Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Oshkosh-Neenah, WI

Oshkosh-Neenah, WI

Oshkosh-Neenah, WI are a pair of quaint cities with interesting histories leading back to the beginning of lumber and paper industries.

Oshkosh and Neenah, WI, is a pair of cities in the state’s Winnebago County. Though both cities are relatively small, both have a history as homes to successful industries. Oshkosh earned the nickname “Sawdust City” early in its history due to the local lumber industry, while the paper industry in Neenah has given it the name “Paper City.” Today, the economies of Oshkosh and Neenah are more varied than their nicknames suggest and include a robust entrepreneurial scene.

Both cities appeared on WalletHub’s 2019 list of the best small cities to start a business: Oshkosh at 609th overall (377th in the “Business Costs” category) and Neenah at 690th (505th in the “Access to Resources” and 428th in the “Business Costs” category). Additionally, in Forbes’ rankings of the best small places for business and careers, Oshkosh ranked 62nd out of 200. Finally, the Oshkosh-Neenah area ranked 24th overall in a 2019 Verizon study exploring the most innovative metropolitan areas in the United States.

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

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

The HBBA organization (Helping Businesses Build Assets) helps to support small business owners by hosting professional networking events in cities throughout the area.

Digital Fertilizer is a community located just down the road from Oshkosh-Neenah in De Pere that aims to support promising technology startups throughout Northeast Wisconsin.

Located in Neenah, the Fox Valley Business Intelligence and Analytics works to support business and entrepreneurship throughout the area using analytics.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

Appleton is home to one branch of 1 Million Cups, a nationwide organization that hosts monthly events in which entrepreneurs meet one another and pitch ideas.

The Fox Cities Chamber, an organization concerning an area that includes Neenah, hosts a number of networking events and business awards ceremonies.

The Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce hosts a variety of events, including regular networking opportunities, an annual business expo and social opportunities.

Cities around the state of Wisconsin host a variety of events related to business and entrepreneurship over the course of one week every year.


Startup Competitions:

The Pitch is a startup competition open to teams made up from college students throughout Northeast Wisconsin including Oshkosh-Neenah.

One of two entrepreneurship competitions hosted by UW Oshkosh, the Business Model Competition allows students to compete for $50,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.

Winners of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Elevator Pitch Competition receives an all-expense paid trip to Florida to compete in the Global Pitch Competition.

Student teams from universities around the state of Wisconsin (excluding UW-Madison) can compete in the annual Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament.

Wisconsin residents and those planning to locate a business in the state can compete in the annual Governor’s Business Plan Contest.


Co-working Spaces:

Appleton Coworking offers a wide variety of membership plans to gain access to their 2,000-square feet of office space with unique tables made from bowling lanes.

Located in the RiverHealth development in Appleton, Menlo Park Coworking Space offers several membership plans and the opportunity to try two days for free.

Rise & Grind has locations in Oshkosh-Neenah and Green Bay, both of which offer three membership levels: traditional, flex-style co-working, a designated desk, and a private office.



The Appleton Makerspace is a community workshop and makerspace. They provide access to an array of tools and equipment for prototyping and small-scale manufacturing.

Down the road from Oshkosh, the Fond Du Lac Public Library offers the Idea Studio, a small makerspace that includes everything from LEGOs to a pair of 3D printers.

The Rehabit Makerspace is located in Oshkosh and places a particular emphasis on makers and artists that work with textiles and wood.



The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh hosts a Small Business Development Center that helps support area small business owners through mentorship and other programming.

Students at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh can take part in the 12-week Summer Incubator Program and work to grow their startups full-time.

With locations throughout the state, including one in Appleton, the WWBIC aims to support all business, especially those lead by women and other traditionally underprivileged groups.



AeroInnovate is an Oshkosh-based business accelerator program specifically aimed at supporting startups in the aviation, aerospace and UAS industries.

gBETA, a short seven-week accelerator program organized by nationally-recognized startup accelerator gener8tor, operates a program located in and serving Northeast Wisconsin.

Organized by the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, the Titan Accelerator Program works with up to six student teams every year for a period of 12 weeks.



The Venture Center at Fox Valley Technical College organizes a variety of students, both inside and outside of the classroom, for students interested in entrepreneurship and small business.

In Appleton, Lawrence University offers entrepreneurship-focused courses and programs with both scientific and artistic focuses.

Moraine Park Technical College in Fond Du Lac offers both a certificate program in entrepreneurship and associate degree in small business.

UW Oshkosh’s Alta Resources Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation hosts a number of events and programs for student entrepreneurs and offers a certificate program.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Angels on the Water, an angel investment group that aims to support innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the state, is based in Oshkosh.

Based down the road from Oshkosh in Little Chute, New Capital Fund invests in manufacturing, information technology and life sciences startups headquartered in or adjacent to Wisconsin.

Founded in 2016 in Neenah, the Winnebago Seed Fund invests in companies throughout Wisconsin, placing a particular focus on Winnebago County and the Fox Valley region.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

The Business News, which has different sections covering different areas of Wisconsin, offers subscriptions for just $20 per year.

The Oshkosh Northwestern, along with several other newspapers serving the surrounding areas, offers a variety of newsletters including one promising business headlines.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation offers a wide variety of newsletters focusing on different topics relating to the state’s business and economic news.

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

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Milwaukee, WI, Madison, WI, Chicago, IL

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.