Gener8tor, StartingBlock, Wicab, & More: This Week’s WI Watchlist
Catch up on news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines:
—Gener8tor, which has run training programs for entrepreneurs in Wisconsin and Minnesota, graduated five startups from its core accelerator program. Descriptions of the companies, which had been working from Gener8tor’s office in Madison since February, are available here. See articles in the Wisconsin State Journal and WisBusiness.com for additional coverage.
—StartingBlock Madison, a center for entrepreneurs in Wisconsin’s capital city, took another step forward when the Madison City Council agreed to provide additional funding to a nearby parking garage that is also being built, the Capital Times reported. Construction on “The Spark,” an eight-story building that will house StartingBlock, is underway.
—Separately, the Capital Times reported that StartingBlock is looking to bring on a new head of operations and executive director. The latter position was previously held by Scott Resnick, who announced in February he was shifting to the role of entrepreneur-in-residence. The current operations head is Chandra Miller Fienen, who provided details on StartingBlock’s progress in an interview with the newspaper.
—One of StartingBlock’s future tenants is Bunker Labs Wisconsin, a chapter of a national organization focused on helping U.S. military veterans start and grow companies. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel profiled Bunker Labs Wisconsin earlier this week.
—The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation rated Wisconsin as the worst state in the U.S. for startup activity for the third straight year. In a column published by the Wisconsin State Journal, Wisconsin Technology Council president Tom Still discusses what he believes are some of the likely explanations for the low ranking, and potential ways to improve the state’s early-stage business climate.
—Middleton-based Wicab, which has developed a headset device designed to help blind people “see” their surroundings via impulses felt on the tongue, was featured in an article in The New Yorker magazine. Reporter Nicola Twilley tested Wicab’s “BrainPort” product, which uses a small video camera to convert video signals into electronic impulses and routes them to a mouth piece. The magazine reported that for now, BrainPort “remains little more than a curiosity” in the blind community. San Diego-based Aira, which raised $12 million this week, has taken a slightly different approach.
—Madison-based Understory said it is now operating networks of weather stations capable of measuring wind, temperature, humidity, and various forms of precipitation in six different cities. The startup was launched five years ago in the Badger State before moving to Massachusetts, then returning home to Wisconsin last year.
—The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s news service published an article about a mobile app developed by researchers at the school that’s aimed at helping users avoid substance abuse relapse. According to the article, a central feature of the app, which currently has about 5,000 users, is a discussion forum that allows recovering addicts to communicate and provide support to one another in difficult times. The team behind the app, known as Addiction CHESS, was chosen as one of seven finalists in Harvard University’s Innovation in American Government contest.