Wisconsin corporations invest in state-backed Winnow Fund

Last updated on February 13th, 2020 at 12:51 pm

Johnsonville Ventures, The Capital Times and MGE Energy Inc. have committed funds to the Winnow Fund, a pooled investment fund designed to financially back startups incubated in Wisconsin universities.

Inventure Capital, a Madison-based private equity firm, has also committed capital to the Winnow Fund, which is one of seven investment funds that compose Wisconsin’s state-backed venture capital program, the Badger Fund of Funds.

Exactly how much these corporations have committed to the Winnow Fund was not disclosed. However, the corporations invested “more than the minimum commitment to the venture fund,” which is $100,000, said Ken Johnson, partner at Wisconsin-based Sun Mountain Kegonsa, which manages the Badger Fund of Funds.

“There’s been a lot of criticism over the years that Wisconsin companies don’t support the venture community,” Johnson said in a statement. “But when they’re offered an opportunity to invest in a Wisconsin-based fund that’s focused on growing the state’s startup community, they will step up.”

The Winnow Fund was designed to invest $8 million into Wisconsin-based startups and create companies based on product ideas developed by students rather than technologies obtained through the patenting and licensing offices.

Richelle Martin, who manages the Winnow Fund, said she was surprised to receive institutional investments – most in the VC community recognize them as a rarity and many institutions have a policy not to invest in small or first-time funds, she added.

“It is a credit to the Winnow Fund and the local startup environment to have such successful Wisconsin businesses be part of the team and support our strategy,” Martin said in a statement.

The Winnow Fund announced its first closing in November with an approximately $3.5 million round led by the Badger Fund. The four corporations that are now making investments will compose the Winnow Fund’s second round of fund raising and once it closes, the Winnow Fund will start making investments, Martin said.

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