By Tom Still

MADISON, Wis. – There’s a long list of things a startup company needs to succeed, not the least of which is money but also an innovative product; a business plan to follow and adapt as necessary; a solid go-to-market strategy; and a well-rounded team with a strong leader.

Sometimes, those emerging companies also need a “been-there, done-that” partner with connections into the wider world.

That’s the theory behind the March 18 Wisconsin Tech Summit at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, which will introduce young companies with good ideas to major firms that may be able to help those startups while also helping themselves.

How does the Tech Summit work? Imagine scores of 15-minute “speed dates” between major companies and emerging companies, spread over the day. Many emerging companies wind up with dance cards that include multiple major firms.

So far, this year’s line-up of major firms includes: CliftonLarsonAllen; Deloitte; Exact Sciences; Faith Technologies Inc.; Findorff; Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin; gener8tor; Google; Johnson Controls; J.P. Morgan Chase Bank; OEM Fabricators; Oshkosh Corp.; Promega; Rockwell Automation; Schreiber Foods; and TitletownTech.

The goal is to find areas of common interest – research and development, supply chain, sales channels, even investment or acquisition. In other words, it’s about investigating potential strategic partnerships.

The meetings are purposely short to give the major companies a taste of what the emerging companies can offer, and to schedule as many meetings as possible for all concerned. Sometimes there’s a match; sometimes not.

Major companies only meet with emerging companies they choose to engage with, which means the summit is much less of a random meet-up than a calculated process based on what the young companies may offer in technology or other services.

Think of it as a series of “speed dates,” in which both parties exchange information about themselves and break the ice with the goal of moving up to the next level … or simply moving on with no regrets.

Over time, according to Tech Council surveys of past participants, good things often happen after the young companies leave the meeting room. About 40 percent of those sessions result in some sort of interaction later. Some follow-ups have produced strategic partnerships or simply targeted contacts with others who can provide advice.

How do young companies take part? They visit to learn more, register and to fill out a short application form. Any fees can be refunded if an emerging firm is not selected.

There is no set definition as to what constitutes an emerging company. It can be a startup with a few founders and limited revenue or a small business with several dozen employees and solid revenue. What matters most is whether major firms spot partnership potential when reviewing applications.

Other than being the home of the Green Bay Packers and just plain cool to visit, why hold the Tech Summit at Lambeau Field? It’s symbolic of the electricity that can be generated when organizations large and small work together. The Packers, Microsoft, UW-Green Bay and others work with TitletownTech, which in turns invests in and nurtures young companies in many sectors. About 30 emerging firms are a part of TitletownTech’s current investment portfolio.

In addition to the match-making meetings, the Tech Summit will include speakers, “Office Hour” sessions that serve as specific workshops, and plenty of time for less structured networking.

Large and small companies often travel in different “orbits,” even if they’re in the same business sectors, and they rarely collide except by chance. The Wisconsin Tech Summit’s speed-dating format aims to help some of those orbits to cross – and the state’s business development stars to better align.

For many young companies, it’s tempting to think it’s all about how much money can be raised. Money is vital, of course, but success isn’t just about raising angel and venture capital. It’s about making the right business connections.

Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He can be reached at