Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

WEDC offers entrepreneurial support

Dec. 3, 2014


By Rumasa Noor

The importance of entrepreneurship can never be over-emphasized. It provides a basis for economic growth, job creation and provides a variety of opportunities to people.

Whitewater Innovation Center organizes Elements of Success Seminar series each semester in which it invites experienced business professionals to present and often share the stories of their triumphs.

As part of the series, the Innovation Center invited Lisa Johnson, vice president of entrepreneurship at Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC); Idella Yamben, Ideadvance Program Manager at University of Wisconsin-Extension, and Eric Steege, lean startup coach at WEDC, on Nov. 20.

WEDC was founded three years ago in place of Department of Commerce. The company contributes to Wisconsin’s economic growth through different means including through the provision of monetary resources to local businesses.

One of WEDC’s efforts is the S3 initiative. And part of this initiative is the Capital Catalyst Seed Fund. The fund is created by WEDC to help make seed grants available to businesses and communities fostering entrepreneurship, according to

Another program is the Ideadvance seed fund, which was introduced earlier this year. The program has been funded by WEDC and University of Wisconsin System; both of the institutions added $2 million combined for this program, Johnson said. The purpose of the program is to commercialize the technology and ideas developed at UW campuses.

Ideadvance works everywhere except at UW-Madison, according to Johnson.

These programs are established to encourage student and non-student entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Wisconsin.

“We have them [entrepreneurs] so now what you are hearing is how can we help support those entrepreneurs to keep them here, and to make sure young people,
millennials, students coming up that they feel this is a place where they can start a company,” Johnson said.

Johnson said they are not just handing these grants, businesses would have to work hard to be considered for these programs. She said people are applying for the programs, but she still thinks there is room for marketing them.

“I do think we do see a lot of people applying for these programs, we absolutely do. It doesn’t mean we can’t do a better job marketing them,” Johnson said. “It is important that we are getting out and talking about these programs, making sure people are aware so we are getting all the applications that we should.”

Yamben deals with the application process of the Ideadvance program.

“As we are moving [close to] the deadlines, the process for selection has become more competitive,” Yamben said.

She said the companies who are knowledgeable about their market, who have done some customer discovery, who have better “hypotheses,” and the ones who can enunciate the hypotheses of their business, are the most competitive companies.

The upcoming deadline is Dec. 19 and the following one will be in April, 2015.

Johnson also talked about the Investor tax credit program. Tax credit, unlike deductions and exemptions, lowers the tax owed to the government, according to Investopedia.

Johnson said the program helps “de-risk” the technology-based companies.

“If I am like raising a million dollars for my company, if you invest $100,000 into my company and I am a certified company you are going to get $25,000 tax write-off,” Johnson said. That is an incentive to you to invest in me, I just de-risked you because I am a certified company.”

Another program offered by WEDC is the Technology Development Loan. Johnson said the program is particularly helpful for new tech-startups, who are unable to get a loan from a bank since they are in the early stages of business.

A recently implemented program Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) matching grant is administered by Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) at the University of Wisconsin-Extension. The program is intended to dispense funds and other resources to businesses, according to

Johnson also spoke highly of UW-Whitewater.

“I think this university is excellent, I think they push entrepreneurship within this university especially with Launch Pad,” she said.

She said the Whitewater community is very supportive of entrepreneurship. The Innovation Center provides the kind of support that is hard to spot in other communities, according to her.

This event was the last of the Elements of Success Seminar series, for the semester. One of the organizers and UW-Whitewater alum Roger Gerndt said these events can be extremely valuable for students. Students have an opportunity to network not only with other students but entrepreneurs as well. Even if one is not interested in entrepreneurship, they can still find job opportunities through networking at these events, Gerndt said.

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Founded 1901
WEDC offers entrepreneurial support