By Heather Ruenz
Keeping up with the fast pace of technology in the business world is a challenge in itself. From mobile apps to cloud computing tech services like AWS WAR, there are many ways in which a business can utilize technology for its own benefit. However, many startups and potential innovators don’t know the full range of tools they could have at their disposal for making their business successful. This includes such areas as managed IT services, specialized software packs, outsourcing projects, etc. the list is plenty with ways in which businesses can grow and thrive in their sector.
A lot of new businesses are migrating to online commerce with the help of software solutions like Demandware that provide cloud-based unified e-commerce platforms. After all, online shopping has an edge in the present generation of shoppers. Getting businesses on board with Demandware (now Salesforce Commerce Cloud) requires certified Demandware partners like Royal Cyber to empower their business with experience-driven commerce solutions that sell more. Besides eCommerce solutions, companies are also leveraging tools to improve workforce efficiency. What most companies use for improving company’s productivity from their employees would be more than often solutions like Confluence. The Confluence software works on a ‘spaces’ based concept. Confluence can be used for technical documentation, intranets, and knowledge bases. Basically, this makes searches for content effective as by default Confluence is open and collaborative. Truly, the software is a bit of everything. But the software tends to demand technical knowledge which many employees see as a drawback. Therefore, at times companies seem to look for confluence alternatives like Helpjuice, Google Drive, Monday, You Need A Wiki, and more.
One collaboration in southeast Wisconsin offers a way to keep up, and possibly get a leg up, on the competition through offering a variety of tools and resources.
The crux of what Whitewater University Technology Park recognizes, according to interim director Mark Johnson, is “the importance of being around like-minded people.”
The UW Tech Park Board is a combined effort between the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the Community Development Authority and City of Whitewater officials. Johnson said it aims to bring new and established businesses with a technology focus – and their jobs – to Whitewater.
On one small corner of the 130-acre Tech Park property sits the Whitewater Innovation Center, which offers start-up businesses support while providing affordable space and resources through the Whitewater Incubation Program (WhIP.)
“WhIP is designed to provide support, mentoring and services to new business ventures linked to the Innovation Center,” Johnson said. That includes business plans, marketing and branding functions.
Here’s a look at some of the programs offered:
• Innovation Hub, or iHub, is a collaborative space located in the Innovation Center and a series of programs designed to accelerate the successful development of entrepreneurial companies (particularly start-ups) through an array of business support resource and services.
iHub, Johnson said, offers support and resources to non-students – often recent college graduates.
One of the strongest features of the program, Johnson said, is the resources brought to the table through the iMentors, “each with specialties whether it be development, marketing, market research, logo design or web design and development.”
• The Launch Pad is the WhIP student incubator, “when students – entrepreneurial or others – have start-up business ideas, we offer similar support to them as through the iHub program,” Johnson said.
Students apply to become a participant of the program, which typically has 9 to 10 students who work closely with the Launch Pad co-directors, William Dougan and David Gee, to develop their business ideas.
“There is also an internship program offered at the Innovation Center to businesses in the Tech Park that a lot of them take advantage of, allowing students to get paid while working and learning,” Johnson said.
The advantage of the internship program for businesses is the young, tech-savvy minds of the students.
“We live in an age where these college students have never not had a computer. That, coupled with their knowledge and experience with social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. – can be invaluable,” Johnson said.
Johnson said there are several success stories to come out of Whitewater University Technology Park, but a few that he said offer real-life examples of what is taking place right here in Whitewater.
“Rob Olson moved iButtonLink here from East Troy. Not long after that, one of his suppliers, Thermodata, moved here. Thermodata started in Australia then moved to Boston and from there to Whitewater. That’s an example of the importance of being around like-minded people,” Johnson said.
iButtonLink touts its proprietary use of sensors that can be customized to meet various clients’ needs. Some of the sensors created within iButtonLink are used to regulate temperature and humidity.
The company previously occupied space in the Old Stone School facility in East Troy. But Patrick Johnson, Internet marketing specialist, said the company aspired to relocate to Whitewater in an effort forge new working relationships.
“We’re very excited to be a part of Whitewater,” Patrick Johnson said shortly after the company made the move. “The university is an amazing tool to have on our side. We’re excited about the possibilities.”
Another success story – this one born out of the Innovation Center’s WhIP program, is MobCraft Beer, launched in the summer of 2013 by UW-Whitewater students Henry Schwartz, Giotto Troia and Andrew Gierczak
MobCraft is a small craft brewery that makes custom, crowdsource beer recipes through social popularity contests and brews them for commercial distribution.
“It’s a great success story from the Innovation Center about a company that has been gaining a lot of attention since they began,” Mark Johnson said.
And there is the story of Travis Garski.
“Travis held the Midwest Game Developers Summit earlier this summer in Oconomowoc and it had a very large turnout so that’s another great example of things happening that have a connection to us,” he added.
The summit, a gathering of approximately 400 people was aimed at students and professionals and covered topics including design, development, publishing and components of gaming.
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Chancellor Richard Telfer, talked about the success of the park during his State of the University speech Monday.
The park’s mission of creating and fostering healthy businesses “is prospering, thanks to a team effort between our university, the city, students, faculty, staff and business innovators,” Telfer said.
“It serves as a foundation for a diversified and robust regional economy through the attraction of new residents, utilization of faculty, staff and student expertise, and the retention of alumni talent,” Telfer said. “Furthermore, the park’s incubation services are helping startups to create new jobs in our area… an accomplishment we can all be proud of.”
Whitewater University Innovation Center is located at 1221 Innovation Dr., Whitewater. For more information contact Mark Johnson at (262) 472.5290 or firstname.lastname@example.org.