The weather may be getting colder, but for Wisconsin’s startup ecosystem, the season is just heating up. Entrepreneurs and investors can get a jump start on Startup Wisconsin Week programming by attending the Wisconsin Technology Council’s eighth annual Early Stage Symposium, happening virtually Monday, Nov. 9, through Wednesday, Nov. 11.
A record number of nearly 50 investor groups are taking part in the event, which will feature more than three dozen company presentations, panel discussions and nationally known speakers, as well as plenty of networking opportunities–all on a virtual platform recently rated as No. 1 in its class by an independent agency.
The change to a virtual format hasn’t lessened the number of pitch opportunities available to the early stage ventures attending. The Tech Council Investor Network track offers a select group of startups exclusive access to investors and representatives from almost two dozen Midwest companies working in the advanced manufacturing, technology and medical sectors.
For startups not in the networking track, there is still the opportunity to get in front of angel and venture investors with pitches. Monday evening’s Investor Intros event uses a “speed dating” format, matching entrepreneurs and investors up for quick conversations, and if their goals align, setting a time to talk further.
Closing out the event on Wednesday is the symposium’s highly anticipated Elevator Pitch Olympics. Participating startups have 90 seconds to pitch to conference attendees and a panel of investors who will provide immediate feedback—and potentially offer a follow-up meeting. This year’s judges are representatives from Northwestern Mutual, Matchstick Ventures and Inventure Capital.
In addition to the pitch events, the symposium gives entrepreneurs and investors alike a chance to hear from a wide range of speakers. Tuesday’s keynote will be viral influencer Jon Jacques on how entrepreneurs can build their business through social media, something especially important with the COVID-19 pandemic curtailing most forms of face-to-face business marketing.
Angel and early-stage investors are still searching for promising investments even amid the pandemic. On Tuesday, attendees will have a chance to hear from representatives of the state’s growing number of corporate venture funds. On Wednesday, a panel of principals from Lighthouse Capital, Sandalphon Capital and Dundee Venture Capital will be offering their insights on what they are looking for in young companies, and why they are increasingly looking for those companies in Wisconsin and the Midwest.
As in previous years, there are several sessions on what the future holds in terms of innovation for various technology sectors. This year two of those sessions focus on the future of health care. On Tuesday, researchers from the Epic Health Research Network will dive into how the growth of electronic health records is contributing to the study of population health and helping physicians better diagnose and treat disease. A session on Wednesday will look to the future from a patient’s point of view, examining how artificial intelligence and voice technology is changing health care.
Other sessions highlight advanced manufacturing, bioenergy and data science, including one on UW-Madison’s new partnership with the Canada-based Creative Destruction Lab (CDL). The lab is a unique partnership between academia and industry that hopes to nurture entrepreneurs working on tech-based solutions for identifying, assessing, preventing, mitigating and transferring risk.
American Family Insurance, which is heavily involved in the CDL program, is one of the symposium’s sponsors, along with WEDC, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and several other Wisconsin-based corporations.
For information about the symposium or to register, visit the Wisconsin Technology Council’s website.