2007/10/06

Y Combinator in Wisconsin

An idea recently suggested to me by Justin K., of the Fireseed group, for improving the Wisconsin economy, and specifically for building the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation in the state, is to bring the concept of Y Combinator to Wisconsin.

Justin is in the early stages of formulating details of how the venture will work, but the concept is to build a fund to support early stage start-ups, especially ones focused on high tech and the internet. We discussed possibilities a couple weeks ago when I was in Milwaukee for the Adobe Tech Cafe.

The idea has been mentioned several times since then by Justin and myself to people involved with entrepreneurism and economic development in the state. Those people were intrigued by the idea and wanted to know more about it.

Justin's plan requires roughly a million dollars for the first year to fund three 'semesters' of three to four months with each semester involving four to six start-ups. The start-ups who take part in this program will spend their three to four months working on their business, learning more about what's needed to be successful in a start-up company, and being mentored by those investors to whom they will pitch their company for investment at the end of their time in the program.

Bringing a program like this to Wisconsin will help build the state's reputation for high tech business opportunities, will help the state reverse its brain drain and hopefully bring a few out-of-state entrepreneurs into the area. It will also focus a spotlight on the tech community in the Midwest.

Ideally the program will be funded by a consortium including venture capitalists, angel and early-stage investors, a few large corporations whose management understand the need to provide these types of start-up opportunities in Wisconsin, a wealthy benefactor or two who is passionately interested in promoting high tech companies in Wisconsin, and maybe the Department of Commerce and the Wisconsin Technology Council. If we can connect with the right twenty people in the state, launching this program would only require them to commit $50,000 from the organization they represent.

I have no doubt those twenty people would agree $50,000 is a reasonable amount for each of those organizations to put forward to generate the potential improvements a program like Y Combinator would bring to the Wisconsin economy and culture.

For more info about Justin's idea, to discuss the idea, or to provide seed money to turn this idea into a reality, contact either Justin or me (bob att gmail [dott] com).

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