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Fiserv, Wellbe, Epic, & Best STEM Cities: This Week’s WI Watchlist

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

A nine-figure fintech deal, several new funding rounds, and a look at one of the state’s tech powerhouses are among these recent headlines from Wisconsin’s innovation community:

—Brookfield-based Fiserv (NASDAQ: FISV) announced it paid $200 million in cash to acquire the Community Financial Services business of Naples, FL-based ACI Worldwide (NASDAQ: ACIW). According to a press release, the business that changed hands includes technology that supports mobile payments and online banking, as well as security services.

—Madison-based Wellbe, which helps guide patients through medical treatments and procedures through a series of electronic forms, checklists, and surveys, has raised more than $1.3 million from 20 investors, according to an SEC filing. Company spokeswoman Maeghan Nicholson declined to comment on the latest financing, citing regulatory restrictions. Wellbe has now raised more than $5.3 million since launching in 2008.

—A fellow Madison-area healthtech company and Wellbe collaborator, Kiio, is developing software-enabled bands that provide resistance during rehabilitative exercises, and help physical therapists gauge the strength of patients. Kiio had some funding news of its own this week: according to a regulatory filing, it has raised $850,000 in convertible debt financing from a single investor. In an e-mail, Kiio CEO Dave Grandin declined to reveal the investor’s identity, but did say that $150,000 of the new money will be used to repay bridge loans, with the remainder serving as working capital.

—The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel profiled Epic Systems, the Verona-based healthtech giant. There’s nothing especially newsy in the article, but it does highlight how dominant Epic has been recently in landing new contracts to install its medical records software in hospitals and clinics. Sample factoid: in 2014, Epic won contracts from 127 hospitals, compared to 19 from Kansas City, MO-based Cerner (NASDAQ: CERN), the company observers have long considered Epic’s biggest competitor.

—In a deal that made headlines nationally, Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI) merged with Ireland-based Tyco (NYSE: TYC), a so-called “inversion” merger that will likely allow the combined company to pay a lower tax rate than it would if it were headquartered in the U.S. Tyco is best known for making fire protection and security systems, which JCI said it saw as complementary to its heating and cooling equipment for buildings. JCI said it expects the tie-up to bring $650 million in cost and tax savings.

—Madison came in seventh place in a ranking of the 100 best metro areas for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals. Milwaukee also finished in the top half, coming in 49th place on the list compiled by the personal finance website Wallet Hub. According to Wallet Hub, STEM workers on average make $85,570 per year, compared with the national average salary of $47,230.

—Startups in Madison raised $66.5 million and created 215 jobs in 2015, bringing the total number of full-time workers at early-stage companies to more than 675. The figures come from a post on the website of Capital Entrepreneurs, an organization that supports early-stage businesses in Wisconsin’s capital city. The two biggest investments in Madison startups last year went to EatStreet ($15 million) and Healthfinch ($7.5 million).

—For many startups, the ultimate goal is an “exit,” either in the form of an initial public offering or a sale to a larger company. On Thursday, the University of Wisconsin-Madison sponsored a panel featuring representatives of companies that were part of four major acquisitions of Wisconsin-based life sciences firms. Overall, the panelists were positive about how the acquisitions worked out, but they also suggested actions that could accelerate deal flow in the state.

—Madison-based Centrose, which is developing so-called extracellular drug conjugates for treating cancer, said in an SEC filing that the amount it has raised in convertible debt has increased to $1.5 million, up from $1 million a year ago. The money will help fund the salary of CEO James Prudent through 2019, according to the document. The company is also raising equity investments through this round of financing, which could eventually reach $21 million.

—Two Madison-based Internet connectivity experts traveled to Washington D.C. and presented before the National Science Foundation and the White House Office of Science and Technology on Tuesday, the Capital Times reported. The two men who made the trip were Suman Banerjee, a professor in the computer sciences department at UW-Madison, and Anton Kapela, a vice president at Madison-based Internet service provider 5Nines. In September, 5Nines launched a free wireless network for businesses in the city’s downtown.

—The race to bridge the gap from connected devices to the connected home is underway, though experts say it’s probably too early to crown a winner. Some manufacturers of “Internet of Things” devices are teaming up to link their products together—a smart doorbell and a smart lock, for example. Time will tell whether this direct approach to integration prevails, or whether these machines will communicate via a hub-and-spoke model.

—The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation announced that Carl Gulbrandsen, who has served as the organization’s managing director since 2000, has been named the recipient of In Business magazine’s lifetime achievement award. Under his leadership, WARF’s endowment has doubled to more than $2.6 billion, the foundation said in a press release. Last month, Xconomy reported that Gulbrandsen had postponed his retirement until June, as WARF continues its search for a new leader.

—BluDiagnostics, a Madison-based startup that’s developing a saliva-based fertility test, raised $600,000 from nine investors, co-founder Katie Brenner said. She declined to name specific funds or investors who participated in the seed round, but said some of them were Wisconsin-based, while others hailed from California and the East Coast. Brenner said the company is likely to close a larger Series A round about a year from now.