, and I think folks will take more chances with us.”
–By Alex Moe