Gravy Live, Promega, Okanjo, & More: This Week’s Wisconsin Watchlist
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Funds, a state initiative aimed at injecting more venture capital into Wisconsin-based startups. Part of the idea is for small chunks of money to trickle down from the central Badger Fund—which said in August that it had raised $10 million from private investors—to smaller “recipient” funds like the Idea Fund. According to a press release, the Idea Fund plans to invest in 10 to 12 startups based in Wisconsin over the next several years.
—The Milwaukee Business Journal published a series of articles on how the Milwaukee-based life insurance giant Northwestern Mutual is adapting to—and is itself working to bring about—technological innovations. In one story, reporter Rich Kirchen explores the company’s “two-year-old effort to go agile” (the effort could be seen as starting in March 2015, when Northwestern Mutual acquired New York-based LearnVest for a reported price tag of more than $250 million). In another story in the Business Journal series, Kirchen describes his visit to the center of Northwestern Mutual’s software development operations, which he describes as a “geek playpen with … numerous white boards filled with calculations and messages.”
—EnSync, which is based in the Milwaukee area and makes energy management systems, said that it acquired Annapolis, MD-based DCfusion, which has expertise in direct current power systems. EnSync (NYSE: ESNC) said in a press release announcing the deal that renewable energy sources, which make up an increasing share of the electrical grid in the United States, are largely direct current systems. “The acquisition of DCfusion brings decades of customer applied [direct current] system design and consulting experience to complement [EnSync’s] application engineering,” the company said in the release. DCfusion will operate as a subsidiary of EnSync, and two DCfusion co-founders were issued stock options “as an inducement to join the [combined] company,” EnSync said.
—The Wisconsin State Journal profiled Oregon-based Arch Virtual. The startup develops virtual reality software with a variety of applications, including giving users “tours” of yet-to-be-constructed buildings, such as “The Spark” in Madison. According to the report, the company was founded in 2014 by Jon and Kandy Brouchoud, a married couple that had previously launched and operated a home design business. But after becoming more familiar with VR technology, they reportedly decided to go the high-tech route and have since created interactive simulations of condominiums and college dormitories. Other industries with potential uses for Arch Virtual’s technology include healthcare, manufacturing, and law enforcement, the newspaper reported.