WI Startups Try to Grab Silicon Valley’s Gaze in 2nd Annual Trip

The startup scene in Madison, WI, is barely a blip on the radar for most Silicon Valley venture capitalists, but local business advocates are once again trying to attract investors’ attention by bringing a cohort of Badger State startups to the West Coast.

Five Madison startups will fly to the San Francisco Bay Area Oct. 20 to meet with investors and potential business partners, says Kevin Little, the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s managing director of economic development.

Wisconsin and Madison-area economic development officials will join founders of the companies on the two-day trip, Little says, along with representatives from the law firm Michael Best & Friedrich, Madison-based healthtech investment fund HealthX Ventures, and others.

Three of the startups took part in a “Shark Tank”-like pitch competition the chamber put on in August: Fetch Rewards, Redox, and BluDiagnostics, which won the contest.

The other two companies heading to Silicon Valley are HealthMyne and PerBlue.

After arriving, the delegation will head to Mountain View to tour the headquarters of Google (NASDAQ: GOOG). That will be followed by an invitation-only dinner in nearby Palo Alto to facilitate “investor interaction and private discussion with business partners,” according to a press release announcing the trip.

The following day, it’s the main event: startups will pitch to about a dozen investment firms. They include Avalon Ventures, Cervin Ventures, Illuminate Ventures, Lumia Capital, Lux Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Obvious Ventures, Rothenberg Ventures, Storm Ventures, and Toba Capital, Little says.

Some of the companies have extended their itineraries so they can meet with additional investor groups and prospective partners later in the week, he says.

This is the second year the chamber has organized a pitch competition and subsequent trip to California. Little says the goal is twofold: to connect promising startups with investors, and to “tell the broader story” of entrepreneurship and innovation in the Madison region.

Last year’s trip directly led to a seven-figure deal for one of the participating companies, Little says, though he declined to share details beyond calling it a “strategic business partnership,” rather than a conventional venture capital investment.

Brian Jensen, CEO of Madison-based Fishidy, won the 2014 pitch competition. After the trip, he told Xconomy that investors there didn’t scoff at what some may see as a cliché—a Wisconsin entrepreneur pitching a fishing startup. Instead, those he met with expressed interest in his company, which built a mapping tool and social network for anglers.

BluDiagnostics automatically qualified for the trip by winning this year’s pitch contest. Little says the chamber convened a committee to talk through the other four selections. The chosen startups are all “currently raising or planning to raise in the near future,” he says, meaning they’d benefit more from meetings with investors than earlier-stage companies would.

Here are brief descriptions of the five companies making the trip:

—BluDiagnostics makes a fertility device that analyzes saliva to predict ovulation, diagnose pregnancy, and identify hormonal issues that might be preventing a woman from getting pregnant.

Fetch Rewards has created a mobile app that aims to improve the in-store grocery-buying experience by helping shoppers find discounts, make lists, and more easily pay at the checkout lane.

HealthMyne has developed analytics software that can comb health systems’ medical image and electronic health record databases, and allow clinicians to view images like X-rays and CT scans in a single pane with patient information and relevant reports.

PerBlue is the mobile game developer behind such titles as Greed for Glory, Parallel Kingdom, and the Boardtastic Skateboarding series.

Redox has developed cloud-based software that makes it easier for developers to securely access electronic health record data and build applications incorporating it.

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