Startup Wisconsin study finds Wisconsin’s high-growth companies need additional capital, support to continue growth

Startup Wisconsin released a new report this morning illustrating the impact COVID-19 is having on the State’s innovation economy. The study also highlights how companies are accessing Federal relief such as the SBA’s PPP and EIDL programs.

Milwaukee, WI – Startup Wisconsin has conducted a survey of 70 founders and top executives at high-growth companies from across the state of Wisconsin. The survey offers insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting Wisconsin’s high-growth startup companies who play a key role in driving the creation of new jobs in the state.

“Enacting programs and policies at the state and local level that ensure Wisconsin’s innovation economy, the state’s job-growth machine, emerges stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic is critical,” said Matt Cordio, president of Startup Wisconsin “State and local leaders should be listening to the voices of high-growth entrepreneurs from around Wisconsin and ensuring that they have the resources they need to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.”

The 70 high-growth startup companies who responded to Startup Wisconsin’s survey operate in varying sectors of the economy including Healthcare, Manufacturing, Biotechnology, B2B Software, Consumer Products and Professional Services. The companies employed an average of 8.5 full-time equivalent employees. The majority of responses came from companies based in the Greater Milwaukee region, Madison region, and Northeast Wisconsin. Responses were collected between April 24th and 30th. Below is a summary of key findings:

  • Access to Capital is Critical: 80% of companies surveyed will need to raise additional capital in the 12 months in order to sustain or grow their businesses. These companies plan to tap the following sources of funding:
    • 82.1% planning to Venture Capital
    • 44.6% would prefer to raise Venture Debt financing
    • 28.6% would prefer to tap Bank financing
    • Note: companies were able to indicate they were pursuing multiple funding sources.
  • Why Access to Capital Matters: many startup investors indicate they are currently focused inward on their existing portfolio companies. It was already tough for Wisconsin’s high-growth companies without existing investors to raise capital pre-COVID-19 pandemic. If action isn’t taken, raising capital will become more difficult.
  • Access to Federal Relief Funding: 70% of the companies who responded applied for the Small Business Administration’s loan programs that provide financial assistance to small businesses. Only 33% of the companies who applied for the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program received funds and, only 42% of high-growth startups who applied for the SBA’s Payroll Protection Program (PPP) received funds. Some survey respondents indicated they were unable to leverage the SBA’s loan programs for small businesses for various reasons including lack of payroll history and other factors unique to fast-growing companies.
  • Impact of Federal Relief Programs: only 25% of the Wisconsin high-growth companies who received financial support from the Feds felt confident they would be able to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Impact on Startup Hiring Plans: 41% of companies surveyed have implemented a hiring freeze or have already reduced their headcount, 48% of companies have left 2020 hiring plans unchanged due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The entrepreneurs and executives surveyed offered several ideas for state and local leaders tasked with overseeing the bounce-back of Wisconsin’s innovation economy. Some of those ideas include:

  • Creating tax credits, grants, or loan programs that lead to an increased number of investments in high-growth companies. These programs could be implemented by state or local governments and regional economic development groups.
  • Implementing programs and policies that incentivize large companies and government agencies in Wisconsin to purchase products and services from Wisconsin-based high-growth companies.
  • Safely reopening the state’s economy as soon as possible.

“Taking bold action and implementing programs and policies that enable Wisconsin’s high-growth companies to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic will pay long-term dividends to the State’s economy.” said Matt Cordio president of Startup Wisconsin “It is critical that state and local leaders allocate some of the $2 billion in CARES Act funding Wisconsin will receive to bolster the State’s innovation economy.”

A short slide deck summarizing the complete results of Startup Wisconsin’s Founder Pulse survey is attached as an appendix to this media release. The public can access Startup Wisconsin’s report at:


Startup Wisconsin is committed to advancing and developing Wisconsin’s tech and startup ecosystems through unique programming, collaborative partnerships, and networking. Driven by entrepreneurs and leaders throughout Wisconsin who are passionate about making a difference, and creating a positive and lasting impact that will advance the state’s economy forward.  Startup Wisconsin has a network of entrepreneurs, investors, and service providers across the state of Wisconsin including Appleton, Beloit, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Madison, and the Milwaukee region.


Media Contact: Matt Cordio, President, Startup Wisconsin
Mobile: 262-894-9535 Email: