Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee may be known as the home to multiple breweries, but Wisconsin’s largest city is establishing itself as a hub for Midwest entrepreneurship.

Milwaukee, WI is the state’s largest city and the country’s 31st-largest. Known primarily as home to a number of breweries, the city’s nicknames include the Beer City and Brew Town. Although many of those are no longer in the city, it is establishing itself as a hub for Midwest entrepreneurship.

Milwaukee ranked 29th in Inc.’s Surge Cities Index, a ranking of the 50 best cities in American for starting a business. The Kauffman Index had Milwaukee ranked 22nd in established small business activity and Wisconsin as a whole second among the 25 larger states. Meanwhile, the city ranked 61st on WalletHub’s list of the best metro areas for STEM professionals and 132nd on the site’s list of the best large cities to start a small business, with a rank of 41 in the “Business Costs” category.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Milwaukee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Milwaukee is home to one branch of Girl Develop It, an organization dedicated to helping teach women how to code and develop software.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Milwaukee area can gather regularly at Milwaukee Business Professionals meetings.

The Milwaukee Small Business Meetup Group hosts weekly meetings to help area entrepreneurs and small business owners grow their businesses.

Located just outside of Milwaukee in Brookfield, Wisconsin Business Owners hosts monthly networking and educational meetings for business owners and entrepreneurs.

The Women Business Owners and Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs organizations host monthly networking meetings for women entrepreneurs and business owners.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

Cream City Code is an annual one-day conference for software developers and coders to meet one another, share knowledge and more.

Wisconsin’s governor holds an annual meeting near Milwaukee for small business leaders to meet one another and make connections.

Startup Wisconsin Week, a series of entrepreneurship conferences and events, is held in cities around the state, including Milwaukee.

Milwaukee hosts annual Women’s Entrepreneurship Day events, a one-day conference celebrating women in entrepreneurship and small business.


Startup Competitions:

Project Pitch It is a weekly show on local station WISN in which local entrepreneurs pitch and compete for awards with a total value of $30,000.

Startup Milwaukee hosts a pair of startup competition events, Emerge and Reverse Pitch MKE, that area entrepreneurs can enter and compete for cash and investment.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison hosts the Student Startup Challenge, a competition open to all students and recent alumni of the university.


Co-working Spaces:

Specifically designed to support entrepreneurs, The Hive offers a variety of flexible membership plans and hosts regular events.

The Hudson is a co-working space that focuses on the “river of ideas” and offers an array of amenities, including a café and lounge.

Wauwatosa, a suburb of Milwaukee, is home to upscale co-working space Serendipity Labs, which offers a wide variety of membership plans.

Ward4 is a co-working space that offers individual memberships and private office options , as well as free day passes for trials.


Maker spaces:

Marquette University’s 707 Hub makes a variety of entrepreneurial resources available to students and faculty, including a maker space.

Milwaukee Makerspace offers a variety of tools and equipment as well as classes and workshops to its members and hosts regular free-to-the-public nights.

The Mitchell Street branch of the Milwaukee Public Library includes a “high-tech maker space” in its 23,000 square foot space.



In addition to the maker space and other resources at Marquette, the 707 Hub Bootcamp is a five-week program that supports entrepreneurship from the campus and community.

Carrying on Milwaukee’s proud tradition of brewing, Barley to Barrel is a 10-week incubator program for brewery startups.

The Commons is a program that works with college students regardless of university, program or year designed to help them enter the region’s innovation economy.

The MKE Fashion Incubator works with fashion designers in the area to help them launch and grow businesses and fashion lines.

The Technology Innovation Center at Research Park is a collection of resources, labs and working space designed to help startups and small businesses grow.

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The BREW (Business – Research – Entrepreneurship – in Water) is an accelerator program for freshwater startups.

With main offices in Milwaukee as well as Madison, WI and Minneapolis, MN, gener8tor is a nationally-renowned accelerator program that runs for 12 weeks and invests $100,000.

The flagship program of Scale Up Milwaukee, the Scale Up Growth Accelerator works primarily with companies on sales and marketing, organizational development and financing.

The WERCBench Labs Accelerator works with up to 10 promising businesses in the Energy, Power and Controls industry per year.



Marquette University’s Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship offers a major in entrepreneurship and a number of programs for students.

Milwaukee Area Technical College offers a technical diploma and certificate program in entrepreneurship.

The Lubar Entrepreneurship Center at UWM organizes programs, events, and courses for entrepreneurial-minded students.

University Entrepreneur Program Spotlight: University of Michigan


Angel Groups/VCs:

Fund Milwaukee is an organization dedicated to financing and supporting local businesses through loans and investments in order to grow the economy.

Golden Angels Investors is a group of angel investors that invest individually in promising companies, with a focus on healthcare technology, education technology and B2B applications.

An angel firm based in Milwaukee, Silicon Pastures primarily invests in technology companies based in the Midwest, especially those related to energy and water.

The Wisconsin Super Angel Fund aims to invest in high-growth early-stage startups from around the state.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

BizTimes, a magazine covering business news in Milwaukee and the surrounding area, offers free e-newsletters.

The Milwaukee Business Journal offers a morning edition newsletter, an afternoon edition and breaking news alerts.

Among the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s numerous newsletter offerings is Business Watch Delivered, which sends business news and headlines Monday through Friday.

Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Milwaukee not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

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Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.