Photo courtesy of Thomas V, photo-engraver1 via Flickr

If you’ve ever had the luxury of taking a sailing or boating excursion on beautiful Lake Michigan, you likely enjoyed the calm and beautiful environs inside the four miles of breakwater which runs from McKinley Marina all the way south to South Shore Yacht Club. 

If you’re in a big enough vessel to leave the breakwater, you can safely venture forth to explore the exciting open expanse of Lake Michigan. And that’s the thing… size matters when undertaking an adventure into the great unknown. I feel this is an apt metaphor for the Tech Hub Coalition, which was announced on October 4th at Milwaukee’s FallX.

The adventure began with the original and somewhat informal effort to improve Milwaukee’s pipeline of tech talent. Led by Northwestern Mutual and supported by Advocate Aurora for the past several years, it was simply called The Tech Hub. They navigated with growing speed, grace and agility, cutting through the fog of K4 through College STEM education to connect existing programs with talent and resources, while helping new programs navigate for optimal growth. The Tech Hub also deftly launched the Fall Experiment, an event featuring music, art, gaming and tech to further immerse and expose Milwaukeeans to wave after wave of incredibly cool things being done with and around MKE’s tech community. Advocate Aurora and Northwestern Mutual also established simultaneous venture capital funds which focus on funding Milwaukee startups. 

The Tech Hub successfully engaged and activated a diverse collection of individuals, companies and organizations, and much like Sheriff Brody in Jaws, The Tech Hub realized they were “going to need a bigger boat.”

Enter the Tech Hub Coalition, a stand-alone tech-focused non-profit organization funded by six Milwaukee companies. This “bigger boat” is helmed by Accenture, Advocate Aurora, Johnson Controls, Kohl’s, Northwestern Mutual and Rockwell Automation. The Coalition dares to sail beyond the breakwater to explore how to accelerate the growth of Milwaukee’s tech ecosystem by: increasing the number of tech startups in the region; expanding the number of tech companies that relocate to or grow in Milwaukee; cultivating a dynamic vision and image for the region that attracts tech workers; and by developing resources and an environment that supports tech freelancers, contractors, solopreneurs and entrepreneurs. 

Leaving the harbor takes guts, faith, planning, commitment, vision and collaboration to ensure everyone on board can comfortably brave any storms. The Tech Hub Coalition leadership and yet-to-be-announced board and executive director know how much work this journey will take, and have invited all of Milwaukee along for the ride.

They say a rising tide lifts all boats . . . so let’s jump on board, it’s going to be an amazing adventure!

Six area companies launch MKE Tech Hub Coalition with $5 million, from the Biz Times