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2017 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium: Omni's Key Takeaways

If I asked you to rattle off cities that come to mind when you think of startups, I bet you may list: San Francisco, Austin, New York, LA, Boston, Denver, or some of the other major names. All those locations would make wonderful places to get your startup off the ground, but more entrepreneurs are realizing the challenges those markets produce as well: the inflated cost of living & doing business and heavy competition. 

More and more startups are making their home in Wisconsin. Milwaukee and Madison have both been featured in recent publications showcasing why entrepreneurs ought to consider these locations over the more popular picks. In fact, Madison was listed as one of Technet’s Top 25 “Next in Tech” Cities. This list showcases cities that are fostering Startup Growth that fall outside the top 10 major startup hubs. 

It’s no surprise to us at Omni that Madison made the list at #16 after our participation in the 2017 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium last week. As a new sponsor to the Wisconsin Technology Council we jumped right in and got involved with this event that connects young companies with eager investors. We sent a team of six to the event, including four from our leadership team and we enjoyed meeting many attendees that stopped by our booth and those we connected with throughout the conference. 

I asked the members of our group that attended to share key takeaways they had from the conference. Here’s what they had to share: 

Maureen Haeger, Vice President of Marketing & Communications – “I had an amazing whirlwind first week at Omni and I was privileged to attend the 2017 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium which brought together local entrepreneurs with investors. My favorite session was the un-keynote by Tamara Kleinberg. She was extremely engaging and reminded us all to be disruptive innovators. At one point during her presentation, she brought us back to our youth and had us play rock, paper, scissors with those seated at our table. Then she changed the rules and it was amazing how it slowed down the pace of the game when we played with new rules. She pointed out that it is understandable that when you change the rules, things may be a little slower than you would want and things won’t go as smoothly. Another favorite quote of mine was, “Someone else’s challenge is your opportunity”. That is how I feel about Omni. We take our clients ideas and transform them into technology. We encourage our clients to think boldly, and then we do the rest!  I was also lucky to win a copy of her book, Think Sideways: A game changing playbook for disruptive innovation. I am very excited to read this book and figure out how I can apply it to my new role at Omni.” 

Eric Evans, Solutions Director – “My favorite part of the conference was watching the 5-minute pitches for all the new startups. From stackable wine glasses to neonatal care, the wide variety and the innovation of the entrepreneurs at the conference were inspiring. It was great to see how startups work to get their funding and drive excitement around opportunities that are just a fraction away from being pure ideas. It’s inspiring on a lot of levels and I think will help Omni launch some of our own ideas into the market and into the stratosphere!”   

Don Cotey, President/CEO – “Wisconsin has a very vibrant and growing ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, providers and supporters. The startup movement across the state is alive and well! Innovation has no geographic biases and great ideas can come from a vast variety of sources. Events like the Early Stage Symposium are fantastic for making the Wisconsin Startup Community visible to all. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet and network with a cadre of innovators!  

The consensus across numerous “pure startups” and “early stage companies” that I spoke with was that information technology continues to be a major driver of industry disruption and hence, there is an explosion of new business opportunities emerging around technology-based business models. As a Wisconsin-based company founded in 1984, Omni is proud to provide technology development and support services to Wisconsin’s entrepreneurs that are inventing the next generation of high growth businesses that are making a real difference in our society.” 

Personally, I had the chance to break away from the booth for one session on “How social media can help you raise investor dollars” led by Spencer X Smith, Andrew Foxwell, Jen Savino, and Don Stanley. Hearing from these well-respected professionals in their industry speak about a topic, social media, that I have a passion for was very invigorating. I walked away with some new perspective on when to use the three kinds of social: earned, paid, and owned. I also added the article, “1,000 True Fans” by Kevin Kelly, and the book, Start with Why: How Great Leades Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek, to my “must read” list. An unexpected moment was bumping into UW Badger Men’s Basketball phenom and a preseason candidate for national player of the year, Ethan Happ, as we were setting up our booth. Ethan was working with the event staff that was hosting the conference at the Monona Terrace and was gracious enough to take pictures with many of the attendees at the conference.  

Back to the original topic though...if you are considering a location for your new business, are looking for a place to connect with like-minded individuals or potential investors, or need assistance making your dream into a reality with the use of technology, Madison should be on your radar! Give us a call to set up a Discovery Workshop so we can figure out how we can help you accomplish your mission.

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Keegan O'Brien

About Author Keegan O'Brien

Keegan O’Brien is a former Marketing Manager for Omni. Keegan managed the social media platforms for Omni and helped to plan and manage all promotional efforts for the organization. Prior to Omni, he taught marketing at the high school level in the Fox Valley for over 10 years. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout with a marketing education degree and a minor in business administration.



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