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Startup Wisconsin Week comes to Eau Claire with entrepreneurial activities

Tom Giffey |

When he moved to Eau Claire about a year ago, Nick O’Brien noticed a great deal of entrepreneurial activity going on. Yet to the rest of Wisconsin, he realized, Eau Claire seemed to be on its own little island. “Nobody across the state really knows what’s going on in Eau Claire,” he said. Because of that, O’Brien is excited to help bring Startup Wisconsin Week to Eau Claire Nov. 5-10. Being part of this statewide celebration will help bring Eau Claire’s startup scene to the attention of people in other parts of the state, and vice versa, O’Brien said.

Startup Wisconsin made its debut last year in nine cities, mostly in the eastern half of the state. This year it has spread to 12 cities, including Eau Claire. Here, 10 events are planned over six days, ranging from educational sessions on financial planning and marketing to the regional finals of the Hatch business-pitch competition with a grand prize of $5,000. The week also encompasses the 1 Million Cups networking session, a strategy session with startup assistance firm Musky Tank, and a Swim With the Sharks event at UW-Eau Claire.

One of the events O’Brien is most excited about is one he conceived himself, which is dubbed Failure Friday Open Mic. Entrepreneurs will be invited to share and celebrate their failures with each other at 7pm Friday, Nov. 9, in The Venue (behind The Plus), 209 Graham Ave. Each speaker will have five minutes to share his or her tale of failure. While discussing failure can be uncomfortable, having an open conversation about it can help dispel shame and regret and help entrepreneurs recognize that each failure is just a stepping stone to success.

Startup Eau Claire Week is aimed at entrepreneurs (naturally) as well as those who provide them services, students, and anyone else interested in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, O’Brien said. The presenting sponsor is Royal Credit Union, and other partners include the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corp., City of Eau Claire Economic Development, UWEC’s Dennis L. Heyde Entrepreneur Program, the Chippewa Valley Technical College Entrepreneurship Program, Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization at UWEC, Chippewa Valley Developers Group, Startup48, Chippewa Valley Tours, and You Are Here, LLC.

“Startup Eau Claire Week is an exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs in our community to connect, educate, and celebrate!” said Christina Wasson, project and marketing manager at the Eau Claire Area EDC and one of Startup Eau Claire’s organizers. “Entrepreneurship is critical to Eau Claire’s economy, and Startup Eau Claire Week is a collaborative and  unified effort to bring together businesses, organizations, and individuals in the community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Startup Wisconsin was launched last year by Matt and Michael Cordio, both of Startup Milwaukee. According to its website, “Startup Wisconsin is committed to advancing and developing Wisconsin’s tech and startup ecosystems through unique programming, collaborative partnerships, and networking.”

That advancement is taking place here in the Chippewa Valley, too. “There is this thing happening in Eau Claire right now,” O’Brien said. “There’s an actual economic vitality that’s coming together here.”

To learn about Startup Eau Claire Week, search for “Startup Eau Claire” on Facebook or visit StartupWI.org and select “Eau Claire” from the menu.