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A 2021 calendar of startup and entrepreneur opportunities in Wisconsin

With 2020 behind us, we’re previewing what 2021 has in store for Wisconsin’s entrepreneurs, startups and venture investors with this list of events, accelerators, pitch opportunities and more. It’s a credit to Wisconsin’s innovative spirit and this is far from a complete list.

Where available, we’ve included information on application and registration deadlines, as well as event dates.

Conferences

  • New North Summit (March 11) – A regional summit bringing together business, education and community leaders from around the region to connect with network contacts, share economic development updates and more.
  • OnRamp Insurance Conference (May 4) – A virtual conference bringing together the insurance industry’s leading corporations, investors and startups to talk about how new technologies and business models are reinventing the industry.
  • OnRamp Impact Conference (July 27) – For anyone making impact investments, building relationships with community organizations and leveraging their brand to make a difference in the world.
  • Badger Startup Summit (August) – Bringing together the many groups that make up Madison’s startup ecosystem.
  • Forward Fest (August) – Wisconsin’s largest technology and entrepreneurship festival, with events throughout the Madison area, including the Startup Showcase and Mad Minute pitch competitions.
  • OnRamp Healthcare Conference (August 19) – A conference on the innovations that are disrupting health care and the future of medicine, the health care leaders making such innovations possible and how new technologies and business models will reinvent the industry.
  • Startup 48 (October) – A 48-hour event where aspiring Eau Claire-area entrepreneurs can learn what it takes to create a startup, from pitching an idea to presenting to a panel of judges.
  • The Wisconsin Technology Council’s Early Stage Symposium (November) – Connecting early stage companies with investor and resources, including the popular Elevator Pitch Olympics and Investor Intros. Pitch applications due in September.
  • Startup Wisconsin Week (November) – A week-long effort to create a positive and lasting impact that will advance the state’s economy forward, with programming and events happening throughout the state.

Pitch Opportunities

  • Doyenne’s 5x5x5 (Applications due early Spring) – Competitions in both Milwaukee and Madison; 5 women-led ventures, 5 minutes to pitch, one receives a $5,000 grant.
  • Madison Chamber’s Pressure Chamber (Forward Fest, August) – Startups pitch to a panel of regional and national investors for a chance at the coveted “golden suitcase,” and a spot in the Chamber’s annual trip to meet with top Silicon Valley investment firms in fall.
  • Pitch & RePlay (Badger Startup Summit, August) – A unique opportunity for entrepreneurs to fine tune their pitch in a non-competitive environment and get immediate feedback from five different small but eager audiences.
  • The Idea Challenge (June-October; final competition in December) – A series of pitch opportunities for Eau Claire-area entrepreneurs, with monthly winners competing for a grand prize in December.

Accelerator Programs

  • gener8tor Madison (March 4 – June 3) – Each Spring, gener8tor invests in five high-growth startups in software, IT, web, SaaS, life science, medtech, agtech, insurtech, edtech, e-commerce and hardware. Accepted startups receives up to $100K investment and 12 weeks of mentorship-driven programming. Applications close January 18.
  • OnRamp Insurance Accelerator (April 23 – July 16) – A three-month concierge accelerator program where five participating insurtech startups receive a cash investment of $100,000, office space and access to gener8tor’s global network of mentors and investors. Applications open now.
  • Creative Destruction Lab – Risk Stream (July – November) – For startups focusing on emerging technologies related to identifying, assessing, preventing, mitigating, and transferring risk. Participants will work with mentors over 5 one-day sessions where they will sharpen their objectives, prioritize time and resources, and raise capital. Applications due in summer.
  • The Blueprint – Provides $100,000 in seed capital, entrepreneurial and technology training for promising Milwaukee startups.
  • The Brew 2.0 – A two-week post-accelerator program for late-stage water tech startups to build the skills and connections needed to scale and grow.
  • gBeta – A free, seven-week accelerator hosted in Madison, Milwaukee, Beloit and Northern Wisconsin for early-stage companies. Each program is capped at five teams and requires no fees and no equity. Applications are currently open.
  • gBeta Social Impact – A free, seven-week accelerator that works with startups building products or services addressing equity in education or criminal justice reform.
  • WARF Accelerator – Provides resources, industry expertise and targeted funding for inventors in the clean technology, computer science and engineering, food and agricultural and health care sectors to help de-risk commercially promising technologies and advance them closer to the marketplace.
  • WERCBench Labs – Startup companies in the energy, power and controls sector use a lean startup method to advance their businesses, attract investors and compete in the market. Applications due in summer for fall cohort.

Other

  • Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest (Applications due January 31) – Engages up-and-coming entrepreneurs in a five-month process that includes the opportunity to work with mentors and receive feedback from judges.
  • Wisconsin Innovation Awards (Applications due in Spring; ceremony in Fall) – Celebrating groundbreaking ideas from across Wisconsin in sectors ranging from agriculture and tech to education and social services.
  • The Water Council’s Tech Challenge (Applications due in November) – A global competition for students, researchers, entrepreneurs and professionals, designed to identify cutting-edge freshwater technologies with a high potential for commercialization and/or implementation.

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