Wisconsin Roundup: Ideadvance, MiKE, Fontarome Chemical, & More

It’s coming down to the wire for the Wisconsin startups competing in the Governor’s Business Plan Contest. A group of 12 early-stage companies born at Wisconsin public universities received seed investments. Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE) has a new leader. And Milwaukee-based Fontarome Chemical, which flirted with a shutdown a few months ago, has come back stronger under a new ownership group. Read on for details:

—The Wisconsin Technology Council announced the 13 finalists for the annual Governor’s Business Plan Contest. Each will present company pitches during the council’s Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Madison in early June. The startups are vying for more than $100,000 in cash and prizes. Some of the finalists should be familiar to Xconomy readers, including Milwaukee-based corporate relocation startup Find My Spot; Madison-based MobCraft Beer, which crowdsources the recipes for its brews; and Madison-based Elucent Medical, led by medical device entrepreneur Laura King, who recently joined the faculty for a new Carroll University entrepreneurship program.

—The first crop of grant winners for the $2 million “Ideadvance Seed Fund” was announced last week. The University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. launched the fund in February to help commercialize ideas from faculty, staff, and students at UW campuses statewide. The inaugural group is eligible for up to $25,000 each, with the chance to earn another $50,000 apiece if the teams successfully complete the first stage of the fund’s business mentoring program. The 12 winners include: NanoAffix Science, led by Junhong Chen of UW-Milwaukee, which is developing a portable water quality monitoring device that quickly detects E. Coli; HealthPet, headed by Jonathan Geissler of UW-Platteville, which has developed an automatic cat feeder; and Grypshon Industries, led by UW-Milwaukee’s Tom Burden, which has created mats for aerospace mechanics to stand on or place tools, thereby avoiding slipping on a slick aircraft surface while doing maintenance work.

—The Greater Milwaukee Committee has poached Michael Hostad from UW-Milwaukee to lead the GMC’s Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE) initiative, the Milwaukee Business Journal reported. Hostad served as UW-Milwaukee’s director of Web and mobile strategy and oversaw the university’s “App Brewery,” which lets students develop mobile apps for companies and organizations, including for Medical College of Wisconsin researchers. (Read more about that recently launched healthtech partnership here.) Hostad was instrumental in helping MiKE snag Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak for a keynote speech at the Flying Car innovation conference in Milwaukee this June, the Business Journal reported. Minus Flying Car announcements, MiKE has been relatively quiet since previous director Laurel Osman left the group earlier this year.

—Milwaukee-area active pharmaceutical ingredients supplier Fontarome Chemical has renamed itself Apiscent Labs and will grow staff from 30 to 55 this year, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The moves are a result of a capital infusion from new ownership group SFM Investments, which bought Fontarome out of receivership for $2.5 million last month. Fontarome filed for receivership in January, I previously reported.

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