BrightStar will fund startups with donations

A new organization aims to fund startups in Wisconsin by channeling donations from wealthy individuals, corporations and foundations.

BrightStar Wisconsin is a nonprofit incorporated July 1 that plans to deploy the donations as equity in early-stage companies, and reinvest the returns in the foundation. It doesn’t have a physical location yet, but will host its first meeting Monday, said Tom Shannon, its founder.

The nonprofit hopes its investments will create jobs in Wisconsin and help it compete with other states that have larger pools of government and private funding. Shannon hopes to raise at least $60 million in the first three years.

The state budget includes about $25 million in early-stage funding, which BrightStar argues is not a sustainable pool. And since the Governor’s Business Plan Contest received more than 400 entries, the group expects there are plenty of potential startups to invest in.

“It’s all about job creation,” Shannon said. “I’ve been on a number of ad hoc committees over the last couple of years and found that we’re not getting it done.”

Shannon will serve as the uncompensated president and CEO of BrightStar for at least three years. The foundation will be operated by an independent board, and early stage experts will serve on the investment committee.

“We have so many people that are charitable and philanthropic and they’re giving money to discovery centers and to buildings and to scholarships, let’s ask those people if they’re willing to donate another 5 percent,” he said.

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