UPDATE: Packers partner with Microsoft for TitletownTech
By Ben Rodgers
ASHWAUBENON – The Green Bay Packers and Microsoft announced a partnership on Thursday, Oct. 19 that willfoster innovation for many years to come.
The two are coming together to bring a new development to the Titletown District – TitletownTech.
“We believe that there is the opportunity to create here something that in the world today is unique and will help define the future in a way that other people across the country and around the world are going to take notice,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft president.
The Packers and Microsoft will each pay $5 million for the project over the next five years, that will be housed in a 46,000 square foot building the Packers will build.
Smith said Microsoft is proud to help northeast Wisconsin stay competitive in the new digital frontier.
“One of the things we have really come to appreciate, if you want to attract nearby talented people and want them do to their best work, you really have to think about the working environment they’ll go to each day,” Smith said.
Partnering with the Packers and housing the new development in the Titletown District is another enticing factor.
“One of the things I think is so wonderful about the Packers is the role that it plays in this community and we found we had a common ground, really even a common culture and way of looking at things, especially as we talked about our commitment to our communities,” Smith said. “It’s so rewarding for us to work with an enterprise that is not just an engine of the economy but is a mainstay of local philanthropy.”
TitletownTech will be comprised of three areas: an accelerator, and innovation lab and a venture capital fund.
“First they’re going to need an effective and inspiring workspace. Second they’re going to need access to capital, technology and other resources, and finally they’re going to need a lot of experienced and committed people to guide them and mentor them through the startup process,” said Ed Policy, Packers vice president and general counsel.
The accelerator program will focus on entrepreneurs who have an idea. Policy said these people will be taken through a business boot camp, where their products will be developed and taken to market.
The innovation lab, a second program, will be a targeted approach that works with businesses or higher education institutions to research a problem and then develop a solution.
The venture capital fund will finance the whole thing.
“In order to launch these two programs, the Packers and Microsoft are starting a venture capital fund,” Policy said. “First the fund will underwrite all of the operations in TitletownTech and it’s also going to invest in the successful companies that matriculate through the two programs I described.”
Both companies have pledged to donate all profits and capital returns from the venture capital fund to philanthropy and economic development.
The partnership is part of Microsoft’s TechSpark, a national civic program aimed at fostering greater economic opportunity and job creation through partnership with rural and smaller metropolitan communities.
Microsoft will also create a TitletownTech mentorship program which will enable its employees across the country the chance to volunteer and serve as mentors working with companies and individuals participating in the program.
Green Bay will join similar ventures in North Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
The Green Bay TechSpark will be housed at TitletownTech, with the building set to open next fall.
“When we announced our master plan about two and half years ago we explained at the time that it’s fundamentally about making our community a more attractive place to live, work, play and visit on a year around basis,” Policy said. “Today with the announcement of TitletownTech we’re adding the word ‘create’ to the list of activities that we really want to foster in Titletown.”
Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said this venture will help address a problem in the region.
“One of the key factors that motivated us to move forward in Titletown, was data that showed Green Bay was at a disadvantage relative to other communities across the country, similar sized communities, in the small percentage of college graduates that we have in the area,” Murphy said. “We really think that announcing this initiative, and Titletown generally, will be a really big help in that area in terms of bringing more college graduates to the area.”
The announcement has major implications moving forward for the area as a whole, especially Ashwaubenon.
“This is huge. It’s as big as the Super Bowl for the entire region,” said Mary Kardoskee, president of the village of Ashwaubenon.