Where Do WI And Milwaukee, Last In Startup Activity, Go From Here?

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a number of respected hospital systems. Some of them have had employees start their own companies.

One of the newest spinouts is RPRD Diagnostics, which was founded by Ulrich Broeckel, a professor and researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The startup is seeking to help analyze patients’ genetic profiles to determine how safe and effective certain drugs are likely to be for them.

Another, TAI Diagnostics, is seeking to commercialize a non-invasive test to monitor the health of heart transplant recipients. One of the company’s co-founders, Michael Mitchell, is a cardiothoracic surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. In 2015, TAI Diagnostics raised an $8.3 million Series A funding round.

There are also large companies that employ scores of engineers and computer programmers at their Milwaukee-area offices. They include Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI), Northwestern Mutual, and Rockwell Automation (NYSE: ROK). Rockwell has signaled its intention to help manufacturers navigate the Internet of Things trend, and earlier this year the company signed on to back a public-private initiative aimed at developing innovative manufacturing techniques that could be used to mend and replace cells, tissues, and organs.

Clearly, Milwaukee has a number of anchor institutions that could help the city be seen as more of an emerging tech hub. Though, as Pittsburgh shows, that wouldn’t preclude it from simultaneously being rated poorly in startup activity, at least by the metrics Kauffman uses.

So what could help Milwaukee beef up its tech scene? It never hurts to have a school of Carnegie Mellon’s caliber in town, of course. Several colleges and universities in the Milwaukee area have programs that prepare students for careers in high-tech fields, such as the Milwaukee School of Engineering and Marquette University. While neither is currently regarded as a magnet for tech talent the way Carnegie Mellon is, Marquette last year made the forward-looking move of adding a data science major to its curriculum. Perhaps attracting top students is a first step toward improving a city’s tech ecosystem.

Sieg, the venture capitalist, says that some founders of high-growth startups decide to launch their companies in places where they’ve lived before, which can offer comfort and familiarity.

“A lot of it is a personal decision, frankly—where their roots are and where their best networks are,” she says.

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