Connecture, Spectrum, CDI, & More: This Week’s Wisconsin Watchlist

Stay current on news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines:

—Francisco Partners, a San Francisco-based private equity firm, agreed to terms to acquire Connecture (OTCMKTS: CNXR) and take the Brookfield-based company private. Connecture develops Web-based software designed to aid consumers shopping for health insurance. Francisco Partners and Louisville, KY-based Chrysalis Ventures—both of which invested in Connecture previously—will, along with other affiliates, pay $0.35 a share for each share of Connecture common stock they do not already own, according to a press release. The company said the transaction is expected to close by the end of June.

Connecture went public in 2014 and its financial performance has been mixed in the years since. Last year, the company withdrew its shares from the Nasdaq Global Market stock exchange, in part because Nasdaq requires that companies listed on the exchange each have a market capitalization of at least $15 million. Connecture later listed its stock on the OTCQX U.S. Market exchange, an over-the-counter stock marketplace that has less stringent listing requirements than Nasdaq.

—Middleton-based Spectrum Brands (NYSE: SPB) said it’s looking to sell its batteries and appliances division sometime this year in order to reduce debt and invest in its other business lines. The batteries and appliances unit includes brands such as Rayovac, Remington, and Black and Decker. According to Spectrum’s website, its other three divisions are hardware and home improvement; pet, home, and garden; and automobile care.

—PhishLine, a Waukesha-based business that sells software to help customers teach their employees to identify and avoid clicking on links in e-mail messages that trigger phishing attacks, was acquired by Campbell, CA-based Barracuda Networks (NYSE: CUDA). PhishLine had a 15-person team at the time the acquisition closed, in late December, said chief operating officer Dennis Dillman. The plan is for all of them to now join Barracuda, he said.

—Cellular Dynamics International, a Madison-based manufacturer of human stem cells, said some of its cells were launched into space in mid-December as part of a mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. The cardiomyocytes (cells that constitute cardiac muscle) were traveling aboard a SpaceX ship and will help NASA validate its “new Bioculture System for automated cell culture on the International Space Station and to study human cardiac cell function in microgravity,” CDI said.

—Fitchburg-based Imbed Biosciences, which is seeking to commercialize an ultra-thin wound dressing material that uses silver’s antimicrobial properties to kill infection-causing pathogens, raised $1.6 million from investors. Madison-based WISC Partners led the round, said Imbed CEO Ankit Agarwal. Imbed plans to begin selling its flagship product, Microlyte Ag, in mid-2018, he said.

—Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI), which is headquartered in Ireland but has significant operations in Wisconsin, where the company was founded over a century ago, unveiled a new voice-controlled thermostat. The Internet-connected thermostat, which JCI is calling Glas, features a touchscreen and can measure air quality inside and outside using a remote sensor, the company said. Users can also monitor and adjust the temperature in their homes while they’re away, similar to the thermostats sold by Nest Labs. Glas will be available for pre-order in March and has a suggested retail price of $319, JCI said.

—The Milwaukee-based startup Coinigy now has 80,000 users, up from 29,000 in June, according to a profile of the company published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Coinigy develops software for trading on digital currency exchanges, which allow users to change U.S. dollars and other fiat currencies out for digital currencies, such as Bitcoin. The company reportedly had its highest-traffic day ever on Dec. 22, a particularly volatile day for the price of Bitcoin, even by cryptocurrency standards.

—Serial entrepreneur Mark Wilson’s latest startup is VIP Crowd, which is developing digital tools to connect enterprise software vendors with workers at mid-size companies who are responsible for making purchasing decisions on behalf of their employers. Verona-based VIP Crowd is seeking to raise the remaining portion of a $1.5 million seed funding round by the end of January, Wilson said. The last company he founded, TermSync, was sold to France-based Esker in 2015 for an undisclosed sum.

—Rapid Imaging Software, a company that develops augmented reality tools for groups in the defense and construction industries, among others, recently moved its headquarters from New Mexico to the Madison suburb of Mount Horeb, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Longtime Mount Horeb resident David Geisler, who had been a remote employee of Rapid Imaging for more than a decade, reportedly bought the company from founder Mike Abernathy in late November.

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