After gBETA, UW Prof Patel’s Latest Startup, DataChat, Aims to Ride Chatbot Wave

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companies in Wisconsin and in the Midwest.”

DataChat is currently conducting “a number of pilots” with its earliest customers, says Patel. He declined to name any of them.

gBETA has graduated several dozen startups since Gener8tor launched the series in 2015. DataChat was among the 20 seed-stage businesses that completed the latest sessions last week. They were spread across cohorts held in four Wisconsin cities: Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, and Beloit.

During the final weeks of the program, participating entrepreneurs pitched their startups to investors and leaders at for-equity accelerators, says Abby Taubner, one of two managing directors of gBETA.

Startups selected for gBETA do not get money from Gener8tor—unlike its core accelerator program—nor do they surrender any ownership of their businesses. Company founders get help from Gener8tor’s team and mentor network as they work to add users and customers, and ask investors to open their checkbooks.

Gener8tor recently announced it plans to hold multiple gBETA programs per year in northeastern Wisconsin and Milwaukee after receiving funding commitments from a number of large corporations, including Microsoft and Northwestern Mutual. gBETA has also been held in Detroit and the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

Maggie Brickerman, gBETA’s other managing director, said last month that her team set a goal of positioning at least one-third of participating startups to be accepted into a for-equity accelerator or raise money from angel investors after the gBETA program. She said about half of the companies that have gone through gBETA have hit one or both of those targets.

The ultimate goal for most startups is to be acquired, something Patel knows a thing or two about. One of his previous ventures was Locomatix, a mobile data analytics company that Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) purchased in 2013 for an undisclosed amount. (The other two exits he was involved with were Quickstep Technologies, which San Francisco-based Pivotal bought in 2015, and Paradise, which was acquired by NCR in 1997.)

Patel is based in Wisconsin, but he and others on Locomatix’s team decided to have the company headquarters in Sunnyvale, CA, putting it in close proximity to Silicon Valley’s investors and technical talent.

DataChat was incorporated in May, though Patel and others at the startup began developing some of its core technology years before that. (DataChat, which now has eight full- and part-time employees, recently licensed a patent from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, he says.) Patel says that ahead of DataChat’s official launch, he faced the familiar question of where the startup should be based.

“I was given a bunch of advice to go do it in the Bay Area because it’s just much easier,” he says. “But I consciously made a decision to headquarter the company in Madison. We have the talent [here]. I really feel Madison is ripe for something big in this space right now.”

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