Home » Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions


What is Scale Up Milwaukee?

Scale Up Milwaukee is a powerful platform for companies to grow in Milwaukee. At the core is an ever-widening coalition of local, regional and national partners who want to infuse Milwaukee with dramatically increased growth entrepreneurship. The examples above (out of dozens so far) show how sustainable economic growth actually happens – piece by piece, sale-by-sale, hire-by-hire. Scale Up Milwaukee is helping all the stakeholders in a growing Milwaukee to keep replicating and multiplying these. Accelerated growth is becoming a way of life, a way of talking, and a culture in and around Milwaukee.

What are the benefits when companies accelerate their growth?

We know from economies all around the world that accelerated growth entrepreneurship creates increased dynamism for regions, dignified employment for residents, enhanced personal wealth for entrepreneurs and tax revenues for the public sector. The various forms that entrepreneurship may take (self-employment, small businesses, family companies, or startups) can all have these impacts if and when they start to scale up, that is, enter into a relatively rapid growth trajectory, whether it is from 100 to 150 or 5 to 10 people.

Why did Milwaukee leaders invite Scale Up to launch in Milwaukee?

It is a well-kept secret that Milwaukee has tremendous assets: a talented creative class, top notch universities, world class research centers, hundreds of manufacturers, a strong financial community, numerous global leaders, a committed philanthropic community, and a vibrant cultural scene. Yet many of us feel that we are not taking enough advantage of those assets to become a center of growth. We want Scale Up Milwaukee to help us accelerate the use of all of these assets to strengthen Milwaukee’s local and regional economy and entrepreneurship ecosystem for generations to come and for the betterment of all of Milwaukee’s people.

How does Scale Up Milwaukee work?

Scale Up Milwaukee helps connect all of the formal and informal institutions supporting growth into a synergistic “entrepreneurship ecosystem” aligned around one common vision with many common as well as individual benefits.

What is Scale Up Milwaukee’s view of entrepreneurship?

Daniel Isenberg, who founded the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project which provides the professional vision, expertise and methodology for Scale Up Milwaukee, has defined entrepreneurship as consisting of the continual aspiration to grow and to the creation of more-than-average scaling up of business ventures, regardless of the sector or age. Scale Up ventures may be family businesses, startups, manufacturers, services, retailers, or tech companies. Scale Up can mean increased growth of 5%, 25%, 50% or 100%. Many ventures that participate in Scale Up programs find growth to be almost immediate and significant.

Who is driving Scale Up Milwaukee?

Scale Up Milwaukee is an initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. Since the project’s launch in April, 2013, the core group has widened to include the GMC and many of its members, WEDC, the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project, UWM, Mayor Tom Barrett’s office, M-7, WHEDA, WWBIC and others. We invite all institutions and individuals – local, regional, and national – that have a stake in helping Milwaukee-area businesses to participate and benefit from Milwaukee ventures scaling up.

What has the pilot phase of Scale Up Milwaukee achieved so far?

In the six-month pilot phase, Scale Up Milwaukee worked with more than 2,500 public and private leaders, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, investors and faculty members from across the region. Activities included facilitating new ways of engagement between larger corporations and growing entrepreneurs, helping faculty from Chicago to Madison learn how to highlight local entrepreneur role models with case-writing, working intensely with twelve regional ventures to achieve numerous specific growth events (new sales, new expansions, new financings), helping the mayor’s office communicate clearly about growth entrepreneurship, and beginning to catalyze the banks’, other finance providers,’ and equity investors’ collaborations.

What is new or different about Scale Up Milwaukee?

Most economic development initiatives take a piecemeal approach to foster entrepreneurship-driven growth. Scale Up Milwaukee takes a broad and inclusive view of entrepreneurship: any firm, regardless of age, sector, size and history, can in principle scale up. What it takes is the ambition to grow, a scalable model, access to the resources to grow when they are ready, and the signals from all around them that growth is good and possible.

My organization supports entrepreneurs; how can we get involved?

All of the regional actors and institutions have an essential role in stimulating, guiding, encouraging, and celebrating those growth ambitions and growth events, as small or large as they might be. These actors – including university faculty and students, corporate executives, entrepreneurship support organizations, banks, public finance providers, government officials and policy makers at all levels, commercial associations, successful entrepreneurs, startup networks, the media, investors, and many others make up what we call the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Does Milwaukee have an entrepreneurship problem?

Milwaukee has many of the same opportunities, and challenges, that most metro regions in the US have, particularly those with a deep manufacturing legacy. It is easy to misinterpret reports that Wisconsin is low in startups – so is California. Nebraska and North Dakota are actually at the top. It is the quality (that means, growth) of the scale ups, not the quantity of the new businesses, that drives regional growth. Milwaukee has significant assets to take advantage of to support new growth of ventures of all ages.

Who is providing the funding?

The majority of the funding comes from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the GMC and its members.

Will Scale Up Milwaukee spread to other cities in Wisconsin or other states?

It is hard to keep a good thing secret, and we are sure that as Milwaukee shows concrete success, the world will take notice. Scale Up Milwaukee has already generated inquiries or visits from states such as Florida and Ohio, but also interest in Canada, England, Colombia and Denmark. And we are just getting started. The increased awareness of Scale Up Milwaukee is helping Milwaukee cultivate, retain, and attract resources that business ventures need in order to grow.

What is the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project (BEEP)?

In 2010, Daniel Isenberg, formerly an entrepreneur, investor, and professor at Harvard and Columbia, launched BEEP to help cities and regions learn new ways to foster entrepreneurship ecosystems. There are ongoing projects in Colombia and Denmark, and BEEP has attracted the attention of the World Economic Forum, the G20, and other leading organizations. It has also been highlighted in Forbes, Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal and earned an award from Mikhail Gorbachev for “innovation in economic development.”

How do I participate?

If you are running a business with revenues and a strong ambition to grow, watch out for activities to work with us to co-create specific programs, stay tuned for special training programs, and apply to our next highly competitive Scalerator program.  If you are interested in membership, please email our membership department. We have activities for public sector officials, researchers and faculty, people involved in economic development organizations, and others. If you simply want to follow what we are doing and receive notices and invitations from time to time, please click here.