The day after Microsoft President Brad Smith met with Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy to announce the launch of TitletownTech at Lambeau Field, he sat down to talk in the former teacher’s lounge at Appleton West High School, where he graduated in 1977.
He had just met with educators and business and community leaders about the Microsoft TEALS program (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools). TEALS is one of five components of TechSpark, a Microsoft initiative in six small markets nationwide — including Appleton and Green Bay. Besides bringing digital technology to schools, also on the list: pathways for lifelong learning in technology, rural broadband, technology support for nonprofits and digital transformation to help businesses create new jobs.
Each of the six communities will also receive a “signature investment.” In Northeast Wisconsin, that will be TitletownTech, a new initiative to build a world-class technology and entrepreneur center in the Titletown District just west of Lambeau. The $10 million partnership between Microsoft and the Packers will start with a two-story, 46,000-square-foot building to be constructed by fall 2018, just west of Hinterland Brewery.
TitletownTech will be the home to a business accelerator for tech startups, a venture capital fund to help launch companies that participate in the accelerator, and labs where established businesses will send employee teams for training to develop new technology products and services.
Why did Microsoft choose Northeast Wisconsin?
“We realized we were not doing enough outside of the major metropolitan areas to partner with communities,” Smith said. “Ironically, in some ways, we were doing more in rural areas on other continents than in our own country.”
It was probably not a coincidence that the TitletownTech announcement drew many of the same people who had attended Launch Wisconsin at Lambeau in the two previous days, including representatives of gener8tor, a Madison and Milwaukee business accelerator that invests in high-growth startups.
Packers Director of Public Affairs Aaron Popkey had delivered a teaser message at Launch, emphasizing the Packers organization’s commitment to boosting the profile and prestige of the area to attract talent and technology companies with potential for fast-paced growth.
Also at Launch Wisconsin, AOL Co-founder Steve Case, whose organization Revolution hosted the Rise of the Rest startup
pitch competition. Eight Wisconsin companies vied for $100,000
in seed funds, and Case talked about the depth of opportunity in
“We are trying to educate investors about the opportunities in the Midwest,” Case said.
Judging by the contestants in the pitch contest and many others who shared their ideas at Launch Wisconsin, the New North region is ripe for a technology boom and the high-tech jobs that could be created. Among them are Lanehub, a transportation solutions company started by Mark Hackl of Green Bay, which won the Rise of the Rest prize.
“Being here at Lambeau Field and seeing what can come to Green Bay, Wisconsin is really exciting,” Hackl said.
Among many others who spoke at Launch was Jim Weidert, who presented his idea for a company that will give adults with disabilities the chance to express themselves through art — and earn royalties by selling their work online. See page 42 for the story on IntoWishin’ Arts.
Incidentally, Launch Wisconsin organizers announced a change in focus and in name. Now called Kinnektor, it will concentrate on connecting entrepreneurs and innovators with mentors and venture capital.
Obviously, there’s a lot happening right now that will shape the future of the economy in the New North. You’ll want to attend the New North Summit Dec. 7 at the KI Center in Green Bay to find out more. Check out our Connections feature on page 21 for details.