Jet Constellations and The Milky Way Tech Hub welcome the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact (the Institute) in a partnership to build new startups and drive diversity and inclusion in the Southeast Wisconsin tech scene.
The Institute is a venture capital firm and partner of choice for exceptional entrepreneurs who are building scalable, sustainable businesses in a long-term effort to close equity gaps in America. Its investments focus on four main areas: resilient communities; learning and academic achievement; healthy youth development; and economic opportunity, which includes working with formerly incarcerated people. The Institute builds on American Family Insurance’s commitment to engage with communities to solve some of society’s challenges through public and private partnerships.
The Institute is headquartered in Spark, AmFam’s newest building in downtown Madison, which is dedicated to innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship. The state-of-the art building represents American Family’s investment in Wisconsin, and will serve as home for the company’s digital transformation, venture capital and community investment efforts. Spark is also home to DreamBank and StartingBlock Madison (SBM), an entrepreneurial center for start-up companies and established entrepreneurs to share knowledge, skills and professional assistance. The Spark Building houses investors, engineers, and startups all under one roof.
“As Milwaukee’s startup community grows it is critical that our ecosystem is a reflection of Milwaukee’s diverse population. We are thrilled to have the support of the AmFam Institute as this is the type of corporate leadership and commitment necessary to make sustainable progress.”—Nadiyah Johnson, Founder of Jet Constellations
The Institute will work with partners like Jet Constellations to bring forward startups that might not have had opportunities for funding in the past. We will support startups as they develop their teams, customers and products with the goal of creating jobs and positive social impact, amongst many different success metrics. The Institute is investing in startups nationally and locally in Wisconsin, and is looking at the Milky Way Tech Hub as a way to source new startups from Milwaukee.
“While an end goal is to create and fund great startups that take off from the Milky Way Tech Hub, we know they all won’t succeed,” said John McIntyre, an investment director at the AmFam Institute. “However, the experience gained by the entrepreneurs is tremendous, so the next time they try a startup, the chances greatly increase that they will succeed. So it’s both those things—great startups, and the experience people get to go through in a program like this, to really teach them about entrepreneurship.”
McIntyre believes that for the next wave of startups to create great products and services, they need to be reflective of the population as a whole. He said to be innovative, startups have to have teams that reflect the population. These diverse teams bring new ideas and new ways of looking at things that teams that are not diverse don’t have. McIntyre believes that this is going to be a real awakening in Milwaukee, to see diversity in startups not only at its starting stages, but to see companies take off in the next several years.
McIntyre said there are a number of major companies in Milwaukee and Wisconsin that realize they need to do much more. McIntyre encouraged them to put resources and money to work to address these issues. He said there are a number of cities around the country who have turned things around and built an inclusive ecosystem, and that this partnership will help the Milky Way Tech Hub both retain and attract entrepreneurs and diverse tech talent in Milwaukee.
“It’s not easy. It takes time, it takes money, it takes dedication from multiple organizations, and there will probably be mistakes made, but you can’t give up, you’ve got to keep trying,” said McIntyre. “I can envision a day in some years where there’s a thriving ecosystem of startups and tech startups, and Milwaukee becomes a really hot spot for a very diverse set of people.”
Jet Constellations is also excited to announce partnerships with Brilliance Business Solutions, and Office of Violence Prevention and Heal the Hood MKE. These partnerships will help continue to empower the Milky Way Tech Hub Initiative, ensuring that Milwaukee’s tech scene mirrors its diverse population.