Tax Credits, IVMD, BrightStar, & More: This Week’s WI Watchlist
Whoever came up with the rhyme “April showers bring May flowers” probably wasn’t talking about snow showers. As people in Wisconsin hope for this week’s flurries to give way to a long-awaited thaw, consider taking a few minutes to catch up on recent fundings and other news from the state’s innovation community:
—Integrated Vital Medical Dynamics raised $127,000 in debt financing from three investors, which the Madison-based startup plans to use to develop decision-support software that informs clinicians of the latest medical guidelines and recommendations when they are treating patients. That’s according to Jennifer Carter, IVMD’s chief executive.
When we profiled neurosurgeon and IVMD founder Josh Medow in 2016, the company was targeting organ procurement offices as potential customers, believing its digital tools could help increase the number and viability of organs for transplant. However, Carter said in an e-mail Thursday that she and others at IVMD “are still working in the organ donor world, but are expanding our reach to any patient in the hospital.”
One software application IVMD is seeking to sell to more hospitals focuses on blood use management, and is designed to help healthcare providers order an appropriate amount of blood products for a patient based on the patient’s needs and a target set by the provider. The University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, where Medow works, has been using the module and has observed “significant drops in the units of red cells and plasma used by the hospital,” leading to lower costs, Carter said.
—Lumanu, a Burlingame, CA-based startup with offices in (and business connections to) Milwaukee, raised $1 million in seed funding from investors. Lumanu develops software aimed at helping paid social media spokespeople, or “influencers,” reach bigger audiences with their Facebook posts and Instagram photos. Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Venture Capital fund participated in the financing round, along with 500 Startups, Gener8tor, Rightside Capital, and former Macy’s (NYSE: M) chief growth officer Peter Sachse.
—Milwaukee-based GenoPalate, a genetic testing service that analyzes customers’ DNA in order to make suggestions about foods they should eat, raised $307,066 from six investors. GenoPalate founder Sherry Zhang said her company began selling the kits in early 2017, and customers have purchased nearly 500 of them to date. It costs $299 for a GenoPalate kit and report with personalized nutrition recommendations, though the company offers a discount to people who have already had their DNA analyzed by companies like Ancestry and 23andMe.
—One of the participants in GenoPalate’s funding round was the Milwaukee-based BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, which also recently announced it invested $100,000 in Cytometix. That company, which does business as Cmxtwenty, has developed a drug that’s modeled after the body’s natural chemistry for controlling pain, BrightStar said. The foundation uses an unconventional venture philanthropy approach that pumps charitable donations from wealthy individuals and foundations into early-stage businesses that are creating jobs in Wisconsin.
—Bunker, a San Francisco-based startup with roots and operations in Madison, raised more than $2 million from Chubb, a Swiss insurer that Bunker has partnered with in the past. Bunker develops software designed to help independent contractors and workers at small businesses shop for and purchase policies while they’re in the process of negotiating temporary employment contracts, said co-founder and CEO Chad Nitschke.
—Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a bill backed by pro-business groups in the state that amends a program designed to incentivize investment in early-stage companies. The new law changes the state’s Qualified New Business Venture (QNBV) program, which allows eligible venture capital funds and angel investors to receive a 25 percent tax credit on investments in businesses that have been certified as qualified ventures, up to a certain threshold. Previously, that threshold was $8 million; the new law raises it to $12 million.
—A final piece of funding-related news: a Milwaukee-based investment fund created under the Badger Fund of Funds program to support local startups has a name—Bold Coast Capital—and a website. Veteran trader and investor Ross Leinweber is the fund’s managing director. Bold Coast Capital is the fourth “recipient” fund that has been formed under the statewide fund-of-funds program. Two of the other three recipient funds recently made their first investments in startups.
—Lynx Biosciences recently moved from Madison to San Diego, and has made a bit of a splash in its new oceanside home. The startup is seeking to commercialize a device that uses live cancer cells to determine how patients with multiple myeloma are likely to respond to various treatment regimens. Last week, LynxBio won the audience vote for best pitch at an event organized by EvoNexus, a tech startup incubator in San Diego. LynxBio has also been admitted to the JLABS innovation program, which works with biotech startups headquartered in and around the city.
—Disney (NYSE: DIS) and PerBlue, a Madison-based mobile game developer, plan to launch a new game featuring characters from hit Disney films sometime in 2018. The companies said they plan to make the game, “Disney Heroes: Battle Mode,” available for iOS and Android devices. Players will be able to choose from characters from film franchises such as “Toy Story,” “Zootopia,” and “The Incredibles,” PerBlue and Disney said.
—Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI) said it acquired Smartvue, a Nashville, TN-based developer of software for managing video files and camera equipment, for an undisclosed sum. Johnson Controls was founded in Wisconsin over a century ago but is now headquartered in Cork, Ireland. In 2016, the company merged with Tyco, which sold fire protection and security systems, among other products. Smartvue founder and CEO Martin Renkis said in a news release that “integrating our technology and innovation with Johnson Controls’ leadership and global reach will deliver exponential new value to the [Internet of Things] and security industries.”
—The University of Wisconsin-Madison named Andy Richards director of Discovery to Product, a program that helps students, faculty, and staff at the school turn ideas into companies. Richards had served as interim director of the program since last fall, when longtime Discovery to Product director John Biondi stepped down from the position.