FROM THE EDITOR – Innovation a blazin'

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 :: Editor
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

You might say Craig Dickman is a maverick. Here’s a businessman pursuing rebellious, even disruptive, policies or ideas – the definition of the word by I had to laugh when I read the synonyms: “rebel” and “cowboy.”

On our request, the Breakthrough Fuel CEO and founder arranged to bring a shiny yellow fuel pump nozzle with him for the photo shoot. Photographer Shane Van Boxtel, Image Studios, took one look at it and pictured Dickman “shooting down prices,” which is, essentially, what Breakthrough does for its customers. Once the trigger was pulled on that idea, we brought Dickman back and he played the good sport as we dressed him in Western garb to go with his yellow “gun.” The Blues Brothers’ urban version of “Rawhide” filled the studio during the shoot, which proved appropriate – Dickman admits he does not (generally) deck himself out in studded cuffs and spurs.

He does, however, live by that frontier spirit. One business associate says Dickman could be the local version of Steve Jobs, since, “He comes up with ideas nobody would’ve dreamed of.”

What makes him a maverick? He and his team at Breakthrough have come up with innovative ways to save their customers money. In our cover story this month, Associate Editor Nikki Kallio deftly describes how the company helps shippers find the best fuel prices on their routes in North America. As we watch the prices at the pump rise this spring, it’s fair to say any company that cares about the cost of fuel would be interested to know more.

In the business world, innovative ideas are best paired with capital. To that end, a second angel investor group in the New North has recently launched. News Editor MaryBeth Matzek writes about Angels on the Water this month (see page 10), a group that has so far raised nearly half its goal of $2.5 million. Based in Oshkosh and headed up by Al Hartman, Angels on the Water aims to fund early-stage companies as “hands-on” investors working closely with entrepreneurs.

Its goals differ somewhat from NEW Capital Management, led by Charlie Goff in Appleton, which focuses on statewide and Great Lakes region early- and growth-stage investments in manufacturing and technology. And just as Angels on the Water is forming, NEW Capital recently launched its second fund, with committed capital of more than $25 million.

While this venture capital has been building, the New North Small Business and Entrepreneur Committee has been working on a plan to grow innovation here, a la Silicon Valley. The goal is to lead entrepreneurs to the right people at the best stage in their quest for resources, mentors – and money.

This month, The Wisconsin Innovation Service Center, an outreach of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, hosts its annual conference in Green Bay. Ideas to Profits will be held April 19 and 20 at the Tundra Lodge. Go to

And while we at Insight are busy keeping you clued in to all of this, we’ve stayed true to our tagline, “Connecting Business and People in the New North.” This spring, we are partnering with First Business Bank to plan the first “THINC! Innovation conference – Helping Innovators Capitalize on Great Ideas.”

Insight will kick off the morning with our Technology & Human Innovation Networking Conference – THINC! – featuring some of our most innovative Insight cover subjects. THINC! Talks will be delivered in provocative bursts. First Business Bank will host the second part of the conference with “Innovation to Capitalization,” featuring panel discussions and a pitch Olympics with entrepreneurs pitching their ideas to a panel of investors.

Watch for details at And save the date: May 24 at the EAA in Oshkosh.

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →