The success of Wisconsin’s statewide startup ecosystem depends on delivering the right resources to the right entrepreneurs at the right time and in the right place. Initiatives like WEDC’s Seed Accelerator Program are providing startups with the kind of support that gives them a better chance to achieve long-term success.
Q: What is the Seed Accelerator Program?
A: The Seed Accelerator Program provides matching grants to support the growth and development of lean startup business accelerators in Wisconsin. Accelerators are cohort-based programs where startup companies follow a curriculum of intense business development activities. Accelerator participants receive business development coaching, mentorship, access to investors, funding, technical expertise and other resources to refine their products and technologies and move toward commercialization more effectively and efficiently.
Q: What are the eligibility requirements?
A: Eligibility criteria for startups vary among the individual accelerators, and are based on the business population to be served.
Entities eligible for Seed Accelerator funds through WEDC may include communities, organizations or other entities that operate a nonprofit seed accelerator program in Wisconsin. Eligible accelerator programs can focus on factors such as geography, educational institutions, minority status, technology industry sectors or other factors. Industry-based accelerators eligible for funding are broadly defined, including but not limited to advanced manufacturing, agriculture or food processing, information systems or software, medical devices, bioscience and renewable/green energy.
Applicants operating accelerator programs are asked to provide information on program management, operating plans, entrepreneurship resources and use of funds. Applicants must match the funds provided by WEDC on at least a 1:1 basis. Matching funds may be in-kind or cash, and may be dedicated to operating expenses.
Q: How does the Seed Accelerator Program work with industry?
A: WEDC supports startup success in Wisconsin’s critical industry sectors by working with an entity that represents each key industry sector. These partners have crucial connections within their respective sectors and expertise to know which young companies’ ideas hold the most promise.
Q: What are the benefits of an industry-led accelerator?
A: Accelerator programs can provide a double bottom line for Wisconsin’s most successful and aggressive industry sectors. First, the sectors see new company growth, as startups are nimbler and better prepared for the open market. Second, the new technology and innovation that comes from startups also benefits established industry players, providing new solutions to old problems or pathways to new products. With this type of engagement, WEDC can leverage private and corporate investment to support business, sustainability, innovation and growth in urban and rural environments around the state.
Q: What industry-specific seed accelerators currently exist in Wisconsin?
A: Examples of Wisconsin’s industry-specific seed accelerators include:
The BREW (Business. Research. Entrepreneurship. In Wisconsin) was launched in 2013 by The Water Council. It is devoted to enhancing Milwaukee’s reputation as a hub of global water innovation by supporting industry startups in a dedicated, water-focused entrepreneurial community.
The Midwest Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) operates this 12-week program, which targets engineers, scientists and programmers at every stage of company development who need access to expertise, and who can in turn support the regional cluster of energy, power and controls companies and academic partners.
Every year, 10 growing food and beverage companies are chosen by FaB Wisconsin, the state’s food and beverage industry cluster organization, for inclusion in a year-long, comprehensive business and finance program designed to take them to sustainable success.