Inno Guides are designed to serve as an onboarding tool for anyone that’s new to the state’s ecosystem, as well as a refresher for those looking to learn more about Wisconsin’s startup and tech communities and the resources available to them. If you think we’re missing anything, email us at WisconsinInfo@AmericanInno.com. 

For a startup hub to be successful, it must rely on the strength of the community that defines it. Growth is often assessed with statistics on funding deals, number of hires and office space square footage, but the intangible effect of an engaged and proactive startup community, while difficult to measure, cannot be underestimated.

As Wisconsin’s startup and innovation economy emerges, there are a number of active groups, entities and events that are supporting entrepreneurs and early stage companies. These community members and the resources they provide are integral to the state’s high-growth ecosystem.

Below is an index of some of the Wisconsin Startup Community’s largest meetup groups, economic development and community organizations, events and other resources. In every corner of the state, these resources provide valuable networking and educational opportunities, introductions to peers and support for those trying to start and grow companies here in Wisconsin.

Meetup Groups

  • 1MillionCups – 1MillionCups is a national organization that includes active chapters in Madison and Eau Claire. Each weekly event gives one local startup the chance to present their venture to local peers, get feedback and network.
  • 262 Web Meetup – The 262 Web Meetup group meets monthly to discuss all different web-related technologies, from SEO to development and design to marketing. Meetings typically feature social and networking time, presentations, workshops, or casual lightning talks on various topics.
  • Big Data Madison – One of Wisconsin’s largest tech meetup groups, Big Data Madison has almost 2,000 members. The group covers different use cases, examples and applications of data science and the big data ecosystem. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend no matter their level of understanding. Big Data Madison meets roughly once a month, usually at the Madison Central Public Library.
  • Chippewa Valley Developers Group – Chippewa Valley Developers Group is a collection of software development professionals of all stripes that meets to network, hear presentations and discuss all things dev. The group meets once a month at the Lazy Monk Brewery in Eau Claire.
  • Central WI Developers Group – Central WI Developers Group (CenWI Dev) is an open meetup group for local developers looking to network and learn from peers. The group meets in Stevens Point and welcomes developers of all skill levels.
  • La Crosse Technology and Development – The La Crosse Technology and Development group is a meetup organization of tech professionals that meets on the first and third Wednesday of each month to discuss different dev topics. Recent meetups have focused on Typescript, data visualization and Python. You’ll find the group at The Twisted Moose in La Crosse.
  • Madison Area Software Developers Meetup – The Madison Area Software Developers Meetup group has a large following of area programmer professionals and hobbyists. Meetings typically center around discussions of various programming languages and techniques, architecture and other development topics. The group meets on the third Wednesday of each month.  
  • Madison Women in Tech – Madison Women in Tech is a group of women and gender nonbinary folks working or interested in all different aspects of technology. Through regular meetings and networking, the group hopes to make Madison’s tech community more diverse and to empower women working in tech fields. Past meetups have included pitch practice, featured speakers, lunch and learns and workshops on topics like UX design and Google Analytics, as well as social events.
  • Milwaukee Agile – Milwaukee Agile is the largest tech meetup group in the city, with over 2,100 members. The group meets regularly to learn and share experiences in Lean and Agile development and product management.
  • MKE Web Pro – The Milwaukee Web Professionals group meets regularly to cover topics related to web development, design and business. Formats of meetings vary from social meetups to panel discussions to presentations, and cover a wide range of web-related development and business subjects.
  • Startup Grind Madison – Startup Grind is a meetup group and speaker series organization with chapters around the world, including in Madison. Events are typically fireside chat-style talks with executives from the startup and investment community. Past Madison speakers have included Dan Reed from American Family Ventures, Matt Howard from EatStreet, Mikkel Svane from Zendesk and Heather Wentler from Doyenne. Startup Grind events usually require a low-dollar ticket purchase.
  • Wisconsin Technology Association – WTA is a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that aims to provide a forum for education, exchange of ideas and networking amongst the local tech community. Past meetup topics have covered cloud technology, containers, and best practices for hiring in tech.

