Wisconsin Roundup: Startup Weekend, Epic Systems, Johnson Controls

A few notable news items from Wisconsin’s tech and innovation community over the last week:

—The first Startup Weekend was held in the Green Bay area. About 45 people participated, forming nine startup teams in the span of 54 hours on St. Norbert College’s campus, said Chris Campbell, one of the volunteers who helped run the event. (Campbell’s startup, Review Trackers, is currently going through gener8tor’s winter accelerator program in Madison.) The three winners of the Startup Weekend Green Bay pitch competition on Sunday were Lingolit, which created a mobile app that helps children learn new languages through interactive translations of popular children’s books into different languages; VigorUs, an app that encourages fitness competition among friends by collecting data from wearable fitness tracking devices like Fitbit and Nike FuelBand; and Leagueify, an online platform for creating a fantasy league for anything with public data, like the Olympics or the Oscars, Campbell said.

—Epic Systems, the privately held electronic health records software provider based in Verona, WI, confirmed to the Wisconsin State Journal that it is adding a consulting service to help customers implement its software and subsequent upgrades. The move creates competition between Epic and third-party software consulting companies that have seen growth in recent years, like Nordic Consulting and Vonlay, both also based in the Madison, WI, area. Vonlay officials apparently aren’t concerned and feel like there’s plenty of room for Epic to get into the consulting market, they told the State Journal.

—Johnson Controls intends to sell its automotive headliner and sun visor business for an undisclosed amount to an affiliate of Connecticut private equity firm Atlas Holdings, according to Automotive News Europe. This is another in a series of M&A moves over the past several months for Johnson Controls, as the Glendale, WI-based manufacturer focuses on its products in building efficiency, automotive seating, and energy storage and batteries. In September, it sold part of its automotive electronics division to Gentex for $700 million, then said in January it will sell the remainder of that division to Visteon for $265 million. Johnson Controls bought 60 percent of Hitachi Appliances’ air conditioning business in December, the Milwaukee Business Journal reported.

—Marquette University is one of 16 organizations chosen by NASA to launch a CubeSat, a small satellite that weighs about three pounds. The “Golden Eagle One” will launch sometime in 2015, 2016, or 2017. It will be the first satellite built by Wisconsin students to be sent to space, Marquette said. The announcement followed other Wisconsin/space news from the previous week, when Madison-based Orbitec said it had won a $3 million, one-year NASA contract to build a greenhouse for growing plants in space, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

—Exact Sciences, the Madison company developing a non-invasive molecular diagnostic test that screens for colorectal cancer, reported narrower net losses in its fourth quarter and full-year financial results. In a conference call with investor analysts, Exact Sciences CEO Kevin Conroy provided some color on the company’s plans, including a continued R&D partnership with Mayo Clinic and laying the groundwork for potentially selling Exact Sciences products in Europe and Asia. Read the transcript here.

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