Develop Wisconsin recently announced the kickoff of the I/94 Innovation Lab, a business accelerator that leverages the start-up ecosystem of the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison business mega-ecosystem. Damon Dorsey, President and Founder of Develop Wisconsin says that the “I/94 Innovation Lab aims to prepare and connect businesses to the resources, connections and capital – especially venture capital – they need to get to the next level.” Dorsey says that entrepreneurs in Wisconsin are largely disconnected from the process of securing capital from venture capital and angel investors, and he expects the I/94 Innovation Lab can help make more connections possible.

Why the I/94 corridor? Following are several reasons why the I/94 is critical to the growth of startup businesses in Wisconsin:

  • The I/94 corridor of Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison is the economic hub of the Great Lakes Mega-region. If it stood alone as a country, the economy of the Great Lakes Mega-region would be one of the largest economic units in the world with a $4.5-trillion gross regional product, roughly equal to Japan‘s.
  • The Chicago metropolitan area is by far the megalopolis’s largest economy with over $770 billion in annual GDP. Tourism is important to the overall region’s economy as well.
  • The I/94 Innovation Corridor is close to world class universities and university systems, including: the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University in the Chicago area; Marquette University, Milwaukee School of Engineering and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Milwaukee area; and the University of Wisconsin – Madison in the Madison area. The I/94 corridor is also in proximity to large multi-campus state university systems such as the University of Illinois System and the  University of Wisconsin System.
  • Chicago is a world-class city when it comes to venture capital investment, attracting more than $10 billion of investment in 2022.

The I/94 Innovation Lab expects to support five to ten business raise $5 to $10 million per year of capital. For more information, click on the link below.

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