Rocket Engines & Startup Fuel: NM, Abodo, & More WI Headlines

It’s time to catch up on recent Wisconsin innovation news, including more funding for startups and expanded production of rocket engines in the Madison area. Read on for more details.

—Northwestern Mutual said it’s pumping $150 million into its second in-house venture capital fund. The Milwaukee-based insurance and wealth management services giant invested $50 million in its first startup fund, Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures Fund I, in 2017. That fund has poured $43 million into 14 startups, the firm says.

The second fund will invest between $500,000 and $5 million in each deal, typically in Series A and Series B funding rounds. It will back companies working in digital health, analytics and related technologies, consumer finance, and products and services that “reimagine” the experience for financial services clients.

—Abodo, a Madison-based apartment-hunting website, recently raised $3.6 million in equity funding, plus an undisclosed amount of debt financing, a spokesperson told Xconomy. The investors were 4490 Ventures and Flyover Capital, which both previously backed Abodo. The 35-person company plans to invest in product development, acquiring users, and hiring in sales and engineering, the spokesperson said.

Read more about Abodo’s origins in this Xconomy story from 2014.

Scanalytics, a seven-year-old startup that developed sensors and software to help customers track the movement of people through physical spaces, is relocating its headquarters from Milwaukee to Chicago, after landing a deal with McCormick Place to install a “smart floor system” across the 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space in the Windy City’s convention center. Scanalytics isn’t abandoning Wisconsin though: It plans to keep most of its 20 employees in Milwaukee, as well as a team in Madison, CEO and co-founder Joe Scanlin told BizTimes Media. The firm is hiring and is seeking a bigger office in Milwaukee, he told the publication.

—The Business Health Care Group, a coalition of companies based in eastern Wisconsin, has formed a partnership with Boston-area healthcare analytics firm GNS Healthcare to try and figure out which doctors in the Badger State do the best job of efficiently helping patients return to good health, and how do they do it. GNS will apply its machine learning and simulation technologies to crunch de-identified data from 4 million patients in Wisconsin, or about 70 percent of the state’s population.

—Lastly, the Wisconsin State Journal has an update on Sierra Nevada Corp.’s operations in Wisconsin, where it’s building and testing rocket engines, including one for a Sierra Nevada autonomous space shuttle expected to start delivering cargo to the International Space Station in 2021. Sierra Nevada has about 250 employees in Wisconsin, the newspaper reported. The company established a Badger State presence in 2014 when it acquired Madison-based supplier Orbital Technologies, known as Orbitec. At the time, Orbitec had 80 employees.

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

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