Seed fund brings 10 innovative UW System ideas to life

MADISON – Over $300,000 in grants will be awarded to 10 small businesses in the latest round of awards in the program fostering the entrepreneurship ecosystem across Wisconsin.

Ideadvance is a rigorous two-stage process of seed funding and mentoring to move innovative ideas forward into feasible businesses. It is open to UW System staff, faculty, students and alumni at all campuses except UW-Madison. Ideadvance awardees must demonstrate significant progress toward a scalable, profitable business model in order to receive increments of Ideadvance seed funds.

Stage 1 teams become eligible by meeting goals over a six-month period of mentorship and work focused on customer validation.

The 2018 awardees are:

  • Local Food Experiment of Green Bay, which maximizes the convenience and affordability of nutritious food made from locally grown, organic ingredients;
  • of Madison, which uses next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology to detect microbes in all types of samples;
  • Reinvent Ferment of Appleton, which connects people with the unique flavors and health potential of living, fermented foods;
  • of Pewaukee, which distributes construction products for builders and their clients;
  • Marble Pillar of Kenosha, which aims to make pesticide-free, non-GMO and locally grown vegetables more accessible;
  • Erbin of Wausau, which specializes in digital, place-based consumer recycling education; and
  • Revolutionary Studios of Eau Claire, which innovates online retail displays for e-commerce businesses to increase customer engagement.

Stage 2 companies are eligible for up to $50,000 in matching funds within a 12-month period by capturing follow-on funding and developing and executing a customer acquisition strategy.

This year’s awardees are:

  • of Oak Creek, which manufactures innovative electronic Shockray self-defense technologies that combine a number of tactical features in a single device;
  • of Brookfield, which offers software and services to automate and modernize document workflows; and
  • Arbuda of Madison, which connects oncologists in India to highly trained specialists from the U.S. via a web-based collaborative platform.

“We selected well-formed teams with diverse ideas that have successfully attracted local customers. This reflects the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem developing all around the state,” said Dr. Idella Yamben, Program Manager. “Ideadvance’s performance-based funding aims to help these teams identify growth opportunities so they may continue to develop and enrich their local communities.”

Since 2014, Ideadvance, a partnership between the UW-Extension’s Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), has awarded $1.9 million in grants. As of February 2018, the impact of these grants has resulted in $4.1 million in additional funding allocated to the awardees. Ideadvance is part of the WEDC’s S3 program which is working to further incorporate start-ups by providing operational and financial assistance to aid in navigating commercialization barriers.

“In order for Wisconsin to succeed, we need to foster a climate of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Chris Schiffner, WEDC Senior Technology Investment Manager. “Ideadvance creates a foundation of support for university entrepreneurs by providing seed capital and business support so they can take their ideas and technology to commercialization and a successful company launch – right here in Wisconsin.”

Oshkosh native and High 5 Academics co-founder Kathy Schmitt is a past recipient of Ideadvance funding. Schmitt, who has experience training teachers in literacy, founded High 5 Academics with husband Dale Trudell after seeing a need for improved literacy instruction in public schools. A software tool called Teaching Teachers Literacy, the chief product of High 5 Academics, already has a waiting list of customers.

“Ideadvance was a pleasant surprise; it helped us walk through the launch process,” Schmitt said. “Idella and the teaching team were integral in the Ideadvance program. Their objective guidance helped to fill in the gaps and without them we would not be where we are.”

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Division for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

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