Hyperloop, Epic, Wantable, & More: This Week’s Wisconsin Watchlist
Catch up on news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines:
—A team of students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has constructed a prototype for a vehicle that could potentially zoom through an above-ground vacuum tube at speeds of 200 miles per hour, the school said. The “Badgerloop” team is one of 30 from around the world competing in Hyperloop Pod Competition II, a contest organized by the Elon Musk-run company SpaceX. (Musk introduced the Hyperloop concept in a white paper published in 2013.)
The UW-Madison team held an open house on Tuesday to show off its prototype to the campus community. According to a SpaceX document outlining rules and requirements for the contest, teams will race their pods on a hyperloop test track in Hawthorne, CA, next month. For more details and to see interviews with some of the engineers who helped build the pod, check out this YouTube video.
—Current and former employees of Verona-based Epic Systems, which develops software that hospitals and clinics use to manage patient records, filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The lawsuit claims that a group of workers who test Epic’s software to find bugs—a division the company calls “Quality Assurance”—were denied overtime pay to which the employees believe they were entitled. The lawsuit asks for “unspecified back wages, damages, and attorney fees,” according to the report. Epic, which did not comment for the latest State Journal article, settled a similar lawsuit involving a set of employees who test the company’s software in 2014 by agreeing to pay them a combined $5.4 million.
—BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation invested $550,000 across three Milwaukee-based startups: Access HealthNet, which works with business clients to help them find the lowest prices for common medical procedures; OnKöl, which has developed a box-shaped device that ties together various home and health monitoring devices; and Rent College Pads, a website students can use to search for off-campus housing. BrightStar has invested in 32 companies since 2013, a spokesman for the nonprofit said via e-mail.
—Wantable plans to move into a new headquarters about 1.5 miles west of its current digs in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The startup, which ships curated boxes containing clothing, makeup, accessories, and other items to a mostly young, female customer base, will have about twice as much space as it currently has following the move, which Wantable expects will happen by the end of March. The startup reportedly now has 73 employees, and according to documents filed with securities regulators it has raised more than $4.3 million from investors.
—OnLume, a Madison-based startup developing a camera system that would allow surgeons to better see residual cancer cells when operating on humans and animals, recently received a $300,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant through the National Cancer Institute. The company is seeking to make it easier to perform procedures using a technique called fluorescence image-guided surgery, in which patients are injected beforehand with fluorescent compounds that highlight particular tissues in their bodies. OnLume’s founding team includes researchers with expertise in optics, light microscopy, and medical physics.
—Speaking of OnLume’s founding team, one of its members—Rock Mackie, a serial entrepreneur and engineering professor at UW-Madison—also co-founded another Madison-based startup profiled by Xconomy this week, Asto CT. The company is working with Boxboro, MA-based PhotoDiagnostic Systems to develop a computed tomography (CT) scanning machine made specifically for imaging horses and other animals. The device is designed to allow horses to remain standing while it peers inside their legs, heads, and necks; one reason for this is that it means veterinarians don’t have to put horses under general anesthesia, which the animals sometimes do not come out of well, said David Ergun, CEO of Asto CT.
—Milo Savings plans to raise between $1 million and $2.5 million from investors in the coming months, according to a BizTimes Media report. The company, which is based in the Milwaukee area, is developing software that’s aimed at helping users save for college and other expenses. One of Milo Savings’ mechanisms for doing this is reportedly to round up every purchase a user makes with his or her debit card to the nearest dollar, and then put the difference into a separate savings account.