Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE)

Greater Milwaukee Committee

Funding Received: 2011
Milwaukee, WI
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
July 17, 2012

MiKE, launched by the Greater Milwaukee Committee, ignites Milwaukee’s innovative talent to develop creative solutions for businesses and to fuel startups. MiKE is committed to driving economic development through creative problem solving and talent attraction by fostering a culture of innovation in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Innovation Week
As a city in the upper midwest, Milwaukee's mood can be a bit seasonal. Perhaps a bit introspective and quiet in the harsh of winter, we make up for it in the warm weather months, thoroughly earning our nickname "the City of Festivals." We love to celebrate our city's past and present, so MiKE decided to do something a little different -- putting Milwaukee's future in the limelight, MiKE organized the first Milwaukee Innovation Week, this past June 6th-11th.

The week was a string of events and activities, showing off the region's talent and robust contributions to the local economy in the areas of design, innovation and technology. This compelling story of has been developing over the past few years, and Milwaukee Innovation Week was a perfect way to share it with a broader audience.

Milwaukee Innovation Week was too jam-packed to capture in its entirety, but below are many of the highlights.

Milwaukee Innovation Week's unmistakable headliner, COMMON Pitch was one part entrepreneurial pitch, two parts party. Calling themselves "a party to fix the world," COMMON found the perfect Milwaukee stage -- the event's venue, the ballroom at Historic Turner Hall, has been repurposed in recent years as one of Milwaukee's best spots for in demand concerts and hip events.

COMMON was a celebration of Milwaukee entertainment and cutting edge ideas. A samba drumline, bubble machines, flamenco guitar, and a liberal flow of libations weaved through 4-minute presentations from pioneering startups, from a DIY curriculum for green construction to an international network of video journalists to an app for 12-step rehabilitation. The winners was Flint & Tinder, a group producing American-made premium men's underwear, and the audience choice was SwipeSense, a group aiming to reduce hospital-acquired infections through an integrated hand hygiene system.

Battle of the Brands
Hosted in OPEN MiKE, Battle of the Brands was a one night pitch event showcasing high school and college entrepreneurs to a cross section of professional Milwaukeeans. The high schoolers came from Lead to Succeed, a local program pairing teams of high school students with college mentors to take on service learning projects, while the college students responded to an open call to campuses in the region.

On stage, excitement trumped the jitters, and it was clear these enterprising young people all had a unique and valuable experience. Winning the high school competition, a business named Beastie Barrels found new ways to produce and personalize rain barrels. The college competition was won by Second Chance Soil, a group combatting the issue of recidivism by connecting ex-convicts to employment in a region-wide composting effort.

Collaborative Workshop Tour Night
Seven diverse collaborative spaces around Milwaukee opened themselves up to the public for tours. No two co-working or maker space laboratories are alike, and the eclecticism and imagination of Milwaukee's innovation community were on full display. Participating spaces included Open MiKE, Art Milwaukee's Collaboratory, the under-construction Hudson Business Lounge, Johnson Controls' brand new Third Ward Innovation Center, FLUX Design, the labs at Discovery World, and Bucketworks, which was celebrating its 10 year anniversary.

Kohl's Idea Challenge
This daylong event challenged small teams of thinkers, hackers, and innovators to come up with original ideas for an integrated retail experience during Kohl's holiday shopping season. Fueled by the thrill of competition and the potential for glory, as well as mini cupcakes and pizza, the ideas came fast and furious all day. The winners received $5000 while the two runners received $2500 each.

Leave Your Mark
Using mobile devices, GPS technology and local social networks, a group of Milwaukeeans used their phones to check-in to locations across the city of Milwaukee. On a massive web map at Turner Hall Ballroom, a work of digital art was created from the check-in locations, a proud statement from young Milwaukeean’s about the love of their hometown.

Libation Innovation hosted by MillerCoors
MillerCoors opened up its historic Stables Building to the public for a reception, involving free drinks, amazing local music and interactive exercises to brainstorm new slogans for MillerCoors’ brands.

Vijay Govindarajan
The finale of Innovation Week, this keynote presentation featured Vijay Govindarajan, an expert on strategy and innovation and the first Professor in Residence and Chief Innovation Consultant at GE. Mr. Govindarajan was ranked #3 on the Thinkers 50 list of world's most influential business thinkers.