09 Aug In search of Wisconsin's venture café
I recently met with a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor who asked me where Milwaukee’s entrepreneurs hang out. He had read my book, The Venture Cafe: Secrets, Strategies, and Stories from America’s High-Tech Entrepreneurs, and he wanted to know whether there was a place in Milwaukee where technologists and venture capitalists could drink beer and talk about starting new companies.
After meeting with this would-be entrepreneur, I decided to search for an answer. I attended a handful of networking events, I visited a couple of pubs, and I asked a handful of technology entrepreneurs where they like to hang out.
Chris Kuhl, CEO of client satisfaction at IT Fusion Business Center, believes that “Starbucks and Bella’s Cafe in the Third Ward are probably the most frequently used hotspots for creative brainstorming.” Kuhl believes that people go to these places to talk about companies they are starting, movies they are making, and software projects they are working on.
Cafe Bella is located at 189 N. Milwaukee Street, while the Third Ward Starbucks is located at 326 N. Water Street.
But Kuhl’s colleague, IT consultant Nate Erb, believes that Milwaukee’s best place for entrepreneurial networking is the cafe run by the Masters Of Coffee And Internet Service, a.k.a. MOCAIS, located at 111 East Wisconsin Avenue.
On St. Patrick’s Day, 1965, when a snowstorm shut down Marquette University, my father drank green beer at the old Ardmore Pub., which was then a focal point of the MU social scene. Now called Caffrey’s, this legendary watering hole is rumored to exist somewhere on 16th street between Wisconsin and Wells. Another Marquette University institution is The Annex, located on the southeast corner of 16th and Wells.
When the UWM professor and I decided to brainstorm about Milwaukee’s entrepreneurial networking events, we chose to meet one another at Alterra on the Lake, located at 1701 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive.
I mentioned that the Milwaukee Ale House, located at 233 N. Water Street, seemed to draw a loyal following from technologists who work in the Third Ward. But when I mentioned this to Open Roads business consultant Steve King, he told me that he preferred the newly created Wicked Hop, located at 345 N. Broadway.
Groups of Linux hackers have been observed talking about technology at the Von Trier Pub, located at 2235 N. Farwell Avenue. But those of us who don’t speak Linus Torvalds’ computer language would be better off socializing at the upcoming First Annual Media JAMM, or Joint Association Meeting and Mixer, which will take place from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 1, at the tannery-turned-artist-colony known as the Hide House, located at 2625 S. Greeley Street, Milwaukee, WI, 53207.
Sponsored by Think Innovative Media, the event’s $10 cover charge includes food, drinks, networking, and a variety of forms of entertainment. Participants will be able to watch a performance by the Pastiche Dance Ensemble and observe visual artist Shelley Keefe paint a picture to a techno beat. Also on stage will be Rebecca Ryan, President and CEO of Next Generation Consulting; Micah Brown, a.k.a. Lil’ Dude; John Byrnes, Managing Director of Mason Wells; Chris Crawley, President of Think Innovative Media; and yours truly.
The First Annual Media JAMM is open to any technologist, artist, media artist, communications specialist, and marketing professional who wants Milwaukee to be a cool place to live.
The Wisconsin Technology Council puts on a variety of conferences and events devoted to helping Wisconsin’s technological community get connected.
A similar organization, the Wisconsin Innovation Network, has a Milwaukee chapter that meets for lunch on the second Monday of each month, with some exceptions, at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, located at 300 West Kilbourn. Registration begins at 11:30; the fee includes lunch.
Anyone under the age of 40 who owns, or has founded, or has co-founded, a business with annual sales in excess of $1 million is welcome to join the Milwaukee chapter of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization. But if you aren’t already loaded, don’t despair. The Young Professionals of Milwaukee is open to anybody who considers himself to be young and professional, provided that he or she is over the age of 21.
Those of us who are hip to the digital age are welcome to attend meetings of a group called eInnovate, which bills itself as “Wisconsin’s premier association for high-tech professionals.” The organization’s Web site states that the group’s membership includes everyone from technology entrepreneurs to senior corporate executives, but anyone with $20 can expand his or her network at one of the group’s monthly meetings.
Your Opinion, Please
Do you know where Wisconsin’s technologists blow off steam? Where do you think Wisconsin’s entrepreneurs and venture capitalists run into one another? Where do Wisconsin’s high-tech millionaires go, to brag about their liquidity events? And where do struggling entrepreneurs go to talk about the obstacles they are facing and to seek inspiration from those who have already made it?
Is there a particular pub that attracts engineers who are thinking of starting new companies? Or do Milwaukee’s technologists prefer to hang out in cafes, or hotel-based networking events?
If you can answer any of these questions, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org After all, there is power in numbers. The more technologists who are drawn to a particular watering hole, the more likely they are are to run into someone who can help them solve a seemingly impossible technological problem. The more angel investors and venture capitalists you meet on a regular basis, the easier it is to raise financing when you actually need it.
Teresa Esser is a contributing columnist for the Wisconsin Technology Network and author of the book, The Venture Café. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.