The Winnow Fund partnered with both Concordia University and WiSys Technology Foundation and has also raised an additional $2.7 million since the state-backed venture fund held its commencement close in September, fund manager Richelle Martin announced today.
Wisys is an independent nonprofit and the official designated technology transfer office for the UW System Comprehensive Campuses, which includes a network of 11 campuses throughout Wisconsin.
Martin says these new partnerships will provide the Winnow Fund with access to a pipeline of potential startups while the fund itself will bring experienced mentoring, networking, and potential investments to entrepreneurship students across the state.
“I believe there’s untapped entrepreneurial potential at colleges and universities across the state of Wisconsin,” Martin said. “I’m looking forward to meeting with WiSys' and Concordia University’s entrepreneurs to leverage that potential and together build successful, high-growth companies here the state.”
The Winnow Fund early stage venture investing strategy is based on sourcing investment opportunities from Wisconsin colleges and universities. The fund was designed to invest between $6 million and $8 million in Wisconsin-based startups to build companies based on product ideas developed by students.
As part of the partnership, Martin will serve as the “venture capitalist in residence” at Concordia University’s Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center. With this new role, Martin will provide expert advice to students interested in entrepreneurship or to startups coming out of Concordia as well as Wisys’ network of institutions.
“The Winnow Fund Venture Capital in Residence concept is truly innovative," Badger Fund partner Ken Johnson said in a statement. "Entrepreneurs in residence programs typically have been limited with only providing students support from a successful startup ecosystem. Yet, the need for investment capital with fundraising experience still exists.”
The Winnow Fund, based in Madison, is one of six Badger Fund of Funds – Wisconsin’s 7-year-old venture capital program managed by Santa Fe, New Mexico-based Sun Mountain Capital and Stoughton-based Kegonsa Capital Partners LLC.
In September, the Winnow Fund held a commencement close, which allowed the fund to begin investing in startups after reaching its fundraising goal of $6 million. However, the fund has since raised an additional $2.7 million, which included contributions from both Wisys and Concordia, Martin said.
“We are excited about the focus of the fund on student startups as it meshes well with WiSys support of student innovation and entrepreneurship on the 11 UW regional comprehensive campuses,” Wisys president Arjun Sanga said in a statement. “We viewed our contribution to the fund as a strategic opportunity to bring more support to UW student startups."
The Winnow Fund has raised a total of $8.7 million, which includes investments from The Capital Times, Johnsonville Ventures, MGE Energy Inc., Concordia University, Wisys, multiple individual investors and Wisconsin-based private equity firms N29 Capital Partners and Inventure Capital.