Nov 14, 2018

2018 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium

Keynote Presentation by Aaron Kennedy, Image Courtesy of Wisconsin Technology Council

The 2018 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium attracted a mix of 524 investors, entrepreneurs and others Nov. 7-8 at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, where a combination of company pitches, speakers, panel discussions and workshops focused on ways to enhance venture and angel capital investing in Wisconsin.

Forty companies presented to investors during separate presentation tracks over the two days. Scores of investors from Wisconsin, the Upper Midwest and beyond were on hand to hear those presentations and to meet with companies one-on-one during the “Investor Intros” segment on Nov. 8. Presenting companies were selected from a larger pool vetted by the Wisconsin Technology Council, which hosted the annual symposium, and the conference steering committee.

The conference also featured keynote presentations by two speakers: Aaron Kennedy, the founder of Noodles & Co., who talked about his experiences in building that company as well as lessons he learned while serving as Colorado’s chief marketing officer; and Kelly Fitzsimmons, a serial entrepreneur who delivered a brutally honest talk about success, failure and bouncing back from the depths of adversity.

Mike Partsch, the first Chief Venture Officer to be hired by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, was introduced to a luncheon crowd during an on-stage conversation. Terry Sivesind, an entrepreneur, investor and mentor who co-founded MERLIN Mentors in Madison, was honored as the winner of the annual “Excellence in Entrepreneurial Education” award. Veteran investor John Neis, who has been a part of Venture Investors LLC since its inception, was inducted into the Tech Council’s “Investor Hall of Fame.”

The annual Wisconsin WOMEN reception, held Nov. 6 before the formal start of the conference, attracted 90 people to hear Demetria Menard speak about education and entrepreneurship.

“The quality of presenting companies seems to get better each year as emerging companies in the region and the state mature,” said Tom Still, president of the Tech Council.

Visit to read a conference wrap-up.