Making Headway

Entrepreneurs paying it forward in Northeast Wisconsin’s startup scene

Posted on Dec 2, 2019 :: Small Business Spotlight
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

It’s safe to say that entrepreneurship is in the blood of Headway’s co-founders, Andrew Verboncouer, Eric Verboncouer and Jon Kinney.

“All of the founders at Headway had entrepreneurial or startup experience,” Kinney says.

The three previously worked in startups in larger markets — from San Francisco to Chicago — providing them with valuable lessons about what worked well and what didn’t.

“We learned a lot from the failures we had early on,” Andrew Verboncouer says.

Even with that big-city experience under their belts, the three men have a deep-rooted passion for Northeast Wisconsin.

“Once we were able to connect in the community, we decided this might be something. You have ideas, and I have ideas,” Verboncouer says. “Let’s see if we can make something meaningful out of it and put technology on the map in Northeast Wisconsin.”

Headway, which is focused on bringing entrepreneurial ideas to market by building businesses on software — think technologies such as mobile and wearable applications — opened for business in September 2015. Wisconsin Inno, a website focused on innovation, recently named Headway one of the state’s coolest companies for 2019.

Headway started with strong traction thanks to many of the connections the trio had through their past careers and ventures. The business works with clients in several verticals, with many of them located in Silicon Valley. That’s something the co-owners are proud of, but they say they’re also passionate about serving startups and corporate innovators right here in Wisconsin.

They do that through client work, of course, but the team at Headway (which now consists of 31 crew members, as they’re called) pays it forward in many impactful ways.

“Since starting Headway, we’ve started a few other initiatives that bring the knowledge we’re getting with Silicon Valley companies to Green Bay,” Verboncouer says.

They’ve organized programs and communities like Wisconsin UX, ReactJS Green Bay, Bay Area Creative Club and Startup Green Bay Week. Andrew Verboncouer is also the president and co-founder of Digital Fertilizer, an organization committed to connecting entrepreneurs in the area.

That’s impressive enough, but Headway’s founders don’t want to stop there. The company also has an apprenticeship program for people in design and development, which many of Headway’s own employees have gone through.

“We’re also working with some of the local tech schools and colleges to determine the gap with where folks graduated and what they need to be employable — not just at Headway, but anywhere IT, development and design are needed,” Kinney says.

“We’re really excited about the talent ecosystem here and how we can be part of helping people grow in product knowledge and work collaboratively on agile teams,” Verboncouer says.

The team is looking forward to serving more businesses in Wisconsin, while also finding even more ways to share their knowledge with others. They already have a podcast called Seaworthy, focused on actionable advice for building successful software, and have another one in the works that will focus specifically on development. The three also may eventually write a book and invest in another startup.

One thing’s obvious: There’s no slowing these guys down, not just because they’re entrepreneurial to their core, but also because they’re undeniably passionate about what they’re doing within their business and for the area they love so much.

“We believe in building software the right way and building businesses on that software,” Verboncouer says. “It’s so rewarding to bring that to the community and surrounding area right here in our own backyard.”