WI Watchlist: Dark Knight Fund, Morgridge “Flamingo” Grant & More

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

In the latest installment of the Wisconsin Watchlist, we’re tracking the fundraising plans of two new Milwaukee-area venture funds, and a pair of grants awarded to research and education projects in Madison. Read on for details.

—State Representative Jason Fields, a Democrat from Milwaukee, aims to raise $10 million for a new venture capital fund called Dark Knight Capital Ventures that invests in startups founded by women, minorities, and people from other underrepresented groups, BizTimes Media reported. Fields is a former stock broker and portfolio manager who has made some angel investments, according to BizTimes.

—Entrepreneur Dan Voell is trying to raise $10 million for Forward Capital Fund, a Milwaukee-based, early-stage investment vehicle, BizTimes reported. The publication reported that Forward Capital is expected to receive backing from the Badger Fund of Funds, an organization that invests state money and private dollars in new Wisconsin-based venture funds.

Forward Capital is the sixth fund to receive a commitment from the Badger Fund of Funds, which recently said it had selected the sixth and seventh funds it would back. The seventh fund has yet to be revealed.

—The Morgridge Institute for Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said it received a roughly $1 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to support the use of a high-powered research microscope developed by Morgridge researcher Jan Huisken. Huisken’s “Flamingo” microscope shrinks high-end optical microscopes, usually big enough to fill a whole room, to the size of a suitcase, the university said. The idea is to deploy powerful imaging tech to more labs, so delicate samples don’t necessarily have to be shipped for analysis.

One of the portable microscopes is headed to the Boston area, where it will be made available to local researchers at institutions such as Harvard University and MIT. The grant will support embedding a Morgridge scientist in the Boston area for five years to work with partner organizations using the Flamingo, according to a press release.

—Filament Games, a Madison-based developer of educational video games, was recently awarded a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to finish a game that allows users to design robots in virtual reality or on personal computers, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The phase 2 federal grant follows an earlier $225,000 grant Filament received for the project, the newspaper reported. The “virtual robotics kit” is intended to get people, especially young students and people from underrepresented groups, interested in robotics.