From ideas born in the research lab to entrepreneurs who saw a need and developed a solution, innovation drives startup businesses throughout Wisconsin.
Here is a look at 10 innovative startups to watch across the state:
Green Bay-based Lanehub Inc. wants to change the trucking and logistics industry through its collaborative online network designed to eliminate empty return trips and find loads more easily.
Founded by Mark Hackl, who worked most recently at Schreiber Foods and is a former board member for the Food Shippers of America, Lanehub allows trucking companies, independent drivers and shippers to go online and search for cargo, available drivers and empty trucks. The goal is to improve efficiencies by matching a driver with an empty trailer with a company looking to send cargo in that area.
Last November, Lanehub won $100,000 in a Wisconsin-wide Rise of the Rest pitch contest. Hackl is looking to raise $750,000 to take the company to the next level and make more drivers and businesses in the $600 billion trucking industry aware of Lanehub and how it works.
Customers ordering wine at sporting events or at performing arts centers have typically sacrificed taste for convenience by drinking it out of a regular plastic cup. Wine lover Jessica Bell, a sommelier and former investment banker, knew that was a big mistake, so she began developing an anti-spill plastic cup shaped like a traditional wine glass.
Launched in 2016, HaloVino is a shatterproof, stackable, stemless wine glass. The cups are available for sale on Amazon and can be found at large venues, including Miller Park, the BMO Harris Bradley Center and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. HaloVino sold 100,000 glasses in 2017 and Bell hopes to double that in 2018.
Sussex IM currently manufactures the HaloVino cups.
Ab E Discovery
A newly signed agreement with Elanco Animal Health has the potential to raise Ab E Discovery’s profile in the animal feed industry.
In 2011, Dr. Jordan Sand and the late Dr. Mark Cook of the University of Wisconsin created Cosabody, an all-natural feed ingredient that nutritionally supports gut health. Four years later, the scientists launched Ab E Discovery to commercialize their discovery. The global in-licensing agreement with Elanco allows Ab E Discovery to further develop and bring to market an egg antibody focused on supporting an animal’s gut health and promote its growth and overall health, said Lauren Yang, a communications and strategic partnerships consultant with the company.
Ab E Discovery also serves as a full-service commercialization resource for scientists and entrepreneurs and is constructing a new facility in Waterloo for its commercial production division, Ab E Manufacturing.
Dayne Rusch was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh when he came up with the idea for Pyxsee – an app to help users better manage their social media networks. After working with two developers, Rusch launched Pyxsee last year.
The free app already has more than 11,000 active users, he said.
“You can post to multiple social media pages at once,” Rusch said.
But it also tells the user how much time is spent on different sites.
“I hope this helps people realize how much time they are on social media and that they may step away and get out to experience life,” Rusch added.
Pyxsee also provides a service that allows parents to limit their children’s time on social media and their access to specific social media outlets. The feature costs $2.99 per month per child or $50 a year, unlimited.
Top Note Tonics
There are specialty spirits, craft beers, and now specialty tonic water. Top Note Tonics, a brand of Milwaukee-based La Pavia Beverage Inc., makes a line of ready-to-drink, non-alcoholic craft tonics and premium tonics, including Indian Tonic Water, Bitter Lemon and Ginger Beer.
Located in Milwaukee’s Lincoln Warehouse, Top Note Tonics products are available in select specialty liquor stores, bars and restaurants nationwide.
The tonic water concentrates are made with only natural ingredients and are aimed at high-end cocktail-makers, said president Mary Pellettieri. She’s a former brewing industry professional who owns Top Note Tonics with her husband, Noah Swanson.
In 2013, Tom Dewane was working at a busy medical practice. He became frustrated with how cancelled appointments were handled. He developed an idea to use technology to automate the process of filling cancelled appointments.
Jaystreet Technologies offers customers two programs – Avenue and Boulevard. Avenue is a web-based program, while Boulevard is integrated into a practice’s scheduling system.
When schedulers get a cancellation, Avenue can be used in a web browser to input information about the new opening. Avenue then texts patients on the waiting list, one at a time, to offer the new appointment time. Due to its integration, Boulevard can automatically contact patients on the waiting list via text message and updates the schedule accordingly.
According to Dewane, both programs can also send appointment reminders and free up staff so they can focus on other functions.
Businesses and freelancers in Wisconsin have a new way to connect: Mysa.
Mysa is a platform designed to connect local, vetted freelancers with businesses that need their help. The platform helps companies run more smoothly, while also helping freelancers earn fair, local wages.
Founded by six entrepreneurs from central and northeast Wisconsin, Mysa’s beta site launched in the fall of 2017. Eventually, the goal is to take it nationwide, said Mysa founding member Jeff Rice.
“We anticipate that this platform could really do a lot to help businesses in small- and medium-sized communities get the kind of quality assistance that they need to run better,” he said.
Sherry Zhang, a professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, came up with the idea for GenoPalate after dealing with her own food-related issues. She did a DNA test on herself and her son and discovered both were lactose intolerant. Realizing other individuals might benefit from that type of information, she developed a test kit consumers can do at home.
GenoPalate works similarly to other DNA mail order kits.
Consumers order a kit and then send back their saliva in a vial. The DNA is analyzed and the consumers receive a report about their individual nutrition needs, including tolerance issues with caffeine, alcohol, sugar, carb and other substances. Along with the report, they receive a personalized supplements table, a personal nutrition label, body composition and metabolic health goals.
Like many entrepreneurs, Deb Thompson had a need that wasn’t fulfilled in the marketplace. She teamed up with Laura Berkner to create a solution to her problem: a caregiver app to support children and adults with autism and other disabilities. The result is Stimmi, which allows parents to create a secure, customized online care center.
Launched in 2017, Stimmi uses video, audio and text to allow parents to easily send updates about their child to everyone involved in his or her care. Previously, information was passed along on paper and parents would notify everyone separately about any changes. With the app, one update is sent to everyone with just one click.
“Stimmi is a life plan to help those who are unable to care for themselves,” Thompson said.
Stimmi was a finalist at the 2017 Wisconsin Innovation Awards.
An idea hatched by six University of Wisconsin-Madison students in 2015 has captured international attention.
Torq Labs makes athletic leggings with sensors that can be tucked into the pockets along the leg above and below the knees, and on the lower back. The sensors send data to an app on the athlete’s phone, which looks for telltale signs associated with lower body injuries. The information can also help the runner improve his or her coordination and balance.
Last fall, Torq Labs won first prize in a start-up competition in Paris, which led to it earning a booth at the Avantex Paris fashion-tech show in February. The leggings have gone through extensive testing by athletes and the company is taking pre-orders for the product on its website.