Victor Gutwein and Paul Meier are at M25, a venture capital firm focused on early-stage tech startups headquartered in the Midwest. (M25 is an investor in two Wisconsin startups – and counting – Scanalytics in Milwaukee and Ensodata in Madison.) Paul has a long family history in Wisconsin, worked at Rockwell Automation and Brady Corporation, and has spent much of his life in the state. He’s also the only guy in the M25 office with a Brewers sticker on his laptop.
As a VC firm focused on finding the best startups headquartered in the Midwest, we know that Wisconsin is not just beer, cheese and waterparks (although that toilet bowl slide at Kalahari gets us every time). Over the course of several trips to meet with startups here, the huge energy and potential for tech has become obvious – and keeps us regularly coming back. So what makes Wisconsin special?
When we think about any state’s tech environment, we prefer to consider relative growth and success rather than absolute measures, as the entire country is experiencing a tech renaissance. Understanding that, here are a few things we think Wisconsin is doing right, right now:
In a state that has been historically dominated by more traditional industries, you may not expect its corporations to be investing heavily in tech. But the big companies in the state have been getting increasingly involved. American Family Insurance, Northwestern Mutual, CUNA Mutual, Direct Supply, Logistics Health and Kimberly Clark have all either started in-house venture funds or made direct investments. As these big companies become increasingly interested in tech, what Wisconsin startups may find challenging is competing with these big companies for talent.
You might not find Wisconsin universities in the upper echelon of the national rankings, but they are certainly maximizing their potential and looking to the future. We recently dug into the data and ranked the best Midwest collegetown for startups, and Madison came out on top. And in Milwaukee, the university investments being made have us excited. Within the past few months, each of Milwaukee’s major universities announced the creation of technology and innovation labs.Paul Meier
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