BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation Inc. recently invested $50,000 in Shorewood-based battery technology company COnovate, Inc. and Wauwatosa-based health tech company Retham Technologies.
The two $50,000 seed investments from BrightStar were matched by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s Capital Catalyst program, according to the Wisconsin Technology Council.
COnovate, Inc., formerly known as SafeLi LLC, was founded by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professors Carol Hirschmugl and Marija Gajdardziska.
The two physics professors discovered graphene monoxide, a 2D material that can be used to disrupt the battery and computer technology markets. This new material, called “Cophite,” specifically boosts the capacity and charging speed of lithium-ion batteries.
In October, COnovate was awarded a $100,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation grant to further commercialize its material. The startup was also awarded a $1 million federal grant through the U.S. Department of Energy through the Small Business Technology Transfer program in 2019.
COnovate will use the latest investment to scale up production of its unique material and to help attract additional investors in a Series A investment round next year.
“COnovate grew from deep expertise of UWM physicists and highlights the strength of UWM as a research institution and a source for innovations that can scale and impact the world,” UWM Research Foundation president Brian Thompson said in a statement. “The company founders embraced the customer discovery process as a core competency to help them identify opportunities, and I’m pleased that they were able to leverage the growing support structure at UWM and in the Milwaukee community to move them to the next level.”
BrightStar also invested in Retham Technologies, a health tech company co-founded by Dr. Anand Padmanabhan based on research he conducted when he was at Blood Center of Wisconsin. Retham Technologies is developing a faster and more reliable diagnostic drug for Heparin-induced Thrombocytopenia, which is an adverse reaction to the blood thinner heparin.
According to Retham, in one-third of cases, an adverse reaction to heparin may cause blood clotting that can result in life-and-limb threatening consequences such as amputation, stroke and death. Retham will have its diagnostic drug on the market and in clinical labs by 2023, Retham’s acting chief executive officer and Concordia University Dean of Business Daniel Sem said in a statement.