Company ‘speed dating’ aimed at producing business opportunity matches

By Tom Still, Wisconsin Technology Council

tech_summit_logoIf you have ever gone on a “speed date,” and even if you haven’t, you probably get the concept: A short meeting in which both parties exchange a bit of information about one another and break the ice, with the goal of moving to the next level… or simply moving on with no regrets.

That’s the concept behind the second Wisconsin Tech Summit, which will be held March 23 at the GE Healthcare Institute in Waukesha.

Instead of a social speed date forum, this matchmaking exercise will involve large and small companies in Wisconsin’s technology and innovation sectors.

Fourteen major companies in Wisconsin – many of which are national and global powers – have already agreed to take part. They are: American Family Insurance, Aurora Health Care, BloodCenter of Wisconsin, Dedicated Computing, Direct Supply, Faith Technologies, GE Healthcare, HP Enterprise Services, Intel, Johnson Controls Inc., Kraft Foods/Oscar Mayer Information Systems, Marshfield Clinic, Rockwell Automation and TASC (Total Administrative Services Corp). Others will join the list soon.

They will engage in a series of 15-minute meetings with emerging companies from across the state which apply for the chance to pitch their products, services and ideas.

The speed-dating meetings will run 15 minutes each. Other features of the event will include:

·      An opening panel discussion to help set the stage for emerging companies by allowing major companies to talk generally about their goals, needs and emerging markets;

·      “Office Hours” meetings and presentations, which will be available to all participants during those times in which they are not scheduled for individual meetings;

·      A closing keynote speaker who will bring perspectives that will be helpful for major companies as well as emerging firms;

Major companies will be able to hear from emerging firms with innovative products or services tied to areas such as “big data,” connected devices and data analytics in sectors ranging from health care to information systems, and from power electronics to advanced manufacturing.

The evolving information needs of major companies may require strategic partnerships with innovative young companies. Potential business relationships might include contracting for research and development, becoming part of a larger supply chain, and pursuing investment or acquisition strategies.

Emerging companies can apply to participate at www.wistechsummit.com. The deadline is Monday, Feb. 16. A selection process involving major companies and the Wisconsin Tech Council will follow. Selected emerging companies may meet with more than one major company, depending on mutual interest.

There is no cost to apply. If selected, a company registration fee will be charged. Attendance is limited to participating companies on either side of the table.

“Last year’s Tech Summit proved to be productive for many of the major companies that took part,” said Vivek Bhatt of GE Healthcare, the co-chairman of this year’s event. “It’s a way to enhance greater connections in Wisconsin and our region. There are benefits to entrepreneurs and major companies alike.”

At the inaugural Tech Summit in 2014, about 55 emerging companies engaged in nearly 200 speed-dating meetings. That’s an average of about four meetings each for the emerging companies.

For young companies, it’s not all about raising angel and venture capital. It’s about making the right business connections. Large and small companies often travel in different “orbits,” even if they’re in the same business sectors, and they rarely collide except by chance. The Wisconsin Tech Summit’s “speed-dating” approach aims to help some of those orbits to cross – and the state’s business development stars to better align.

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