2022 Entrepreneurial Achievement Awards

2022 Entrepreneurial Achievement Awards

DeLuca Forum, Discovery Building

Wed., March 23, 2022

5:45 p.m.

Good evening.  Thank you, Dan, for that kind introduction and for your dedicated leadership that has allowed us to grow entrepreneurship education here at UW–Madison from a ‘nice thing to offer’ into an essential part of what we do.

I want to begin with a warm congratulations to our guests of honor — Lynn Allen-Hoffmann, Jim Bakke, Valarie King-Bailey, and Scott Resnick — thank you for being here with us, and for all that you have done, and continue to do, to expand and enrich what we’re able to offer our students.

And thanks to everyone else for being here.  Over the past two years we’ve moved many events online, but there are a few that are so full of energy and excitement that you can’t contain them within a laptop.  This is one of those.  We’ve waited until we could hold this event in person.


I want to say a few special thanks:

First, to the UW–Madison Innovate Network, which is 19 different campus units and university affiliates, coordinated by our Discovery to Product (D2P) program, who work together to support UW innovation and entrepreneurship.  Would the members please stand or give a wave?  Thank you!

Next, to a few state and local leaders who have been key partners — if they would stand as they’re able and stay standing.  Please hold your applause:

  • Sam Rikkers, Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
  • Mary Kolar, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway
  • And Fitchburg Mayor Aaron Richardson

If there are other state and local elected officials I’ve left out, please stand. Thank you all for being here.

We also have a number of university leaders here tonight. Will the members of my leadership team, the vice chancellors, deans, and directors and our affiliates please stand and be recognized?

Thank you for being here.

I’m told we have a few past winners of the EAA joining us tonight.  Would they please stand or give us a wave?  Thank you for being here!

And finally, I want to thank all of the mentors who encourage and support our students, along with the industry partners who help us expand our research and create new opportunities for our students.

  • In particular, American Family Insurance has been deeply involved in a number of our most successful programs. Thank you.

One of the things that makes this event special is that it brings our students together with successful alumni and entrepreneurs.

Some of the students here are earning degrees and certificates in entrepreneurship … some are active in a number of out-of-classroom programs we run to cultivate entrepreneurship … and some are so interested in becoming entrepreneurs that they’ve chosen to live in a special StartUp Learning Community in Sellery Hall.

Students — where are you?  Thank you for being here.

Entrepreneurial Achievement Award

The Entrepreneurial Achievement Award gives us a chance to tell some fascinating stories about some truly remarkable people.

No two stories are alike, but there are three common threads.  Tonight’s honorees have all:

  • Built successful companies that create jobs and contribute to economic growth;
  • Stayed connected to UW — as advisors, contest judges, guest lecturers, and generous supporters;
  • And dedicated themselves to using their education and talents to making people’s lives better.

Dan will introduce our four award-winners in a moment, but I want to talk just briefly about a few of the ways in which we’re encouraging entrepreneurship on campus and around the state.

Entrepreneurship at UW–Madison

This campus has long been a place that cultivates creativity and encourages innovation — but designing educational programs that not only reflect that culture but also nourish it (particularly in the STEM fields) can be very challenging.

Our entrepreneurship programs are a model for how to do this well, and we’re seeing a surge of interest in these programs among undergraduates as well as graduate students:

  • The Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship has seen a nearly 500% increase in students enrolled in entrepreneurship classes since 2010. We have nearly 1,000 students enrolled in these classes this year.
  • Our Undergraduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship, which is for students outside the Wisconsin School of Business, is now the most popular undergraduate certificate on campus.
  • We are also working outside the classroom, to give students a chance to practice what they are learning and to share their knowledge with people from the community who are ready to become entrepreneurs.

At the same time, we’ve built an entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s taken what used to be a passive process that relied on faculty, staff, and students to figure out what services were available when they thought their work was ready for commercialization, and turned it into a more proactive process by reaching out across the campus to identify innovations that might be ready for further development.  And then helping with expert advice, mentorship, and financial support.

That’s the work of D2P, under Andy Richards’ leadership, in partnership with WARF, under Erik Iverson’s leadership.  I’m very proud of how this work has expanded during my time as Chancellor.


When the pandemic (and accompanying global recession) hit almost exactly two years ago, no one was sure what the impact would be.

There were those who predicted a deeply negative effect, in particular, on new business start-ups.  And there were many start-ups that didn’t make it, and many new graduates who had to put their dreams on hold.

But there was also good news:

  • The Wisconsin Technology Council reported last month that Wisconsin early-stage companies set a new record in 2021 by raising more than $800M from angel investors and venture capitalists. That continues a six-year upward trend.

It’s no surprise that several UW spinoffs led the way — and there are many more to come, developed by faculty, staff, students, and alumni whose determination to solve pressing problems was only strengthened over these past two years.

  • For example, a team from the School of Medicine and Public Health — with help from D2P’s Innovation to Market Program — is using technology invented here at UW in a start-up called AyrFlo, which is a respiratory monitor that detects breathing problems immediately when a patient is under sedation, to help save lives.

Like so many Wisconsin start-ups, AyrFlo was shaped by hundreds of hours of expert consulting and mentorship from a long list of Innovate Network organizations, and they earned a spot in a highly competitive National Science Foundation entrepreneurship training program.

We take our role in fostering entrepreneurship very seriously, but we can’t do it without committed, engaged entrepreneurs.

The successes of tonight’s awardees speak to the importance of entrepreneurship in our economy, and the ways in which a UW education can build the skills to create and nourish new business ventures.

I want to thank everyone present, but particularly our award winners, for the support and encouragement you have given to creating a culture of support for innovation and entrepreneurship on this campus and across the community.

Congratulations to tonight’s honorees, thank you, and On, Wisconsin!