Entrepreneurial spirit stays strong in Wisconsin
In September at the National Governors Association meeting, a 12-point action plan was launched to focus on growing state economies. Eight of the 12 action steps related to building and expanding an entrepreneurial culture. Why? Because start-up companies that develop organically have a major, long-term impact on strengthening the overall state economy, specifically in creating new jobs.
Wisconsin already fosters entrepreneurship in numerous ways, such as addressing the need for early-stage capital investment, expanding start-up resources, and supporting the innovation and commercialization of research coming from our world-class universities. But it’s the grass-roots networks and entrepreneurial spirit that will drive start-up growth.
Wisconsin has a subculture of creativity and entrepreneurialism that may be surprising. Inventors, educators, and entrepreneurs are leading the charge around the state—from Madison to Milwaukee and from Eau Claire to the Fox Valley. Here are just a few examples:
--Inventors & Entrepreneurs Club of Juneau County, which began in 2002 and is now 2,000 members strong.
--Capital Entrepreneurs and Startup Milwaukee, entrepreneurial-led organizations that foster interaction between entrepreneurs.
--Sector 67 and Bucketworks, which provide an interactive, creative space for co-working and prototyping.
--Pitch contests, start-up weekends, hack-a-thons, idea contests, and launch-pad programs run by entrepreneurs, universities and organizations throughout the state.
--Lean start-up business modeling being taught through accelerator programs and at several universities in Wisconsin.
Their passion is leading us. We must follow them.
First, we need to alter our attitudes, especially our deep-rooted fear of failure, and support a dynamic and collaborative approach to business creation. Without that, we will see innovative companies and our young entrepreneurs leave Wisconsin for more risk-friendly environments.
Second, we need to let entrepreneurs lead this start-up community. Entrepreneurs take action because they must to survive. The rest of us—government, larger companies, investors and universities—provide the nutrients to feed that ecosystem. But ultimately the entrepreneurs are the ones producing the results.
We need to invest in entrepreneurial pursuits knowing some start-ups will fail but one may be the success story of the future. Getting more start-ups in the pipeline will benefit our economy through business and job growth as well as wealth creation and entrepreneurial experience, which stimulates more investments and companies. That recirculation of money, talent and acceptance of risk and failure have made a start-up Mecca such as Silicon Valley what it is today.
With Global Entrepreneur Week just behind us, looking ahead, we need to encourage creative, risk-taking exploration in young adults and support all entrepreneurs with effective programs and collaborations.
And then we need to get out of their way.
Lisa Johnson is vice president of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., 201 W. Washington Ave., Madison, WI 53703; phone 608-210-6767; website inwisconsin.com. Johnson was involved in two start-up companies and has spent more than 22 years in business development and technology licensing in the biotechnology industry. WEDC leads economic development efforts for the state and nurtures business and job creation by advancing Wisconsin’s business climate.