gener8tor: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

It’s been a few years now since I wrote my first appreciation for the folks at gener8tor.  Back then, they had just launched, and yours truly was surprised (albeit very pleasantly) that they had gotten not just off the ground but had achieved some sort of seemingly stable orbit.  Which surprised a bunch of people, I think.  I know it surprised me.

Well, here we are in November 2017 and they have flown well beyond Madison and Milwaukee to places as far afield as Minnesota, Illinois and even my own neck of the woods up here in Packerland.  Recently, it was my good fortune that a scheduled speaker for a OpenBETA Lunch program in Oshkosh had a last minute scheduling conflict.  My good fortune in that I was offered an opportunity to substitute as the headliner for the event.

The Oshkosh event was a lot like my first time at gener8tor way back when in Milwaukee.  Quirky space, a roomful (well, ok, maybe a half-dozen plus) of raw but passionate and very early-in-the-process entrepreneurs.  Who asked good questions, and shared some good ideas.

What was most interesting about the event, for me, was in fact how it took me back to those early gener8tor classes, where the entrepreneurs were rawer than raw, and the ideas sketchier than sketchy.  And, in fact, what amazed me about gener8tor then – and caused me to write my initial blog about the program and team – was how over the couple of months after I saw that cohort of newbies the gener8tor folks had somehow worked some magic to turn them into that rarest of commodities hereabouts, fundable high impact entrepreneurs.  (And, yes, they all got funded.)

Since those times, gener8tor’s flagship program has expanded to new places and moved a bit downstream in terms of appealing to less raw, even semi-polished entrepreneurs (often hailing from well beyond Wisconsin).  And I’ll admit, I had (and to a limited extent still have) some doubts about whether they can sustain their success across multiple markets and with later stage entrepreneurs.  But the results continue to speak for themselves, and if we – that is those of us who are serious about growing the high impact entrepreneurship and investing community in our little corner of flyover country – are lucky gener8tor has a lot of fuel left in the tank.

All of that said, what really made my day at the OpenBETA event was seeing gener8tor staying true to its “rawest of the raw” roots, and doing it in the New North.  In Oshkosh even.  (They also have a new gBeta program in Green Bay.)   That means, I think, that it won’t be long until entrepreneurs and investors in Madison and Milwaukee start  realizing there are deals to be done in Wisconsin in places other than Madison (mostly) and Milwaukee.

And so congratulations to all of us in the high impact entrepreneurship and investing community across Wisconsin.  We are the lucky benefactors of the gener8tor program – the gift that keeps on giving.

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Maybe It Can Happen Here

By: Paul A. Jones

Having been around the high impact startup and venture capital business for almost 30 years, on both coasts and now here in Wisconsin, I’ve developed a pretty good set of rules of thumb.  One of them is that while all kinds of folks like to think they can duplicate the success of venture-center accelerators like YCombinator, most of them – particularly in flyover country – can’t.  The fact is, very few folks in the accelerator business have the skills, experience, networks and capital to even approach the value add proposition of a YCombinator.

Thus, a year or so back, when I first heard of the folks at gener8tor, then setting up shop in Milwaukee, I was more than a little skeptical.  And when I met gener8tors first class, early in the process, my skepticism only grew.

Alas – well, actually, happily, as someone who continues to believe that Wisconsin can develop a self-sustaining high tech startup/venture capital community – when I saw that class at Launch Day 2012 I was, if not stunned, at least very surprised at what I saw and heard.  Entrepreneurs that a couple of months earlier seemed more or less like clueless wannabes were now looking like credible go-getters with fundable business plans.  Not surprisingly, most of them got funded, and several are making waves well beyond flyover country.

Now, on any given day, anything can happen.  Just ask the Florida Gulf Coast University Men’s Basketball Team.  Well, here we are in 2013 and … the folks at gener8tor have done it again, this time here in Madison.  They sifted through 200 plus entrepreneur applicants, picked out six keepers, and in 12 weeks of intense counseling, mentoring, prodding, testing and pivoting, they are ready to launch 6 more promising high impact businesses into the economy.  I know because as advisor to an angel fund, I had an opportunity to see the pre-Launch day pitches this week and, well, while I very much doubt all of these companies will hit home runs, I’d be surprised if they all don’t at least raise some serious capital and take a serious shot at success.  Which is a lot more than I can say for most of the startup entrepreneurs/deals that come across my desk.  If you don’t believe me, come to gener8tor’s Launch Day April 4 in Madison and see for yourself.  For a free ticket, email joe@gener8tor.com.