BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation Makes First Investments

BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, a new philanthropic organization that puts money into startups, has made its first round of investments.

BrightStar, which was granted nonprofit status by the Internal Revenue Service in November, says today it’s putting more than $250,000 into three early-stage Wisconsin companies: Engineered Propulsion Systems, New Richmond; Stemina Biomarker Discovery, Madison; and 425 Inc., Mount Pleasant.

Milwaukee-based BizTimes Media first reported the investments. BrightStar is putting $100,000 each into Engineered Propulsion Systems and Stemina Biomarker Discovery as part of larger funding rounds projected to exceed $11 million and $10 million, respectively, BizTimes reported. BrightStar is contributing $66,000 toward a $200,000 funding round for 425 Inc.

BrightStar invests charitable donations into Wisconsin startups that it thinks have the potential to create jobs and strengthen the state economy. BrightStar intends to pump its returns back into its investment pool.

BrightStar doesn’t plan to lead investment rounds, instead leveraging the due diligence and expertise of lead investors in the deals BrightStar joins, said portfolio manager Todd Sobotka.

The fund has $7 million in pledges, and BrightStar officials have said they want to raise another $60 million over the next three years.

BrightStar is led by volunteer president Tom Shannon, a Wisconsin entrepreneur whose career includes running Waukesha-based Prodesse for seven years before selling it for $72 million to San Diego-based Gen-Probe.

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