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accelerator’s portfolio have together raised more than $120 million from investors, and created more than 1,500 jobs, since 2012.
In addition to the core 12-week accelerator program, Gener8tor runs two shorter, equity-free programs. These accelerators, known as gALPHA and gBETA, are supported in part by local colleges and universities. Gener8tor also runs OnRamp, a series of conferences that bring entrepreneurs together with executives at large corporations.
“We like to describe Gener8tor as a store with three products,” Kirgues said. “Startups plus universities plus corporations—we’re trying to create a platform for the community to engage itself in creating wealth.”
Maggie Brickerman, managing director of gBETA, said that her team set a goal of positioning at least one-third of participating companies to be accepted into a for-equity accelerator or raise money from angel investors after the gBETA program. About half of the startups that have gone through gBETA met at least one of these criteria, Brickerman said Monday.
Another leader in the Wisconsin tech community who spoke at the event was Tim Schaefer, executive vice president of client and digital experience at Northwestern Mutual. The Milwaukee-based life insurance and financial services giant was one of several local organizations that recently said it would help fund future gBETA programs in the city.
“Why is something like gBETA so important?” Schaefer asked rhetorically. “What’s so misunderstood, in my view, is that while we hear about the billion-dollar unicorn company all the time in the press, what we don’t hear about is the fact that entrepreneurship and startup activity has been on a 20-year decline in this country.”
Schaefer cited two new, locally focused $5 million venture capital funds created by Northwestern Mutual and Aurora Health Care as evidence that some stakeholders are taking steps to help Milwaukee become more of a tech hub.
And while large companies have a major role to play in making progress toward this goal, Schaefer said, it’s important for technology businesses of all sizes and stripes to have seats at the table.
“We have to listen to the voice of the tech community,” he said. “This is not a top-down thing. It takes an organic approach in order to grow a tech ecosystem.”
Here are descriptions from Gener8tor of the other five companies in the accelerator’s 2017 Milwaukee class:
—FactoryFix (Chicago): connects manufacturing companies to a vetted network of skilled workers such as machinists, maintenance techs, and automation experts.
—GenoPalate (Milwaukee): develops DNA collection kits and biomarkers that analyze genetic data and suggest foods users should eat.
—Ideawake (Milwaukee): creates software tools allowing employees at medium- to large-sized organizations to suggest and receive feedback on ideas for new products and initiatives.
—Nonnatech (New York): develops digital patient-monitoring software, which can detect early signs of patient deterioration and provide insights to healthcare providers and insurers.
—SteamChain (Milwaukee): makes software that uses blockchain technology and allows manufacturers of high-cost machinery and other equipment to offer usage-based financing to their customers.