Lumanu raises $1 million in seed funding

Will move in to new Northwestern Mutual innovation lab

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Milwaukee startup Lumanu Inc. has raised a $1 million seed funding round with help from some local investors.

Lumanu founders Tony Tran, left, and Paul Johnson.

Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.’s Cream City Venture Capital and Milwaukee-based startup accelerator gener8tor contributed to the round, along with San Francisco-based early stage venture fund 500 Startups, San Francisco-based startup investment capital firm Right Side Capital Management LLC and former Macy’s chief growth officer Peter Sachse. Last year, Lumanu received a $50,000 investment from Milwaukee-based BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation Inc., which is part of the round.

Northwestern Mutual, the lead investor, will also provide mentorship, resources and co-working space for Lumanu at a new innovation lab at its headquarters in downtown Milwaukee. The co-working space is currently being built out, so Lumanu will move in to a temporary space at the Tower & Commons in May and then the innovation lab on July 1, said Tony Tran, co-founder of Lumanu. Northwestern Mutual’s other Cream City Venture Capital portfolio company, Socialeads, will also be in the innovation lab.

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“It’s a big, open collaborative space,” Tran said. “There’s a lot of shared resources in the lab. It’s set up for collaboration as well as innovation.”

Lumanu, an innovative digital marketing platform that connects companies with brand ambassadors, was launched in June 2016 and completed the gener8tor program, through which it received the accelerator’s equity investment, in fall 2016. The company was founded in San Francisco and Tran and co-founder Paul Johnson decided to stay in Milwaukee after the gener8tor program. Lumanu’s seven employees are split between California and Milwaukee now, with account management here and technical development there, they said.

“We’re looking to hire more technical talent in Milwaukee, it just hasn’t happened, so we split it that way,” Johnson said.

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Lumanu’s clients now include The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. LLC, Harley-Davidson Inc., Unilever and Absolut Elyx. The company plans to use the funding round to further develop its product using machine learning capabilities and enhance its account management. It plans to hire two to three new account managers this year.

“Our vision is to make it unbelievably easy for marketers to get the best content made by the best influencers in front of the right people at scale,” said Tran, chief executive officer. “We are excited for the additional funding, as it will help us grow our team and improve our machine learning capabilities.”

Craig Schedler, venture partner at Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, who leads the Cream City Venture Capital fund, said in a statement Lumanu was worthy of investment because of the team’s passion and skills.

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“We also believe Lumanu addresses a clear pain point for brand marketers as they look for authentic ways to engage with consumers.  And finally, Lumanu is a clear proof point of our thesis that there are great technology-based businesses just waiting to be created in Milwaukee,” Schedler said.

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