Business booster

New coalition prepares young companies for investment and rapid scale-up

Posted on Nov 30, 2017 :: Up Front
Sean P. Johnson
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

FLEDGLING COMPANIES in the New North region have a new tool to help them prepare for investment funding and rapid growth potential, thanks to a new business coalition.

The newly formed group, headed by Microsoft and including regional education groups, will provide free coaching and mentorship for up to 10 Northeast Wisconsin startups each year. Using Madisonand Milwaukee-based gener8tor’s free, nationally recognized startup accelerator program, the coalition will twice each year sponsor five startups through gBETA Northeast Wisconsin, providing educational and business support.

The new program bridges a gap in the region’s growing infrastructure of support for entrepreneurs and startup businesses.

“Timing is everything,” says Amy Pietsch, director of Fox Valley Technical College’s Venture Center, one of the partner institutions in the new coalition. “This fills a gap we know is there in the early-stage startup ecosystem. We have spent resources to build the pipeline, and this helps us expand and create more opportunities.”

The new partnership was Business booster New coalition prepares young companies for investment and rapid scale-up announced last month. Joining Microsoft, gener8tor and the Venture Center are: UW-Oshkosh Business Success Center, WiSys, UW-Green Bay Cofrin School of Business and the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corp.

The program provides participants with intensive and individualized coaching and access to gener8tor’s national network of mentors, potential customers, corporate partners and investors. It’s designed to help startups gain early customer traction on their product or idea and establish metrics that make them competitive applicants for full-time accelerators or angel investment.

A critical goal of the gBETA program is to have at least one-third of its graduates go on to participate in a full-time, equity-based accelerator or raise a seed round of at least $50,000 within one year of their participation. Currently, about 50 percent take that next step. New North Inc. Executive Director Jerry Murphy says the coalition helps build a growing palette of resources available to entrepreneurs in the region, helping in the generation of more credible and fundable deals within the region.

“gBETA and Microsoft are two more additions to the content side of supporting venture-grade entrepreneurs with formal curriculum and pathways to funding,” Murphy says. “If we’re well connected, we’ll be moving more deals forward, providing more resources to gBETA applicants and gBETA graduates.”

The recently announced program, directed by Adrienne Palm, will run two times per year and is capped at five companies per cohort to ensure a robust level of individualized attention. Participants must have roots in Northeast Wisconsin, and the program works with companies across all industries and business models.

“Emerging companies need more than just a great idea to take off. They need great coaching, a strong network of partners, and financial investors,” Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, said in a press release announcing the new partnership.