BrightStar expands investment portfolio with five companies

Milwaukee-based BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation Inc., a nonprofit that practices venture philanthropy, has announced an investment of $1 million in five companies new to its portfolio.

Recipients are: Milwaukee-based Medical Companion LLC, now known as mPirik; Milwaukee-based Keystone Insights, Inc., now known as Project Foundry; Markesan, Wis.-based Dairyvative Technologies LLC; Monona, Wis.-based Shine Medical Technologies Inc.; and Madison-based Fetch Rewards Inc.

The latest round of investments puts BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation’s 2014 total investment total at more than $2 million spread among 14 Wisconsin companies.

Since the nonprofit earned its nonprofit status 13 months ago, it has raised about $7.85 million, $1.85 million of which it collected in the last half of 2014.

“We were able to nicely match our inflows from donations this year to our investment outflows into early stage companies,” BrightStar portfolio manager Todd Sobotka said.

Those companies are diverse in their valuation, stage of development and technological focus, according to investment committee member Pam Evason, who is also managing director of Milwaukee-based Windermere Wealth Advisors, LLC.

“One common theme, though, is that they all look like job creators,” Evason said.

BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation is stocked with more than $2 million in cash and will hold its next investment committee meeting on Jan. 20, when it plans to screen three more companies, according to Sobotka.

Additionally, the foundation announced that it has awarded $30,000 to John Biondi, director of University of Wisconsin-Madison Discovery to Products. The organization exists to support entrepreneurial ventures within UW and works with UW startups to flesh out their commercialization processes.

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