Gener8tor Goes International With Latest Startup Accelerator Class

Last summer, gener8tor’s startup accelerator class featured companies from outside Wisconsin, a first for the program.

Now the Madison and Milwaukee-based startup nurturer has an international flavor.

Five new startups have been accepted into the winter class in Madison that gener8tor is starting tonight. The companies hail from Mexico, Massachusetts, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

From about 380 applications—a 43 percent jump from the 265 received for the summer 2013 class in Milwaukee—gener8tor selected the following:

Edison DC Systems provides direct current power micro grids for data centers. The Milwaukee-based company is a member of Facebook’s Open Compute Project, gener8tor said.

• Liv Blends, based in Cambridge, MA, has developed what it calls “the Nespresso machine for freshly blended beverages.” Its 16-ounce cups come pre-packaged with fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. Insert the cup into the machine, hit “blend,” and voila: a fresh beverage, minus the hassle of cutting, measuring, and cleaning up the ingredients, the company said. Liv Blends was founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate Matthew Udomphol and Harvard Business School student Elise Polezel, said gener8tor co-founder Troy Vosseller.

Men’s Style Lab is a concierge clothing service based in Des Moines, IA. After a customer consults with a personal stylist, Men’s Style Lab sends him custom wardrobe choices. The customer pays only for what he wants to keep and sends back the rest. Shipping is free.

Driblet makes a water meter device that connects with a home’s Wi-Fi network and helps homeowners track and manage their water usage. The Monterrey, Mexico-based startup caught the attention of gener8tor after it was featured in TechCrunch, Vosseller said. Driblet is taking a different approach to the same issue that H2Oscore, a Milwaukee software startup, is trying to address.

Review Trackers, based in Chicago, is an online service that monitors more than 50 review websites like Foursquare, TripAdvisor, and OpenTable, in order to help clients keep tabs on and quickly respond to what customers are saying about their businesses.

Each company will receive an initial $20,000 in cash from gener8tor, plus a guaranteed $50,000 follow-on investment from gener8tor and its investment partner, Angels on the Water, an angel investment group based in Oshkosh, WI.

The startups will now embark on a 12-week program of mentorship, networking, and fine-tuning the businesses. They will operate out of gener8tor’s new Madison office on the fifth floor of 30 W. Mifflin St., located adjacent to the state capitol building and on the other side of the square from gener8tor’s previous Madison location.

At the end of the program the entrepreneurs will pitch their companies to potential investors at a demo event.

Vosseller attributed the surge in applicants partly to gener8tor team members pounding the pavement in cities around the Midwest, working to create a buzz.

“The goal is to expand the reach of our brand. We’re also encouraging all the entrepreneurs we meet with to apply,” Vosseller said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “There’s quite a bit of courting that goes on in general.”

In the case of Driblet, Vosseller reached out to the founder via LinkedIn and sent him an email. The conversations progressed via Skype, and eventually Driblet officials flew from Mexico to Wisconsin for the final interview, Vosseller said.

Another factor in the spiking number of applicants and increasing geographical variety is program graduates are spreading the word about gener8tor, Vosseller said.

The first three gener8tor classes—which have enrolled 18 startups since June 2012—have gone on to raise more than $10 million in funds and create nearly 100 jobs, gener8tor said.

Some startups return to the cities in which they were founded in, like Chicago-based Optyn, a summer 2013 summer graduate. Others stay in Wisconsin, like Docalytics, which moved headquarters from Minneapolis to Milwaukee after the summer 2013 program, Vosseller said.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to invest in the best companies,” Vosseller said. “We have no requirement, no strings attached that they have to remain in Wisconsin. …Our hope is some will stay here and some will continue to add to the Wisconsin entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

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