Bright Cellars, AmFam, Coinigy & More: This Week’s WI Watchlist
Stay current on news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines:
—Bright Cellars, a monthly wine club that seeks to help its subscribers develop more sophisticated palates, said it raised a $2.8 million funding round. Participating investors included Chicago-based Cleveland Avenue, Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Venture Capital fund, and return backer CSA Partners. Richard Yau, the Milwaukee startup’s co-founder and CEO, said in a news release that his team plans to use proceeds from the round “to continue to build Bright Cellars.”
Yau and fellow MIT grad Joe Laurendi launched Bright Cellars in Boston in 2014, and moved the company to Wisconsin the following year. The startup says that more than 22,000 people subscribe to its service, which includes the option to add artisan cheeses paired with the wines Bright Cellars selects for customers. The company’s proprietary matching algorithm uses results from a wine quiz members take to select four bottles, which arrive on their doorstep in a box each month. Subscribers rate wines after drinking them, further refining their taste profiles.
Previously, Bright Cellars raised a $1.8 million equity funding round in 2015.
—Another Milwaukee-based startup that recently raised a seven-figure funding round is Wantable, which ships customers curated boxes of goods each month containing clothing and fashion accessories, such as handbags and jewelry. Wantable reeled in more than $1.4 million from eight investors, including Cream City VC and the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation. Wantable has now raised more than $6.5 million in outside investment since launching in 2012, says founder and president Jalem Getz.
—The University of Wisconsin-Madison spotlighted a partnership that involves having students and professors at the university collaborate with employees of American Family Insurance on data science research projects. The Madison-based insurer is working with UW-Madison faculty and staff who teach in its computer science, engineering, business, and statistics departments, the school said. One project the two organizations are collaborating on involves developing software to blur out peoples’ faces in footage captured by drones, which American Family sometimes uses to assess weather damage, UW-Madison said.
—More UW-Madison news: the Morgridge Institute for Research, which is affiliated with the school, published an oral history to commemorate the 20th anniversary of a landmark discovery by biology professor James Thomson and other researchers. Thomson led the team that derived the first human embryonic stem cell line in 1998, and contributed to another landmark achievement in 2007, when he and colleagues became the first researchers to derive human induced pluripotent stem cells. Since those two discoveries, numerous stem cell-focused businesses have popped up in the Madison area.
—Milwaukee-based Coinigy, which develops software for trading on digital currency exchanges that allows users to change U.S. dollars and other fiat currencies out for Bitcoin and other digital currencies, said it launched a mobile version of its software for iOS and Android devices. The app, which is called Coinigy Mobile, costs $21.95 a month, the company said. Launched in 2014, Coinigy says it now has more than 100,000 users.
—Two Madison-based digital health startups were named to Gartner’s annual list of “Cool Vendors” in health IT. One was Healthfinch, which is developing software to automate routine tasks performed by doctors and others who care for patients in clinics. The other Wisconsin company named to Gartner’s list was Redox, which works with healthcare providers and other software vendors to set up data feeds allowing health information to flow into and out of computerized patient records systems.
—Venture Investors said in a regulatory filing that it’s seeking to raise up to $100 million to invest in healthcare startups. Madison-based Venture Investors is Wisconsin’s largest and oldest VC firm.
—One of the startups in Venture Investors’s portfolio is Madison-based FluGen, which this week said it kicked off a clinical trial of a universal influenza vaccine the company is developing. The study, which is taking place in Belgium, will test the ability of FluGen’s experimental vaccine to protect against so-called drifted, or mismatched, flu strains.
—Brian Moeller, operations manager at the Wisconsin life sciences trade association BioForward, wrote a recap of a recent talk that Daniel Lawton, co-founder and president of Promentis Pharmaceuticals, gave about some of the company’s ups and downs since launching in 2007. Milwaukee-based Promentis is developing drugs designed to modify brain chemistry to treat central nervous system disorders.