Even with the creation of new businesses, Wisconsin has landed in last place for the second year in a row when it comes to startup business activity.
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation released a report in late August on state trends, which found that even though key measures of new business creation in the United States are rising, Wisconsin ranked 50th in the nation.
The report looked at three main components: the rate of new entrepreneurs, the the percentage of new entrepreneurs starting businesses because they saw market opportunities and startup density — the rate at which new businesses are created. All of the numbers except startup density rose from 2015, but in comparison to other states all three components were either last or second to last.
Dan Olszewski, the director of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin School of Business, said he thinks Wisconsin was ranked so low because of an older than average population, historically fewer entrepreneurial success stories, a culturally more risk-averse market than other entrepreneurial locations and success in manufacturing and agriculture.
Though Wisconsin as a whole was ranked lower, Olszewski said Madison’s entrepreneurial results are stronger than the state average. He said this is partially due to having UW and Epic Systems both located in the area.
“Both of these organizations are bringing large numbers of incredibly talented individuals to the area to work and study,” Olszewski said. “Some of these individuals stay in the region when they decide to launch their startup.”
In recent years, entrepreneurial community groups like 100state and Capital Entrepreneurs have formed in Madison to connect fellow business starters in the area.
Olszewski said these groups are a great addition to the entrepreneurial ecosystem so various entrepreneurs can share ideas, build teams, make connections to the community and support one another.
Gregory St. Fort, executive director at 100state, said these coworking spaces are a great way to be close to those who are like-minded or may work with you on projects.
“In the last few years, there have been a lot more collaborations and success coming from the organizations like 100state or gener8tor,” St. Fort said. “I think there’s more of that to come.”
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Olszewski said to help improve the overall startup climate, that state should develop initiatives to keep more foreign students in Wisconsin after graduation. Additionally, improving connections in communities to bring entrepreneurs together and ensuring more students graduate with the necessary skills to build businesses of the future are both key factors as well.
As a way to help students interested in building businesses, he said every semester the Weinert Center holds an event called PartnerUp designed to help students pitch ideas and recruit team members with necessary skills like programming, data analytics and critical thinking.
“Almost all successful startups are built by a team, so while a single individual won’t need all of these skills, they need to be able to build a team that has everything that is required,” Olszewski said.
St. Fort said having more collaboration and coworking spaces throughout all of Wisconsin, could help to improve Wisconsin’s success when it comes to startups.
He also said multiple startups in one location can give more people access to resources that might not have been previously available.
“We need to just keep building on that trend, the resources that are there and see how we can grow from there going forward,” St. Fort said.