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Wisconsin Watchlist: Gravy, Semba, Steamchain, OnCourse, GenoPalate

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

[Updated 12/7/18, 3:42 pm. See below.] Time to catch up on recent headlines from Wisconsin’s innovation community:

—Madison-based Gravy snagged the first investment from Rock River Capital Partners, which recently closed its debut fund. Rock River partner Andy Walker told Xconomy the venture funding round for Gravy totaled about $2 million. Other investors in the deal included MSA Capital, a Chinese firm that invests in “social e-commerce” companies, according to a press release.

When Xconomy profiled Gravy last year, the company was developing a live online broadcasting platform for shows about cooking, fashion, and other topics. Gravy has since changed its business model, and now broadcasts live, interactive shopping game shows online, in which its mobile app users are contestants.

Rock River is part of the Badger Fund of Funds, a program supported in part by the state of Wisconsin that was created to provide capital to early-stage businesses.

—Steamchain, a Milwaukee-based startup developing blockchain technology for the manufacturing industry, said it closed a $2.7 million seed funding round led by Capital Midwest Fund. Other investors in the round included Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Venture Capital fundGener8tor, and the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, Steamchain CEO Michael Cromheecke said in an e-mail to Xconomy. His company participated in Gener8tor’s startup accelerator program in Milwaukee last year.

—Speaking of Gener8tor, it continued its expansion across America’s heartland with the announcement of new programs in Ohio and Nebraska. Gener8tor announced it will bring its gALPHA and gBETA accelerator programs—which run shorter sessions than the flagship accelerator, and don’t make equity investments—to Youngstown, OH, in partnership with the Youngstown Business Incubator. Those accelerators will focus on additive manufacturing ventures. And in Nebraska, Gener8tor said it has formed a partnership with NMotion in Lincoln, NE, to operate three gBETA-like accelerator programs under the NMotion brand name. One of the programs will focus on agricultural technology and food, and the other two will be open to all sectors, according to an e-mailed press release. [This paragraph added.—Eds.]

—GenoPalate, a Milwaukee-based startup that provides personalized nutrition recommendations based on genetic testing results, raised more than $700,000 in equity funding and other securities, per a document filed with the SEC. In a press release, the company said it has secured commitments for more than $1.3 million in funding. Read more about GenoPalate in this Xconomy profile from April.

—Semba Biosciences raised an undisclosed amount of equity funding from Tosoh Bioscience, which said it intends to acquire full ownership of the company. Madison-based Semba sells instruments and reagents that researchers use to purify biomolecules and chemicals. The 13-year-old company previously raised at least $2.4 million from investors, according to SEC filings. Tosoh Bioscience is the U.S.-based subsidiary of Japan-based Tosoh Corporation.

—Madison-based CUNA Mutual Group said it acquired Mirador, a financial technology startup based in Portland, OR. CUNA invested in Mirador last year through its venture capital arm, CMFG Ventures.

The acquisition follows another recent purchase by CUNA: the firm bought Grand Rapids, MI-based business compliance technology company Compliance Systems in November.

—OnCourse Learning said it appointed Brett Shively as president and CEO. Shively, previously the company’s executive vice president and general manager of professional education, succeeds Patrick Sheahan.

OnCourse was recently sold by private equity firm CIP Capital to German media and publishing conglomerate Bertelsmann for a reported $500 million. OnCourse is a Brookfield-based provider of online professional training programs.