Why two Silicon Valley tech leaders opened places of work in Milwaukee

Milwaukee has traditionally lagged behind in startup activity, but that tide seems to be turning recently thanks to initiatives like the MKE Tech Hub, growing incubators like Gener8tor, move venture funding from local corporations and people like our two guests: Glenn Reid and David Reeves, both leaders in Silicon Valley who recently moved to or opened an office in Milwaukee. 

Glenn joined us on our previous episode about his journey through Silicon Valley, working for companies like Adobe and Apple during their early years. (If you haven’t listened to Glenn’s episode, we highly recommend you check it out here.) Glenn is the founder and CEO of Marathon Machines, a company disrupting the laundry space with essentially an all-in-one washer/dryer with modern technology that was named “The Tesla of appliances” by Wired Magazine.

David Reeves is the President of OpenGov, a technology company that is the leader in providing state and local governments with modern cloud-based software and serves more than 1,000 governments in the U.S. David grew up in Milwaukee, went to UWM, then had a number of roles in the tech industry between Chicago, Boston and Silicon Valley – including Senior VP of Sales at both PTC and Zora, where revenue grew from $16 million to $100 million during his tenure. He then joined OpenGov, where he has been the President since 2018. He recently moved back to Milwaukee and opened an OpenGov office here, already hiring 17 employees with the anticipation of having over 100 in the Milwaukee office within three years.

 

“(Milwaukee) is the perfect size city,” Glenn said on the podcast, when talking about why he chose Milwaukee for Marathon Machines. “It is not big and overwhelming like Chicago, and it has an amazing level of inspired people. People are fired up here and not cynical like they are in Silicon Valley; they are not competitive like they are in Chicago.”

Although Glenn did not grow up in Wisconsin like David, it seemed like the right place for him to land.

“Everybody gets it here; there is a very pro manufacturing view of the world here, which is not true actually most places,” he noted. “The coasts, in general, they fear making things and they fear big heavy things, but that is where the value is. America has to make stuff, and there is plenty of that happening here.” 

On the podcast, we talked about how people in Wisconsin tend to take fewer risks than those in places like Silicon Valley, and that the things that are viewed as risky are different. 


“The risk profile of people tend to be a little bit different, I think, in Silicon Valley because the risk is such a normal, everyday occurrence,” David said, “so there are so many serial entrepreneurs that have taken a lot of risks, founded five companies, and if one or two of them work out, it’s a pretty good batting average.”


Glenn believes that risk is largely cultural and that Wisconsinites aren’t completely scared of taking risks.

“People gamble at the Potawatomi Casino – that’s risky. People drive their trucks out on a frozen lake – ‘HOLD MY BEER’ – that’s risky. There is a disapproval culture of ‘What would your mother think?’ or ‘Does your father know that you started a company like that?'” Glenn explained. “There is no disapproval culture like that in Silicon Valley; sometimes the stupider the idea, the more cheering you get. People (in Wisconsin) are sensible and pragmatic, and it runs deep in a lot of German heritage.”

Glenn and David both have great stories and are doing wonderful things for the city. I highly recommend listening to the full podcast to learn more about how they think Milwaukee can continue to grow as a tech hub, what their companies are doing for Milwaukee and advice they have for entrepreneurs. Follow this link to listen to the episode!

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