Note from Our Executive Director
BizStarts bids farewell to College Consortium pioneer Penny Scheuerman and Welcomes Susan Crane
What does it take to develop a robust community of student entrepreneurs and educators where there where none before? It would be the efforts of Penny Scheuerman who came to BizStarts “on loan” from WE Energies in 2009 and set to work developing the College Consortium.
From its inception, Penny worked tirelessly to foster entrepreneurship at all of the Milwaukee region’s 22 colleges and universities, giving their leaders and students access to information, resources and collaborative activities. The ability to cultivate, retain and harness innovative young talent and provide for them an opportunistic platform for launching companies is crucial to future economic success.
Penny achieved much for BizStarts in just two short years, including hosting what has become an annual meeting among college presidents and chancellors; developing regular student entrepreneurship gatherings and debuting the Mason Wells Collegiate Business Plan Contest, which recently awarded $15,000 to five entrepreneurs from different colleges.
Penny began enjoying a much-deserved retirement on June 1st, and we would like to take a moment to thank her again for her tireless efforts.
The legacy of her work will continue as Susan Crane assumes many of the capacities Penny held for BizStarts. Susan’s work in economic development will help further BizStarts’ efforts not only with colleges and students, but entrepreneurs and emerging companies. We look forward to Susan’s contributions to BizStarts’ efforts and thank We Energies again for their enthusiastic support.
Watch for more details on the next Collegiate Business Plan competition and other activities soon!
BizStarts Expands with Spreenkler’s New Grand Avenue Space
As BizStarts grows, so does our need for space. As we all know, working in proximity with like-minded creatives and entrepreneurs stimulates ideas and growth. This is why BizStarts Milwaukee is joining Spreenkler Talent Labs in their new space inside the Plankinton Building in the Grand Avenue. Our headquarters will remain at the Research Park in Wauwatosa, but additional offices and resources are being developed in the same location as Spreenkler Talent Labs, which helps software-based startups prepare for launch. The two organizations will work together to launch more companies in more ways, helping to create jobs, enrich the talent base in the region and build upon the creativity of residents and expansion of industry clusters.
We will begin operations in the new space later this month.
Join Us at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Conference… We’ll Show You How to Get Bizzy!
The Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Conference runs tomorrow and Wednesday at the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. BizStarts employees and affiliates will be in attendance throughout the two-day event and we look forward to seeing you!
Please feel free to join us for our seminar at 1:45pm on Tuesday the 7th. It’s called “Let’s Get Bizzy: How to work with BizStarts Milwaukee”. It will be just like it sounds.
Kallows founders Gajanan Nagarsekar and Kevin Scott Kreger accept the top prize from UW-Milwaukee’s New Venture Business Plan Competition
Story Behind the Startup:
Kallows, Milwaukee, WI
A device that allows users to track medical and fitness data with their smart phones was inspired, in part, after one of its founders suffered a massive heart attack during its development.
Kallows’ co-founders Kevin Scott Kreger and Gajanan Nagarsekar originally stumbled upon the mobile health technology while working with engineering students in Goa, India, on a capstone project. It was 2007, and the smart phone market was not yet developed, Kreger recalled.
“Initially we were going to build this complicated instrument and use the phone to read the data, but in the process we realized that everything we needed in the phone—all we needed was a sensor to communicate it,” Kreger explained.
“It was a spark. We realized instantly what we had was a patentable idea.”
The device, patented in 2007, is an electrocardiogram, or ECG monitor that measures user’s heart rhythms. The monitor uses smart phones or tablets to capture and transmit data directly to medical personnel remotely.
However, mid-way through the project Kreger had a premonition about his health; a week later, he suffered a massive heart attack during a routine workout at a local gym. He managed to alert Nagarsekar, who drove him to the hospital.
“It was the worst type of heart attack—I had total blockage of the left artery. The irony of it was that at the time, I was working on a heart monitoring device with the students,” Kreger said.
The health crisis left him with a sharpened interest in diagnostic monitors, he said.
The two founders originally crossed paths in 2006 while working for GE Healthcare. Nagarsekar, a biomedical engineer, was on rotation from GE India. Kreger, an electrical engineer and firmware specialist, was a consultant to GE at the time and also working on his law degree to become a patent attorney.
“I took a much-needed vacation and visited Nagarsekar in Goa, and I loved it. Once I became involved in the students with Nagarsekar, it became a sabbatical,” Kreger said.
Both resigned from GE to pursue the project full-time. The two bootstrapped Kallows with a personal investment of $40,000.
Kreger returned to the United States in December 2007 to set up operations; Nagarsekar and his wife, Juliee followed. To reduce startup costs, the three share an apartment on Milwaukee’s lower East Side. Kallows’s offices occupy two other space in the same building.
“The price for medical diagnostic equipment is extremely high—far more than it costs to make it—which is to say, there’s a sizeable profit margin. The pain we are solving in the market is that our product makes the medical monitoring much more affordable for an underserved population. We are saving money, yes, and we hope, lives,” Kreger said.
The company is in the process of raising three rounds of capital to advance prototyping, FDA clinical trials and marketing efforts.
“One of the biggest challenges of this startup experience has been toiling in obscurity without a support network,” Kreger said.
Since Kallows won the top prize from UW-Milwaukee New Venture Business Plan Competition this year and was also a finalist in the Governor’s Business Plan Contest, it is possible their obscurity will likely come to an end.
Meet the Advisor
Pleasant Prairie, WI
Venture Track advisor to Kallows, Hands On Garage and Speechtails, LLC
Ask business and leadership coach David Hildreth what he does for a living and he’ll likely tell you that he helps his clients sleep better at night.
“I will ask my clients to tell me about those things which keep them up at night, and together we develop solutions to get the results they want,” he said.
Hildreth’s firm, BOOST Associates, coaches its clients through the process of strategic and operational planning, process improvement, organizational & individual assessments, individual and team leadership coaching, depending on their specific needs. Each is a customized approach with a “customer-centric” focus.
BOOST’s client base are mostly small to medium sized, privately held, entrepreneurial companies with issues which run the gamut from increasing market share and sales, lack of company direction, low employee morale, leadership & communication issues, decreased productivity and profitability, succession planning, just to name a few.
Hildreth then teams up with the company to help them implement a customized solution.
“I help them align their goals, processes, and actions with their strategic intent which should be focused on developing “Customer Loyalty” as defined by them. “Over time, you see some organizations move away from being focused on the customer, and become much more internally focused, which can lead to a number of different issues as mentioned above. Loyal customers are what it is all about”.
Hildreth brings 30 years of leadership experience to bear on the challenges his clients face. He has worn many hats over the years: president, chief operating officer, general manager and regional manager, for mostly privately held organizations in industries including manufacturing, construction, distribution, and business/residential services.
In the last year, Hildreth has worked with Venture Track clients Kallows and SpeechTails, and both were finalists in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan.
He said he was drawn to work with BizStarts and entrepreneurs because he likes to help people and understands and appreciates the challenges new companies face. “If my experiences can help someone else, so much the better,” he said.
Hildreth began his coaching firm in February of 2008 as a side venture. He was then president of a printed circuit board manufacturing company, when a local bank began referring clients to him for coaching and advice. He worked with them in his spare time, steadily building a following, leading to launching BOOST in December of 2010.
In his role as a business coach, he does a lot more listening than talking. “I am not the expert,” he said. “My clients know more about their businesses than I ever will. By me asking questions and listening, they identify what needs to be done to get the results they want, and together we make it happen.”
To learn more, visit www.boostassociates.com