Economic Development and Community Groups

  • Capital Entrepreneurs – Capital Entrepreneurs is a Madison-based organization dedicated to fostering a strong network of entrepreneurs through networking and social events and other online resources. The group’s site has an online job board and other resources for local entrepreneurs. You must be a founder or early employee of a Madison area startup to join the group.
  • Digital Fertilizer – Digital Fertilizer is a group in Northeast Wisconsin dedicated to strengthening the startup and tech community in the Green Bay area. The group holds monthly events and is actively involved in facilitating relationships amongst the local developer, entrepreneurial and investment community.
  • Milwaukee Area Science Advocates – A volunteer-run organization committed to increasing community engagement in sustainability, public health, and science education.
  • Kinnektor – Kinnektor, an Oshkosh organization, recently rebranded from Launch Wisconsin, which started out as a single event and has expanded into a group that aims to connect startups and entrepreneurs with corporate partners.
  • NEWaukee – NEWaukee is a grassroots civic engagement organization that works to make the city of Milwaukee a more attractive place to live and work. The group runs social events, public art initiatives, a job network and other efforts to improve city life for professionals both young and old.
  • N.E.W. Venture Foundry – N.E.W. Venture Foundry is a Green Bay organization whose goal is connect corporate partners with entrepreneurs and early-stage companies. The group provides mentorship, resources and sometimes investment capital to startups.
  • Startup Milwaukee – Startup Milwaukee was founded by a group of local entrepreneurs to support and encourage high-growth companies in Milwaukee through networking and community development events. Startup MKE runs internship and mentorship programs, as well as the Emerge pitch series and Milwaukee Startup Week.
  • Wisconsin Technology Council – The Wisconsin Tech Council is a non-profit policy advisory board to the governor and state legislature. Its membership is comprised of  members from tech companies, venture capital firms, higher education and government. WTC hopes to spur economic development through conferences, networking events, and the Governor’s Business Plan Conference.
  • Wisconsin Women Business Initiative Corporation – The Wisconsin Women Business Initiative Corportation (WWBIC) is a statewide economic development group to empower women, people of color, low-income individuals and other groups who traditionally have had less access to capital to start businesses, business education and other entrepreneurial resources. The group provides technical assistance, capital and business coaching and has offices in Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, Racine and Waukesha.
  • WEDC – The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has a number of resources and programs to aid entrepreneurs across the state. From micro-grants to matching federal SBA/SBIR grants to its Seed Accelerator Program, WEDC assists over 300 local business a year and is committed to helping startups start, grow and scale.

Events

  • Badger Startup Summit – The Badger Startup Summit is a networking, pitch and startup showcase event held in Madison for Wisconsin entrepreneurs to meet and exchange ideas.
  • The Forward Festival – The Forward Festival is Madison’s largest technology festival, now in its eighth year. The 8-day festival in August covers all different aspects of the startup and innovation economy and attracts over 5,000 attendees.
  • EMERGE – EMERGE is a pitch series run by Startup MKE where three local startups have the chance to give a 10 minute pitch to local entrepreneurs, executives and service providers. Startups who have launched at least a beta product, are headquartered in Southeast Wisconsin and have a high-growth focus can apply to pitch at future events.  
  • Hatch Pitch Program – Hatch is a pitch event series put on by the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation and NEWaukee. Participating companies have five minutes to pitch in front of judges and a live audience for the chance to win $2,000 and be selected as a semi-finalist for the Hatch regional finale, where a grand prize of $5,000 is up for grabs.
  • MadHacks – MadHacks is a hackathon series held twice a year at UW-Madison. In addition to full-scale, 24 hour hackathons, MadHacks also holds 12 hour mini hackathons aimed that are more beginner-friendly.
  • Tech Gala – Tech Gala is a charity fundraiser organized by the Madison group Capital Entrepreneurs. The event aims to provide and fun and celebratory atmosphere for local entrepreneurs, tech and startup employees and freelancers to meet and mingle all while supporting charitable causes.
  • WARF Entrepreneurons – Run by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), Entrepreneurons is a speaker series for the UW-Madison community that features keynote speeches and panel discussions with tech and innovation leaders. The events are free and open to the entire UW-Madison campus and surrounding community.
  • Wisconsin Startup Week – Wisconsin Startup Week, slated for November 2018, is a multi-city effort to connect high-growth companies and entrepreneurs and to showcase the innovations of local startups. You’ll find events happening all across the state from Beloit to Green Bay.
  • Wisconsin Tech Summit – Put on by the Wisconsin Technology Council, the Wisconsin Tech Summit aims to connect major corporate institutions with startups and high-growth companies. The format is a series of 15 minute speed dating-type meetings, which WTC hopes will lead to successful contracting partnerships, or investment and acquisition strategies.

Other Resources

  • Madison Startups – Madison Startups is an online resource for Madison startup news, press releases, events and more.
  • Rise of the Rest Playbook – Founded by AOL cofounder Steve Case and his D.C.-based VC firm Revolution, Rise of the Rest is a campaign and now seed fund to spur investment outside of major existing tech hubs. The Rise of the Rest bus tour stopped in Green Bay last year and awarded funding to three local startups. The Rise of the Rest Playbook offers some Wisconsin-specific insights, along with other resources for entrepreneurs and investors outside of the coasts.
  • WTC Entrepreneurs’ Toolkit – The Wisconsin Technology Council’s Entrepreneurs’ Toolkit offers guidance on locating your business, finding funding, networking, selling to government and more.