On Friday September 27th, we invited bankers, equity investors and entrepreneurs to come together for a dialogue on the availability of capital in the Milwaukee region, creating a dynamic and interactive conversation among the different representatives of each sector. The following were the objectives of the workshop:
- To improve the understanding between the entrepreneurial community and the providers of finance (from angel to institutional investors, from debt to equity, and alternative financing sources).
- To improve the understanding among themselves of the different finance providers.
- To set a practical agenda for continuing to improve this ongoing dialog and engagement.
Facilitator and Scalerator instructor, Les Charm of Babson College, led the group through the exercises focused on the capital needs of growth companies. While many companies can be established and successful with sales in the $1 million range, there are about 6% of all firms with the desire, the business model and the ambition to grow beyond this level.
After Les Charm presented the “big picture” about the current state of financing for businesses on a national level, he honed in on what Milwaukee is currently experiencing and the group offered many insights. To further expand the dialogue, everyone broke out into smaller groups to discuss specific challenges that exist for lenders, investors and the entrepreneurs.
In the spirit of identifying “next steps” for improving the flow of finance to growth companies or scale ups (beyond the start up phase), Les Charm asked the group what the Milwaukee region can do to better support these scaling companies?
- Better train the entrepreneurs/borrowers so they approach the funders with the correct information and funding request.
- Provide lenders more information on the capital needs of growth companies.
- Encourage all funders to be more open to new and innovative ideas, products, and markets.
- Provide more networking and opportunities for funders to meet and understand each other and their funding targets.
- Provide opportunities for growth companies to ‘pitch’ to all funders and introduce their company.
- Encourage all funders–private and public to be more responsive–say “no” faster if that is the answer.
- Support more sales locally with ‘date nights’ for growth companies and potential customers to meet.
- Continue developing sources of private equity capital for angel and venture investing.
- Engage more corporate and philanthropic participation in supporting growing companies.
Part of Scale Up’s goal is to help change the dialogue in Milwaukee and this workshop was designed to create an opportunity to impact the community conversation by bringing the different financial players into the same room. We hope to continue to facilitate more workshops like this one as the Scale Up initiative moves forward.