After 33 Exits in 5 Years, WI Seeks “More and Bigger” Startup Deals

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Modern Movement, Shift Savings, and Lactic Solutions.

“The good news is that we as a community have made some good investments” in resources for startups, Vosseller says, citing the VC firm 4490 Ventures in Madison and newer corporate venture groups such as Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Venture Capital. “But I think we still need more time for that to bear fruit.”

The questions are how long it will take for more success stories to materialize, and what Wisconsin will reap from them. And if the stats don’t improve as much as Wisconsin’s business leaders and politicians hope, what levers would be left for them to pull? These are complex questions that deserve healthy debate, and we won’t try to answer them here. But it’s a safe bet many in the state’s early-stage business community will be watching how the discussion plays out in the coming months. Democrat Tony Evers, who recently took over as governor after eight years of Republican Scott Walker at the helm, has put discussion of entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives on his agenda in the first month on the job. But it’s unclear what policies he or the Republican-controlled legislature might propose—and whether they’d agree on them.

Politics aside, the startup environment in Wisconsin is “maturing a little bit,” the Tech Council’s Daelemans claims. “We just have to make sure that we keep feeding the funnel.”

Below are Wisconsin’s 33 exits from the past five years. To clarify, we didn’t include deals in which we knew it wasn’t the first time the company changed hands. Those criteria ruled out the reported $500 million sale of OnCourse Learning to Bertelsmann last year, for example; OnCourse had been acquired at least two other times. And we didn’t include deals that didn’t involve a sale of the majority of assets, so PerBlue’s deal with GREE International Entertainment in 2016 didn’t make the list.

If we missed any, please e-mail [email protected] [Editor’s note: This report was updated to include the purchase price of MdotLabs and the acquisition of Vonlay.]

Wisconsin Exits 2014-2018

CompanyAcquirerDeal ValueYearHeadquartersSector
Cedarburg Hauser PharmaceuticalsAlbany Molecular Research Inc. (AMRI)$41M2014GraftonLife Sciences
VonlayHuron Consulting Group$34.5M2014MadisonDigital Health
Idle Free SystemsPhillips & Temro IndustriesUndisclosed2014MadisonCleantech
ConnectureIPO$53M2014BrookfieldDigital Health
IODHealthPortUndisclosed2015Green BayDigital Health
TeraMedicaFujifilm Medical Systems U.S.A.Undisclosed2015WauwatosaDigital Health
Modern MovementNautilusUndisclosed2015MadisonFitness Devices
XolveUndisclosedUndisclosed2016MiddletonMaterials Science
NeuWave MedicalEthicon (Johnson & Johnson subsidiary)Undisclosed2016MadisonMedical Devices
AlfalightGooch & Housego$1.3M2016MadisonLaser Technology
StratatechMallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals$76M; up to $197M2016MadisonLife Sciences
Aquarius TechnologiesManagementUndisclosed2017Port WashingtonWastewater Treatment
Agro BioSciencesChurch & Dwight$75M; up to $100M2017WauwatosaAgricultural Science
Lactic SolutionsLallemand Biofuels & Distilled SpiritsUndisclosed2017MadisonSynthetic Biology, Energy
GenAlpha TechnologiesShore Points Capital, Greyrock Capital GroupUndisclosed2017BrookfieldSoftware
HarQenStuart Olsten (investor & board member)Undisclosed2017BrookfieldSoftware
LucigenLGCUndisclosed2018MiddletonLife Sciences
Cayen SystemsTransACT CommunicationsUndisclosed2018MilwaukeeEdtech
Behold.AIEntrepreneur Simon RasalinghamUndisclosed2018MadisonDigital Health
FishidyFlir SystemsUndisclosed2018MadisonSoftware
Shift SavingsSafetyNet (CUNA Mutual Group subsidiary)Undisclosed2018DelafieldFintech
Adorable8th LightUndisclosed2018MadisonSoftware
True ProcessBaxterUndisclosed2018GlendaleDigital Health
MCT DigitalGerber Technology$3.5M+2018New BerlinIndustrial Tech
Dynamis SoftwareApplied SystemsUndisclosed2018West AllisSoftware
Propeller HealthResMed$225M2018MadisonDigital Health

Sources: PitchBook, Wisconsin Technology Council, press releases, news articles, interviews

[Top photo by Flickr user Pictures of Money used via a Creative Commons license.]

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