Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE)

Greater Milwaukee Committee

Funding Received: 2011
Milwaukee, WI
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
December 18, 2011

Find Your Master

If you were asked to name three start-ups that were virtually unknown a year ago could you do it?

Dropbox.  Spotify.  Instagram.  They are three start-ups with $100 million+ valuations that were almost unheard of just twelve months ago.

In this day and age many start-ups are digital because of the amount of people who use computers and mobile devices.  Talk with Romke de Haan, President of Spreenkler, and he’ll tell you it’s exciting because these kinds of digital start-ups are trying to be really innovative and find a niche.  He says businesses need to find what makes them stand out because whatever it is that makes them unique is what will drive revenue for the company.

Dan Senor, New York Times best-selling author of Start-Up Nation: The story of Israel’s economic miracle, recently spoke at a Greater Milwaukee Committee membership meeting.  He spoke about getting real productivity gains through constant innovation, and he said the most reliable innovation happens at the small to medium sized level.  That constant innovation is happening right here in Milwaukee via MiKE- Innovation in Milwaukee.

One of the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s partners in MiKE, BizStarts Milwaukee, encourages innovation and growth by inspiring, nurturing, connecting and celebrating entrepreneurs and their companies.  Executive Director Eric Paulsen says BizStarts is designed to guide entrepreneurs from the idea stage to investor ready stage by providing start-ups with connections to mentors, networking and investors.

Israel didn’t become the nation with the highest density of start-ups in the world in a single day.  It researched what its strengths and weaknesses were. The research showed Israel had people who knew technology, but it lacked people who knew how to invest and to mentor others. So it set forth in forming partnerships between established business leaders and young entrepreneurs. The results were start-ups led by business people who knew how to be leaders and to maintain successful businesses.

MiKE is acting in much the same way.  It is forming mentorship programs with major CEOs and business leaders in southeast Wisconsin and fledgling entrepreneurs.  It’s giving start-ups connections that weren’t there in the past.  Romke called it “Finding your master.”  He said mentors are people who have mastered their craft and can speak about their industry like they breathe.

So if you’re creating a start-up, digital or otherwise, find your niche and determine what makes your start-up unique. Find your master- someone who can guide the growth of your company from idea stage to investor ready stage. And most importantly, know that there are initiatives such as MiKE happening all over the world. Seek them out for guidance and help in growing your start-up. Then one day you, yourself will be sought after because you are the Master of your craft.