For young companies looking to connect with investors and venture capital looking for Wisconsin’s next big innovation, attending the Wisconsin Technology Council’s is an easy sell. Networking and pitching opportunities abound, as does actionable advice from business and tech leaders who’ve been in their shoes.
The eighth annual event is happening Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 6-7, at Madison’s Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.
A record number of startups applied to the symposium’s several pitch sessions. Of the nearly 90 applicants, the majority are from Wisconsin. Roughly half are in the health care, biotechnology or health information technology sectors.
Twenty-five of these promising companies will be participating in the Tech Council Investor Network track, where they will have exclusive access to investors and representatives from almost two dozen Midwest companies in the advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, health care, information technology, medical device and mobile application sectors.
Many more startups will be participating in the symposium’s Investor Intros session, which uses a “speed dating” format to match entrepreneurs with targeted angel and venture investors for brief one-on-one meetings to learn more about each other and explore potential relationships. Nearly 40 investors already confirmed.
Smaller startups or those still in the early stages of development can also have their moment in the spotlight at the symposium’s Elevator Pitch Olympics. After giving a 90-second pitch in front of conference attendees, participating entrepreneurs will get immediate feedback from a panel of investors who will also judge them on whether their pitch was compelling enough to arrange a follow-up meeting.
The symposium’s breadth is evidenced in its two keynote speakers, former NFL player Marques Ogden and venture capitalist Jeff Schumacher. On Wednesday, Ogden will recount his “rags to riches to rags and back again” story of starting a construction company, falling into bankruptcy, and working his way back to a successful career as a business coach, author and motivational speaker.
Schumacher, Thursday’s keynote speaker, is a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduate and the former head of one of the world’s largest corporate venture capital firms. He recently launched 55 Foundry, an “invent-and-invest” venture focused on decentralized technologies such as blockchain and encryption.
The symposium’s schedule is filled with topics of interest to investors, entrepreneurs and anyone involved in Wisconsin’s tech economy. This year’s sessions targeted to investors include panel discussions on investing for social good and navigating Wisconsin’s growing venture capital opportunities. For entrepreneurs, there are panels scheduled on alternative business models, legal issues, and opportunities ripe for innovation in the health care sector, among other topics.
Entrepreneurs will also have access to industry experts during several “office hours” sessions each day on topics such as social media engagement, negotiating SaaS subscription agreements and WEDC’s Qualified New Business Venture (QNBV) Program.
This year’s symposium will be preceded by another event focusing on the state’s growing innovation and investment opportunities: Innovation Day on Nov. 5. Bridging the two conferences on Tuesday night is the fifth annual Wisconsin WOMEN Reception. Co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Technology Council and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the reception offers attendees another networking opportunity and a chance to honor women entrepreneurs and those who support them.