Startup Milwaukee Hands Off 96square Management Duties, Shifts Focus

Startup Milwaukee will hand off the responsibilities of running and marketing downtown co-working space 96square to the building’s owner—a notable shift for one of the city’s most well-known startup groups, and a move that continues the evolution of the area’s startup offices.

96square, located on the second floor of the Blatz Wash House at 1101 N. Market St., will be managed by building owner SSG Properties effective Aug. 30, according to a press release today from Startup Milwaukee co-founder Matt Cordio. The co-working office’s tenants “will not be impacted by this change,” Cordio says.

Startup Milwaukee launched in 2011, primarily as an organizer of networking events aimed at connecting the city’s entrepreneurs and techies. As the buzz around Milwaukee’s fledgling digital startup scene started to grow, the nonprofit organization expanded its focus and created an online jobs board for local startups, helped connect cash-hungry companies with investors, helped organize several startup hackathons, and co-created The Commons, a student startup accelerator and corporate innovation program, among other initiatives. Startup Milwaukee opened 96square in 2013.

Since then, the city’s group of co-working spaces has gotten more crowded, with new options both small (Genius@Work) and large (Ward 4).

Ward 4, which opened earlier this summer, has attracted two former 96square tenants, OnKol and Find My Spot, Cordio says. The Commons also has its office there.

Startup Milwaukee’s decision to stop managing 96square had nothing to do with Ward 4’s rise, Cordio says. He says he’s unaware of any other 96square tenants thinking of moving to Ward 4.

96square’s current vacancies include one or two office suites and a few desks in the main co-working area, Cordio says. “It’s not like we’re bleeding” companies to Ward 4, he adds.

Rather, Cordio says the decision was made because he and the other three members of Startup Milwaukee’s core leadership team lacked the “bandwidth” and the resources required to manage the co-working space. They have been considering handing the reins over to SSG for months, Cordio says. “Our intention was not to run it forever.”

“We are proud of what we built with our real estate partners at 96square,” Cordio says. “Now is the time for our team to focus on continuing to build the infrastructure and connective tissue needed to strengthen Milwaukee’s startup community.”

That means continuing to grow The Commons and launching new programs, Cordio says. Startup Milwaukee still runs the job board and recently created a book club. Its leaders are planning new happy hour events, as well as other initiatives that are still in the brainstorming phase, Cordio says.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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