August 14, 2014

Gener8tor Says Two Cities Are Better Than One

Excerpted from Next City
By Brady Dale

The myth of the small team of inventors working alone in a garage or a dorm room may have some basis in truth, but it’s no accident that most of the world-beating technology ventures of the last decade or so have either come from Silicon Valley or New York City, or only blown up once moved there. Place matters to innovators, even in our flattening, global world. Great tech companies arise from great tech scenes, which concentrate talent, investors, know-how and the basic research that drives ventures — and a business in Wisconsin, Gener8tor, is stitching those elements together for not one, but two cities, Madison and Milwaukee.

“We love the fact that it is operating in both cities,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, “because Milwaukee is the economic hub of the state and Madison is the academic and ideas hub. So to have those two operating together is a real plus.” According to Madison’s economic development office, UW Madison does something like a billion dollars in research each year and its new chancellor has emphasized turning that research into businesses.

Gener8tor is an accelerator, a company that invests money and sweat equity in young companies in hopes of a long-haul return on the small equity stake it attains in exchange. Accelerators themselves are nothing new, but what’s interesting about this one is that with each new class of companies, it switches back and forth between Madison and Milwaukee. Every few months, a new crop of companies comes in for a program in which they learn about exploring revenue models, getting investors and acquiring customers.

Gener8tor co-founders Troy Vosseller and Joe Kirgues were successful entrepreneurs in their own right when each wanted to start an accelerator in their respective cities. But with perhaps neither city quite big enough to have all the pieces of a world-class tech scene, the two realized they might be more successful joining forces.

One venture firm executive in Wisconsin said that the concept of shifting between the two cities has had the effect of making the state’s innovation economy feel less like a Madison scene and a Milwaukee scene and more like one Wisconsin. As the cities rise with the rest, it’s begun to appear that embracing regionalism may be the right course for an area with a thinner population to make it.

Read the full article.