The Coming Together of Wisconsin’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem During A Pandemic


An Ecosystem Responds

A city, state or region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is important in providing access to innovation that positively impacts its people and community. In other words, the ecosystem strives to grow companies, create jobs, expand professional networks and connections and increase wealth in a virtuous circle.

What makes an entrepreneurial ecosystem? It’s not just a collection of coworking spaces, incubators, corporations, universities, institutional investors and startups. It’s about all the pieces coming together to benefit the city, state or region by providing a mechanism for innovation and increasing the chances of success.

Here in Wisconsin, it has been uplifting to see many examples of the power of the ecosystem to provide support to help residents and businesses survive this economic downturn.

gener8tor, which offers pre-accelerators, accelerators, corporate programming and conferences, has created an Emergency Response Program. Through it, gener8tor is hosting emergency, one-week virtual programs for all small businesses, nonprofits, startups, freelancers and artists affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. gener8tor also gave $100 to each of its employees to spend locally.

The Wisconsin Technology Council is the independent, non-profit and bipartisan policy adviser to the governor and the state legislature. Its near-daily e-newsletter, the Tech Council Current, is aggregating business resources, helpful events and other news/updates on COVID-19 issues.

Wisconsin COVID-19 Startup Talent was formed by the Madison entrepreneurial community plus its partners around the state to help those displaced from jobs as well as employers. It says that “Wisconsin is a great state to start a company … and together, we will prove that Wisconsin can overcome any challenge it faces.”

In addition to helping its biohealth members determine what processes, procedures and best practices should be implemented in dealing with COVID-19BioForward Wisconsin secured and distributed more than 1,100 pieces of protective eyewear and 7,000 pairs of gloves to local organizations that serve people with developmental disabilities and seniors.

The MKE Tech Hub Coalition, created to grow technology and innovation in the Milwaukee area, donated 100 iPads to Milwaukee middle schoolers to help with online learning.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has published a map of public Wi-Fi locations throughout Wisconsin to help residents get access to the internet. The PSC also awarded several internet service providers a total of nearly $303,000 to improve broadband access in the state.

Keep On Wisconsin was formed by various Green Bay-area organizations, including Schneider and the Green Bay Packers. Its goals are to encourage positive action, create stronger connections despite social distancing and promote physical and mental wellness.

Multiple organizations in and around La Crosse, including the economic development entity called 7 Rivers Alliance, have created a portal to provide resources for small businesses and to direct consumers to shop at local businesses.

TASC provides health, wealth and well-being services to organizations. It is offering Dane County businesses access to its emergency benefits account for free for the remainder of 2020 to help them retain employees.

Striving to fuel entrepreneurship in Milwaukee, Brew City Match is now offering a grant that provides up to $1,200 to assist small businesses with rent and payroll as well as an emergency loan fund that provides zero-interest loans to small businesses.

These are only some of the many examples of how we invest in place in Wisconsin as our ecosystem comes together to navigate through COVID-19 challenges.