WISC Partners Raises $8.2M First Fund, Reveals Portfolio Companies

Wisconsin Investment and Strategic Capital (WISC) Partners, a Madison, WI-based venture capital group formed to support early-stage companies in the state, has raised $8.2 million for its first fund, according to an SEC filing.

David Guinther, one of two general partners at WISC Partners, confirmed the raise in an e-mail message to Xconomy.

“We have been actively building a Fund I investment portfolio,” Guinther said. “Our focus now turns to proving out our strategic operating capital model, which differentiates us from other venture capital funds.”

The money came from 29 investors, Guinther said, about half of whom are based in Wisconsin.

In November, Mike Splinter—the group’s other general partner—said that he expected WISC Partners’ first fund would likely be between $10 million and $15 million, spread across 10 to 12 companies.

In addition to Splinter and Guinther, WISC Partners’ website lists four executive partners: Cameron Ackbury, Allen Dines, Craig Johnson, and Chris Wheeler, who became CEO of Murfie earlier this year (more on Murfie below).

Guinther said that he and Splinter will be launching a second fund, likely sometime in 2017. The timing will depend on the “progress and results” of investments WISC Partners has made out of its first fund, he said.

“Our Fund II will be considerably larger in size and will be drawn from institutional investors,” Guinther said.

Here are descriptions of five of the Wisconsin-based companies WISC Partners has invested in, according to Guinther’s e-mail:

Imbed Biosciences, based in Fitchburg, is developing antimicrobial, nanofilm technology that aims to help wounds heal without infection or the use of potentially harmful levels of silver. The company claims its dressings can be used the moment treatment begins—in contrast to those made by its rivals, which can only be applied after a wound is infected—and contain 100 times less silver than the competition. In 2014, Imbed was awarded a $1.5 million National Institutes of Health grant to help the company advance its technology.

Murfie, based in Middleton, is an online music market that will convert your collection of compact discs and vinyl records into high-quality digital audio files. The 20-employee company stores its users’ physical media in a vault at its offices, which contains more than 750,000 discs and records. In February, Murfie named Wheeler as its new CEO; at that time, co-founders Matt Younkle and Preston Austin said they would continue to advise Murfie, but would be mostly focused on other ventures.

Pegasus Sustainability Solutions, based in Fitchburg, develops software that connects organizations or individuals that generate waste with groups that can come take it away. One mechanism behind this matchmaking is the reverse auction, where a waste-removal contract goes to the bidder willing to accept the lowest amount in payment. Pegasus has raised nearly $6 million from investors, according to documents filed with federal securities regulators.

Rowheels, based in Fitchburg, engineers rear wheels for wheelchairs that allow people in the chairs to propel themselves by pulling back on rims attached to the wheels, instead of pushing the rims forward (the action is similar to rowing a boat, hence the name). Rowheels claims its alternative wheelchair design provides health benefits, including strengthening upper back and shoulder muscles, improving posture, and lowering the risk of pain or injury. In December, WISC Partners said it would invest up to $1.5 million in Rowheels as part of the company’s Series A funding round.

Wellbe, based in Madison, has created software to help guide patients through medical treatments and procedures, via a series of electronic forms, checklists, and surveys. James Dias, co-founder and CEO of Wellbe, has likened the tools to a GPS that gives patients turn-by-turn directions as they navigate the steps involved in having a hip replaced, for instance. The company has raised about $5.3 million from investors since launching in 2008, including $1.3 million in debt financing earlier this year.

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