CSA Partners creates ‘curated community’ of startups with Ward4

Milwaukee’s newest startup co-working space is located in the Historic Pritzlaff Building in a corner of Milwaukee between downtown and the Third Ward.

It’s appropriate, then, that the space should be called Ward4. The “curated community” was formed by CSA Partners, a venture fund led by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, Brian Taffora, Pat Farley, and Steve Mech.

Ward4 officially opened on June 1, sandwiched on the second floor of the building, above three event halls and below several floors that will be developed into apartments. By June 3, it was full.

The community consists of two areas: a 26,000-square-foot open co-locating space with nine offices, a few small huddle spaces, several first-come-first-serve desks, a kitchen, conference rooms and collaboration areas available to members by subscription; and two hallways of offices totaling about 10,000 square feet reserved for companies with 10 to 50 employees.

Many of the companies taking advantage of Ward4 are part of or have recently exited one of Milwaukee’s incubators. The Commons and Gener8tor have even moved their operations into Ward4.

Established startups like CSA portfolio company Bright Cellars, a wine matching service, mingle with students learning startup skills from Startup Milwaukee’s The Commons. Events like the Milwaukee chapter of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s entrepreneur connection program 1 Million Cups use the largest conference space, the pitch room, bringing new innovators into the space weekly.

A ping-pong table and 20-person conference room are sponsored by Milwaukee law firm Quarles & Brady, which provides legal advice for members. Ward4 hopes to create similar partnerships with accounting and other professional firms.

CSA Partners started Ward4 to serve as a beacon to investors or entrepreneurs visiting Milwaukee, Taffora said.

“We don’t have a place – a tech center. Something to serve as a lighthouse. If you’re new to town or you’re coming in to town, this is where you go,” he said.

It was modeled on similar curated communities in other cities, like 1776 in Boston and 1871 in Chicago, and designed by Milwaukee-based Rinka Chung Architecture.

“We’re behind some of our peer cities in the Midwest,” Farley said. “There’s a lot of interesting things happening. The problem is there’s a lot of silos and sandboxes.”

Ward4 tries to bring together the best and brightest of Milwaukee’s startup community to work together. The companies selected for the space have to be collaborative, engaged, and committed to staying for at least a year.

“We are just extremely happy with the welcome that we got from the community,” Taffora said. “It was really the startups seeking us out.”

Ward4 wants investors and innovators to use its common spaces to spark connections. It houses incubator/accelerator programs The Commons and Gener8tor in the hopes of fostering collaboration.

“The expansion of accelerators in the past three, five years has been tremendous,” Taffora said. “It really is breaking down those silos and sandboxes to say, ‘Let’s really work together.’”

Milwaukee’s newest startup co-working space is located in the Historic Pritzlaff Building in a corner of Milwaukee between downtown and the Third Ward.

It’s appropriate, then, that the space should be called Ward4. The “curated community” was formed by CSA Partners, a venture fund led by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, Brian Taffora, Pat Farley, and Steve Mech.

Ward4 officially opened on June 1, sandwiched on the second floor of the building, above three event halls and below several floors that will be developed into apartments. By June 3, it was full.

The community consists of two areas: a 26,000-square-foot open co-locating space with nine offices, a few small huddle spaces, several first-come-first-serve desks, a kitchen, conference rooms and collaboration areas available to members by subscription; and two hallways of offices totaling about 10,000 square feet reserved for companies with 10 to 50 employees.

Many of the companies taking advantage of Ward4 are part of or have recently exited one of Milwaukee’s incubators. The Commons and Gener8tor have even moved their operations into Ward4.

Established startups like CSA portfolio company Bright Cellars, a wine matching service, mingle with students learning startup skills from Startup Milwaukee’s The Commons. Events like the Milwaukee chapter of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s entrepreneur connection program 1 Million Cups use the largest conference space, the pitch room, bringing new innovators into the space weekly.

A ping-pong table and 20-person conference room are sponsored by Milwaukee law firm Quarles & Brady, which provides legal advice for members. Ward4 hopes to create similar partnerships with accounting and other professional firms.

CSA Partners started Ward4 to serve as a beacon to investors or entrepreneurs visiting Milwaukee, Taffora said.

“We don’t have a place – a tech center. Something to serve as a lighthouse. If you’re new to town or you’re coming in to town, this is where you go,” he said.

It was modeled on similar curated communities in other cities, like 1776 in Boston and 1871 in Chicago, and designed by Milwaukee-based Rinka Chung Architecture.

“We’re behind some of our peer cities in the Midwest,” Farley said. “There’s a lot of interesting things happening. The problem is there’s a lot of silos and sandboxes.”

Ward4 tries to bring together the best and brightest of Milwaukee’s startup community to work together. The companies selected for the space have to be collaborative, engaged, and committed to staying for at least a year.

“We are just extremely happy with the welcome that we got from the community,” Taffora said. “It was really the startups seeking us out.”

Ward4 wants investors and innovators to use its common spaces to spark connections. It houses incubator/accelerator programs The Commons and Gener8tor in the hopes of fostering collaboration.

“The expansion of accelerators in the past three, five years has been tremendous,” Taffora said. “It really is breaking down those silos and sandboxes to say, ‘Let’s really work together.’”

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