The Ideadvance Seed Fund, previously limited to students, faculty and staff of the university system, has now been extended to include UW System alumni – except those who attended University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The seed fund is seeking applications through April 28 from alumni who have a business idea related to advancing the “knowledge economy” in Wisconsin. This can cover a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, agriculture, music production, textiles, art and business. Real estate, direct consumer retail and hospitality businesses, however, are excluded.
Alumni of UW-Madison are allowed to work on teams competing for the grants, but not as the primary business leader.
Ideadvance was founded in 2014 by the UW Extension Center for Technology Commercialization and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. It awards grants to early-stage startups, with a focus on education. Teams receive the grant dollars only if they can demonstrate key learnings about meeting their commercialization goals.
So far, Ideadvance has given out 48 Stage 1 grants and 13 Stage 2 grants. Stage 1 teams receive $25,000 toward commercialization and marketplace study. Stage 2 team receive follow-on funding up to $50,000 to move their business models forward, gaining customers and additional investors.
An investment committee representing the UW System, WiSys Technology Foundation, UW-Extension, WEDC and UW alumni entrepreneurs selected the winning projects based on the case they make for solving a market problem and evaluating their business model risks, as well as their skills and preparation.
“We try to simulate the real-world startup environment for these entrepreneurs,” said Dave Linz, associate director of the Center of Technology Commercialization. “We want them to ‘get out of the building’ and test their ideas and business models in the marketplace.”
“Ideadvance is an important resource for turning new ideas coming out of the UW campuses into businesses,” said Aaron Hagar, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation for WEDC. “Ideadvance helps ensure that not only do the individual businesses receive the support they need at the earliest stages, but that the communities where these businesses are located can start to build stronger networks and a more robust entrepreneurial environment.”