A few short years ago the New North’s Entrepreneurial and Small Business Committee developed what would become the New North Fast Forward plan. The goal was to help identify people with great ideas and match them with mentors — and, hopefully, investors —to ultimately launch companies with potential for
Smart people with cool ideas were chosen and matched with mentors, Al Zeise, on this month’s cover, among them. The group is now in its third iteration, Fast Forward 3.0, actively seeking entrepreneurs with new ideas.
Meanwhile, innovation was occurring organically within several companies in the region. Many of the most successful of them were helped by Zeise and his Green Bay-based IT consulting firm, ZyQuest.
“Our philosophy is always, don’t just create an innovative solution, but find an innovative way to create an innovative solution,” Zeise says. “That’s something we’ve repeated over and over again.”
Among many other successful companies, Zeise has helped launched companies such as Breakthrough Fuel (with his high school buddy Craig Dickman our April 2102 cover story); with Kurt Brenkus of Aver Inc.; and with his brother, Dan Zeise and others who developed IGenFuels.
In mid-October, ZyQuest hosted the first Launch Wisconsin event at Lambeau Field Atrium and drew almost 400 attendees. The event was co-sponsored by ZyQuest Ventures Foundry, a group of “pre-angel” investors convened by Zeise who like to roll up their sleeves and help entrepreneurs and others bring their ideas to life.
A panel discussion among some of the members shed light on the obstacles facing new business growth in Wisconsin, including the lack of capital to fund ideas that most bankers find too risky. Another intriguing part of the day involved a “reverse pitch” session, in which chief innovation officers of some of region’s most successful companies described challenges they face that could benefit from creative ideation. There was a lot of buzz about “technology, innovation and collaboration.”
In our November issue of Insight, we called attention to the work of the newly-formed IT Alliance and its sense of urgency for bridging a widening gap between job openings and people with the skills to do them. As I came to know Zeise (who is also a member of the IT Alliance) over the course of reporting on “Rocket Man,” it became clear that
his passion for solving business problems in diverse industries is evidence that careers in technology can be
very exciting, indeed.
At press time, Insight Publications LLC helped coordinate the launch of Innovation Roundtables, a “peer-to-peer” approach for innovation leaders. These groups are being organized by John Rogers, formerly of the Sheboygan Chamber of Commerce, through the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center at UW-Green Bay using the “PeerSpectives” protocol created by the Edward Lowe Foundation. The kickoff was hosted at Miron Construction’s new Construction Innovation Lab, an impressive space with interactive, large-screen technology (not to mention, snazzy lighting and auto-frosted glass).
Who was among them? Mary Maurer of Holy Family Memorial Hospital in Manitowoc (one of our 2015 Insight Innovation Award winners), Steve Tyink of Miron Construction Co., Inc. and of course, Al Zeise, participating in a real-life demonstration of what these new Innovation Roundtables could look like. For more information on the Innovation Roundtables, call us at Insight, (920) 882-0491.
Gathering innovative minds to share and discover innovative ideas … does this smack of a “Think Shift?” By the time this issue comes out, the 2015 New North Summit in Oshkosh with this as its theme will be over.
If, however, the momentum for innovation keeps going as it has been, it is only the beginning of a lot of great successes to come.