WI Watchlist: Kauffman Ranking, Driverless Shuttles, Space Research

Here are some of the latest headlines from Wisconsin’s innovation community:

—Well, it’s not last place, but it’s still not a great showing for Wisconsin in the latest assessment of entrepreneurial activity in each state by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Wisconsin ranked 45th in the foundation’s “early-stage entrepreneurship index” released in February, which examined a variety of data from 2017. The index is a modified version of the group’s annual national entrepreneurship report, which went on hiatus last year. From 2015 through 2017, Wisconsin came in last place in Kauffman’s ranking of startup activity by state.

—Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS) said it added a new member to its board of directors: Kathleen Sebelius, the former Kansas governor and former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama. Madison-based Exact, which sells a stool-based diagnostic test for colorectal cancer, is one of Wisconsin’s fastest-growing healthcare technology firms and is currently valued at more than $11 billion.

—A group of public and private sector partners wants to create a driverless shuttle service in downtown Madison, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The group, led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory, wants to run a demonstration project that would offer driverless shuttle rides over a short distance, potentially the route between the state Capitol building and the entrepreneurial hub known as the Spark building. American Family Insurance, which owns the Spark, would pay for the cost of the shuttle. The group will seek bids from potential operators of the shuttle service.

If the plans come to fruition, it wouldn’t be the first time autonomous vehicles have hit Madison’s streets. Last April, a driverless shuttle made by France-based Navya gave public rides over two days along a pre-programmed route on UW-Madison’s campus.

—A group of students and a professor from Carthage College, located south of Milwaukee in Kenosha, have been developing technology in partnership with NASA to more accurately track fuel levels during space missions. WisconsinInno has more details.

Gener8tor continues to launch new startup accelerator programs, this time in partnership with the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. The partners are launching two free entrepreneurship programs on campus, meaning they will not make equity investments or charge fees to participants. One program is the latest installment of Gener8tor’s gALPHA program, a four-week workshop that helps students identify business models and begin building products, and the other is the latest gBETA program, Gener8tor’s seven-week accelerator that mentors early-stage ventures, helping them grow their sales and pitch to investors and other accelerator programs. The new gBETA program will cater to startups with ties to St. Thomas, according to a press release e-mailed to Xconomy.

—ARI Network Services, a Milwaukee-based company that develops e-commerce software for equipment manufacturers and other customers, has received an investment from private equity firm TA Associates. The size of the investment wasn’t disclosed, but True Wind Capital will remain ARI’s largest shareholder. True Wind bought ARI for $140 million in 2017, taking the publicly traded company private.

Jeff Bauter Engel is Deputy Editor, Tech at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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