Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

In an ecosystem, it takes the collaboration of a variety of elements and organisms to foster growth and keep a continued balance.

The same idea is being applied to this spring’s “Entrepreneurial Ecosystem” Wisconsin Idea Forum.

Bringing together Wisconsin community leaders and UW-System students, the forum’s goal is to encourage entrepreneurship in Wisconsin.

“Students are the entrepreneurs of the future … they are essential to the conversation,” UW-Whitewater Office of Research and Sponsored Programs Director Denise Ehlen said. “What they learn in the forum, we want them to take out to their businesses and careers.”


Ehlen, the chair of the forum planning committee, said she hopes students from all over Wisconsin attend.

The forum, which for the first time will be hosted by UW-Whitewater, will be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

There will also be a pre-event workshop from 4:30-6 p.m. tomorrow at the Whitewater Innovation Center. The forum and pre-event workshop are open to the public with registration.

The forum will consist of a keynote presentation and multiple break-out sessions for smaller discussion.

Presenting the keynote address will be Jeff Vanevenhoven and Doan Winkel. Vanevenhoven is an assistant professor of management and the entrepreneurship major coordinator at UW-Whitewater. Winkel is an assistant professor of entrepreneurship in the Department of Management and Quantitative Method at Illinois State University.


Vanevenhoven said faculty and staff will benefit from the forum by learning new and current ways to teach entrepreneurship, and community members will learn about current and new businesses in their area.

There are three main points Vanevenhoven said he hopes to discuss during his keynote presentation: to share Whitewater’s successes for visitors to take back to their campuses; a global project he directs with Winkel; and finally, how an entrepreneurial ecosystem develops and is maintained.

According to Vanevenhoven, some examples of the essential needs of an entrepreneurial ecosystem are needing experts in the entrepreneurship field, a pro-business environment and a friendly tax environment.

“A gallon of gas is good for a few purposes, but without a car it’s not going to get you anywhere, and a car without gas isn‘t going to get you anywhere either,” Vanevenhoven said. “It‘s the combination of the two that you need. Entrepreneurial ecosystems work the same way.”

Vanevenhoven’s second speaking topic explains the global project titled the Entrepreneurship Education Project. It was designed by Vanevenhoven and Winkel for teachers of entrepreneurship to receive feedback from students.

The Entrepreneurship Education Project works with over 15,000 students over 80 countries.

When it comes to break-out session topics, Vanevenhoven believes failures are just as important to discuss as accomplishments.

“The reason I’m successful in entrepreneurship is because I’ve tried a lot of different things, and I can tell people what not to do,” Vanevenhoven said. “So hopefully we can save other UW schools from some of our pain.”

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Beverly Kopper and Chancellor Richard Telfer will also be speaking at the forum.

Ehlen hopes all the speakers and the break-out sessions will help drive the discussion at the forum to prepare the UW system for the future concerning entrepreneurship.

“The goal is to make a difference throughout the UW System and the state,” Ehlen said.