Johnson Controls, Dohmen, PerBlue & More: This Week’s WI Watchlist
Stay current on news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines:
—Johnson Controls International (NYSE: JCI) said it’s considering selling its Power Solutions business, or spinning it out into a separate company. JCI said the corporate division, which sells car batteries and other auto parts, had total revenues of $7.3 billion in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. JCI, which was founded in Wisconsin over a century ago but is now headquartered in Cork, Ireland, said it also plans to strengthen and invest in its core buildings technology division. That side of the company focuses on systems for controlling the temperature of buildings and monitoring threats such as fire and intruders.
—Dohmen Company, a Milwaukee-based conglomerate of healthcare businesses, created the first benefit corporation in Wisconsin. In November, the state passed legislation allowing Wisconsin-based companies to be structured as benefit corporations, which are for-profit entities whose organizing documents require the businesses to provide returns to shareholders, employees, and society at large. Dohmen said its newest entity, Dohmen Constellations, will invest in a portfolio of businesses that seek to “create a social return on investment while also being self-sustainable.” The conglomerate cited racial and socioeconomic divisions in the Milwaukee area as a reason for launching Dohmen Constellations.
—Ochsner Health System, a network of hospitals and clinics based in the New Orleans area, said it has been using a machine learning platform developed by Verona-based Epic Systems that’s designed to help clinicians intervene more rapidly when a patient’s health is deteriorating. Ochsner has used Epic’s patient records management software since 2011, but only recently started using predictive software models developed by the company, which are powered by Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Azure cloud computing service.
—Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin said its patients are now able to use a free online symptom checker developed by Buoy Health, a Boston-based startup. Buoy’s software combs through thousands of clinical research papers in order to suggest diagnoses based on information users enter about themselves and their symptoms.
—PerBlue, a Madison-based mobile game studio, announced the title and other details of a game it’s co-developing with Disney (NYSE: DIS). The role-playing game is called “Disney Heroes: Battle Mode,” and features characters from Disney films such as “The Incredibles,” “Wreck-it Ralph,” and “Zootopia.” A preview of the game in Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) App Store does not say when it will be available for download.
—Harley-Davidson (NYSE: HOG) made an equity investment—the size of which it did not disclose—in Alta Motors, a Brisbane, CA, company developing electric motor technology. Like Harley, Alta sells a line of fully built motorcycles, though Alta’s models are all powered by electric motors. The companies said they are seeking to lure riders who are attracted to the ease of an electric motorcycle with no gears or clutch. Harley said earlier this year that it plans to launch its first electric motorcycle by mid-2019.
—In related news, Dan Ludois, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, co-authored an article on the website of the school’s technology transfer office about modern development of electric motors. Ludois, who is the co-founder of C-Motive Technologies, a Madison-based startup seeking to commercialize electric motor technology, writes that engineers at C-Motive and other organizations are “trying to leverage old manufacturing techniques with a high-tech twist.”
—EnsoData, a Madison-based startup developing digital tools designed to help workers at sleep clinics score data from sleep studies performed in laboratories and at patients’ homes, raised $1.5 million in seed financing from investors. New York-based Colle Capital led the round, which brings EnsoData’s total seed-stage funding to more than $2 million, said co-founder and CEO Chris Fernandez.
—Rabble, a Madison startup that aims to turn libraries into hubs for local music, plans to launch a new service designed for libraries in small- to medium-sized metropolitan areas. Rabble said it’s already partnered with libraries in places like Seattle, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City, but that librarians in smaller cities also want to build online local music collections. The company’s goal is to get 20 public libraries that each serve populations below 150,000 people to sign up for the new service, MUSICat Chorus. Rabble plans to launch the service this fall.
—UW-Madison’s news service profiled Prof2Prof, an “online platform to store and share work from the academic realm.” Kristen Slack, a professor of social work at the school, said part of the idea is to create a repository for ideas and research that don’t end up getting published in traditional academic journals. The business Slack created around Prof2Prof, Information Escalator, has received funding from the Madison-based Doyenne Group, which supports companies led by women and people of color.
—Fetch Rewards, a Madison-based startup, introduced a mobile app that allows users to scan grocery receipts and, if they’ve purchased items eligible for Fetch’s rewards program, receive points that can be redeemed for gift cards to Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Macy’s (NYSE: M), and other retailers. Until last September, when Fetch first made public details of its receipt-scanning technology, Fetch was best known for its smartphone app that lets users scan items’ barcodes as they shop.