How to create a new entrepreneurial spirit in Wisconsin

How to create a new entrepreneurial spirit in Wisconsin

by John Neis and Cory Nettles:
(Cory Nettles is on the Badger Advocates Board Of Directors)

The Wisconsin Idea — the concept that the knowledge and innovations from the university reach to the borders of our state and beyond — highlights the pre-eminent role that our university system plays in creating a better quality of life for citizens.

We believe the Wisconsin Idea needs to be lived as much as loved. We should all seek ways to help university innovators turn ideas into companies. We see this opportunity across the life cycle of Wisconsin businesses that our firms back. Venture Investors has backed 25 companies that have come out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Generation Growth is a private equity firm investing in mature industries that represent the core of Wisconsin’s economy.

Wisconsin isn’t opposed to the bold initiative, but we like the idea of others taking those actions. This is the bane of our existence. Wisconsin needs a cultural revolution, one that fosters taking risks and thinking like an entrepreneur. If we wait for others to do it we lose ground in a rapidly changing world.

There is no shortage of ideas, thanks to the strength of our university system. Interdisciplinary collaboration really happens here. You can find connectivity, resources, experts in any field, and there’s an openness to dialogue.

But living in a state that sometimes feels like a small community works to our disadvantage in other ways.

We have a density issue. Our great universities are not in commercial, population or financial centers. Boston and San Francisco are the hubs of the venture capital industry. All of the starter material is in one place.

Venture capital operates as a social network. VCs like to stay close to their projects. That’s one reason 80% of American venture capital is managed and invested in just three states: New York, Massachusetts and California.

It’s easy to blame VCs who won’t get on a plane for Wisconsin, but we have to take responsibility. We have to demonstrate our belief by seeding the opportunities and building the social network to the coasts.