Foxconn, Doyenne, Socialeads & More: This Week’s WI Watchlist

Madison, WI, and suburbs west of the city have received record rainfall this week, and more storms appear to be headed for the capital city this weekend. Those forecasts have created fears of further flooding and road closures downtown, which sits on an isthmus between two lakes. Your correspondent retreated to his home office after the building he normally works from was evacuated mid-day Friday.

As Madison home and business owners fill and stack sandbags around their properties to protect what’s theirs, take a few minutes to catch up on news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines:

—Foxconn, a leading Taiwanese contract manufacturer that’s building an enormous plant in southeastern Wisconsin for assembling electronic displays, reportedly anticipates the employees who staff the facility will include a smaller share of assembly workers than previously projected. Foxconn’s plant is expected to create up to 13,000 jobs, and the company has said the $10 billion facility it’s building will employ at least 3,000 workers when it opens in 2020.

Louis Woo, a special assistant to Foxconn founder and chairman Terry Gou, told the Milwaukee Business Journal that as of “several months ago,” Woo and his fellow Foxconn executives believed the split between assembly workers and engineers at the plant would be roughly 75 percent to 25 percent. However, Woo and his colleagues “have come to the realization that we have to flip that,” he told the newspaper. Now they predict the Wisconsin facility’s workforce will be made up of nearly 90 percent engineers and less than 10 percent assembly workers, according to the report.

The revised projection comes after Foxconn confirmed reporting by Nikkei Asian Review and other publications that the company will produce small and medium-sized displays for television makers, car manufacturers, and other customers at the facility. Foxconn had said previously that it would manufacture large liquid display panels—ones measuring at least 65 inches diagonally—at its plant in Wisconsin.

YesLMS, a Madison-based startup developing software to help clients manage educational and training materials, won The Doyenne Group’s annual “5x5x5” pitch contest. The Doyenne Group, which is also based in Madison and supports businesses led by women and people of color, awarded YesLMS a $5,000 grant for winning the competition.

—Socialeads, a startup that develops tools to mine social media feeds and flag posts where users indicate they recently made a significant financial decision, raised an $825,000 round of equity financing, according to an SEC filing. Milwaukee-based Socialeads said three investment funds participated in the round: the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Venture Capital fund, and the Winnebago Seed Fund. Socialeads had previously worked with Northwestern Mutual, the large insurer that’s also based in Milwaukee, after winning a “reverse pitch” competition that’s aimed at matching startups with established companies.

—Madison-based Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS) struck an agreement with Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), a New York-based drug maker, to co-promote Exact’s flagship test for cancer screening. The two companies will work together to market Cologuard, Exact’s diagnostic test that screens for colorectal cancer, from October 2018 through December 2021. Exact has agreed to share pre-determined percentages of profits with Pfizer while the agreement is active, and to pay royalties to the New York company for three years after it ends.

—The University of Wisconsin-Madison is working with the state’s jobs-creation agency and other organizations to launch a new initiative to help scientists, researchers, and business leaders develop and commercialize medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and other products for use in the healthcare and life sciences sectors. The collaboration, which is called the Forward Bio Initiative, will kick off this fall, the university said.

—The Water Council, a Milwaukee-based consortium that helps grow the area’s cluster of businesses developing water-related technologies, has become a “global player” in the industry, according to an article by U.S. News and World Report. The Water Council now has “180 dues-paying corporate members” worldwide, according to the report.

They include Stonehouse Water Technologies, which like the council is headquartered at Milwaukee’s Global Water Center. Stonehouse is developing a water purifier about the size of a dehumidifier that’s designed for use in residential, commercial, and agricultural buildings.

—Madison-based Propeller Health partnered with health insurer in Ohio to help a group of its Medicare patients who have respiratory disease better manage their symptoms. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Ohio is recruiting patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to participate in a program where they’ll receive Internet-connected sensors developed by Propeller, which snap onto the top of inhalers the patients already use. These sensors collect data on when and where patients use their inhalers, along with environmental conditions and other information. Healthcare providers can review sensor-collected data and make changes to patients’ treatment regimens, if they choose.

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