Startups jockey to catch the eye of Joe Kirgues, Bus Ad ’05, cofounder of gener8tor.
People in the know have called gener8tor “the premier startup facilitator in Wisconsin.” Consider the numbers. The company was launched the summer of 2012 with a portfolio of just seven startups. Now the portfolio boasts 42 successful high-growth startups that have raised $80 million in follow-on financing and brought 400+ jobs to Wisconsin.
There are plenty of examples. They include EatStreet, which Kirgues describes as “the third largest online food court in America.” Working late? Order takeout at Eatstreet.com. In EatStreet, gener8tor saw a unique idea and founders who “proved with execution they could distinguish themselves,” says Kirgues.
With advice from gener8tor’s league of mentors, the startup UnderStory pivoted from developing a device to measure air pollution across neighborhoods to a device to track weather phenomena and provide real-time information about storm intensity, an important change for property insurers. The company has raised $9 million in financing to date.
These are great wins, Kirgues admits, but he also laments, “We blow it a lot, too.” It’s hard not to when you’re speculating a lot — on people, their theories and their execution.
Gener8tor opens an application process every six months during which applicants pitch products. More than 500 applicants vied for five slots in the most recent cycle. It’s easy to see why. Those gener8tor takes on participate in a 12-week “concierge experience,” with access to 120 computer and investment mentors. They receive $20,000 in seed money in exchange for a 6 percent equity stake and $70,000 follow-on investment if they hit their marks.
“It really doesn’t feel like work,” Kirgues says of helping startups chart a course. “It feels like a mission to engage the community in creating wealth and jobs.” — Joni Moths Mueller