Building a business – the other 10%

Building a business – the other 10%

Launching and growing a business is 90% about the idea, the initiative of the founders and the team they build to bring that product or service to market.

It’s also 10% intangibles that include a support system, formal or otherwise, which lays a foundation for entrepreneurs and their communities to succeed. Here are some upcoming opportunities that fall under that “10% edge”:

Companies can apply through Monday to present at the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium, which will attract about 600 people to Madison Nov. 16-17. There are three chances for emerging companies to tell their stories to investors who will come from across Wisconsin and well beyond.

Those include a five-minute presentation track for companies seeking investments from angel and venture capitalists; a 90-second track called the “Elevator Pitch Olympics” for younger companies or entrepreneurs with an idea they want to test; and a new platform called “Investor Intros,” which is essentially a speed-dating session in which investors will meet privately with a number of companies.

The conference, which also features dozens of speakers, panels and hands-on events, has been around for more than 30 years under one name or another and has helped scores of companies find the financing they need to grow. Visit to complete a one-page application and to register.

Milwaukee Startup Week will take place Nov. 1-6 at a mix of locations across southeast Wisconsin. It will feature about 20 events and coincides with gener8tor’s next “Premiere Night,” where companies that are part of the 12-week accelerator program will pitch to potential investors.

Throughout the week, the social interaction group NEWaukee and gener8tor will host events that include an interactive Speaker Crawl and a strategy session for interacting with larger corporations. Learn more at

The second BizStarts Inspirational Entrepreneur Awards will be held Nov. 2 at Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel. Sponsored by BizStarts Milwaukee, which works with entrepreneurs and others in the startup world, it will feature four honorees and offer plenty of networking time. Learn more at

Time clocks are ticking on two state programs that give communities and schools a chance to build their entrepreneurial base.

The Entrepreneurship Support program is designed to appeal to rural Wisconsin, inner-city neighborhoods and smaller communities — places that are often overlooked as potential pools of entrepreneurs.

This $500,000 initiative by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is accepting applications through Oct. 31 from nonprofit groups and communities for activities and projects that promote entrepreneurship and deliver key services and resources.

The program will make competitive grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 for activities such as entrepreneurial promotion and education, mentorship and training, and business development and financial services. Grants must be matched by the applicant and the work must take place in 2017. Application details and criteria can be found at

The WEDC already has programs and partners that focus on technology-based and growth-oriented startup and early stage businesses, including a tax credit program that remains a national model.

The Entrepreneurship Support program aims to meet a need that holds back some rural, inner-city and mid-sized communities, where a recurring fear is losing mature companies and young talent.

The state will also begin accepting applications Oct. 10 for a second round of school-based fabrication laboratories, also known as “fab labs,” that must double as tech-based maker spaces for communities.

Wisconsin has about 25 such labs operating or under way thus far, which is among the most of any state.  It is a movement that promises to expose more young people to careers in manufacturing, a sector that remains a core strength of the Wisconsin economy despite competitive challenges tied to the need for skilled workers and higher productivity.

Districts must find local partners and compete for grants that typically total $25,000, with private dollars matching or surpassing the state money. Collaboration is a key feature of these labs, with schools teaming with nearby businesses to provide equipment, training possibilities, internships and more.

Among the requirements for winning a WEDC grant is that lab space be made available to community entrepreneurs, inventors and small businesses after the school day is over. Learn more at

Despite some rankings that place Wisconsin at the bottom of the 50-state barrel for business startups, the state offers ways to help entrepreneurs make their own jobs, companies and futures. Find your “10% edge” and take hold.

Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of WTN Media.