New Milwaukee Startup Accelerator to Unite Universities, Corporations

8/21/14Follow @XconomyWI

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the Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee—in which MCW students pitched ideas for healthcare mobile apps that would be developed by UWM students—as an example of where The Commons could come into play.

“What we really need to do is pair those medical students, who have no time to start a company, with an eager MBA student who wants to start a company,” Cordio says. “That’s the type of collaboration we’re looking at.”

As for The Commons’ corporate track, the idea is to give students real-world experience helping a business solve a problem.

“Maybe there’s a company that’s had a technology shelved for a long time, and they want to dust it off in a risk-free way,” Hostad explains. Students could “do some research around whether that product might have legs in the market.”

Success for the corporate track will be measured by how many internships and full-time jobs come out of it, as well as how well it prepares students for a professional career, improves university curricula, and boosts engagement from the business community.

Details about The Commons are still scarce, and the structure will need to be worked out with academic and corporate partners after The Commons officially brings them on board. Marquette University is almost certainly a lock, as incoming president Mike Lovell is an early supporter, Cordio says.

Universities will not be expected to fund the seed accelerator, at least in the pilot stage, Cordio says. The Commons will instead seek money from donors and grant programs, such as the Wisconsin Economic Devleopment Corp.’s Capital Catalyst program. Meanwhile, the corporate track would ideally be funded by the corporations, potentially with additional subsidies from donors, Cordio says. He and Hostad say they have already talked with individuals who have expressed interest in backing the initiative.

The Commons’ physical location will likely be in the Walker’s Point neighborhood, just south of downtown Milwaukee, Cordio says. The area is on the rise, with a mix of high-tech companies and research, new restaurants and bars, and planned housing developments.

The Commons must also hammer out crucial details like intellectual property agreements, how many students can participate in the program at any given time, and how much seed money the students’ startups would get.

“A lot of the academic leaders saw the value in what we are proposing,” Hostad says. “They also have questions and see challenges. We’re not blind to that. That’s why we’ll try to partner with those institutions to help us figure those out.”

Jeff Engel is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @XconomyWI

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  • Melissa Nikolic

    With all the focus on the lack of women in start-ups and Venture Capital this acronym is truly unfortunate #diversityneeded.