BrightStar Wisconsin invests $200,000 in DePere startup

HuTerra Rewards offers nonprofit fundraising tools

Tom Shannon, CEO of BrightStar Wisconsin.

Milwaukee-based BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation Inc. has invested $200,000 in DePere-based startup HuTerra Rewards.

Tom Shannon, CEO of BrightStar Wisconsin.
Tom Shannon, CEO of BrightStar Wisconsin.

The technology platform allows supporters to earn money for their favorite community causes by shopping at participating businesses, which give back to schools, churches and nonprofits. Consumers can scan receipts into the HuTerra app using their smartphones, and a certain percentage of that purchase is then automatically donated to the cause of their choice.

HuTerra Rewards will use the investment from BrightStar to roll out in pilot locations across the country, which are in Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia and Pennsylvania, said Al  Zeise, chief executive officer and chief innovation officer of HuTerra LLC. The BrightStar investment was part of a larger $2 million series A round HuTerra is in the process of raising. So far, it has $1.3 million. The startup has 17 employees and is in the process of expanding into the Milwaukee market.

HuTerra LLC was founded about four years ago to help nonprofits find new revenue streams  and the HuTerra Rewards program was launched about six months ago. About 25,000 businesses are on the Rewards platform, about 1,000 of which are giving back to nonprofits, Zeise said. Among its business clients are Applebee’s and Pizza Hut. The donations go to the HuTerra Foundation, a separate entity, to be distributed to the charities.

“Supporters of nonprofits can go shop for the things they need and earn money for the things they care about,” Zeise said.

“There are so many things to like about HuTerra, from the track record of the people involved to the positive results in communities when the business is successful,” said Andy Shrago, board and investment committee member at BrightStar. “I’m also excited that we made our first investment in the Green Bay area.”

BrightStar Wisconsin is a nonprofit that gathers donations from Wisconsinites and reinvests them in early stage companies with high growth and job creation potential in the state, in a concept it calls venture philanthropy. This is BrightStar’s first investment of 2017.

BrightStar also announced today it has taken in $367,000 from the sale of its Wisconsin Early Stage Seed Tax Credits to both individuals and corporations. Those funds will be used for operations, so BrightStar can invest all of its donations into startups, said Todd Sobotka, managing director at BrightStar Wisconsin.

American Family Insurance was one of the companies who purchased BrightStar’s tax credits, and the organizations plan to continue with this arrangement in future years, he said.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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