Milwaukee’s culture for emerging companies stronger than ever

By Tom Still, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Milwaukee skylineMany business incubators and accelerators concentrate on the start-up “gazelles,” companies that are poised to leap ahead quickly in revenue, jobs and market value.

Dan Steininger and his team at BizStarts Milwaukee Inc. are just as happy hunting for deer.

“Deer” is how Steininger affectionately refers to a different breed of start-up company — those that can run hard when they need to, but which aren’t fixated on becoming the next Google or Facebook.

They’re often classic mom-and-pop businesses, social entrepreneurs or lifestyle businesses that add value to the economy, but which aren’t often investment targets for angel investors or venture capitalists seeking a 10-times return on their money.

“Our goal is to get businesses through the ‘valley of death’ that lies between two mountains — the product development mountain and the company launch mountain,” Steininger said. “It’s a reality check on starting a real business with real customers.”

Working with more than 100 businesses in southeast Wisconsin, BizStarts is an example of a growing array of services for emerging companies in the region. Some are focused on start-ups and some work with more mature companies seeking to scale their operations. Others are tied to specific industry clusters such as water or energy, and some work mainly with campus-based entrepreneurs. Read more …

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