Wisconsin launches $100 million fund to help start-up companies, entrepreneurs

By SCOTT BAUER Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers and Wisconsin’s economic development agency on Wednesday announced the launch of a new public-private $100 million fund to help start-up companies and entrepreneurs get started, the largest of its kind in state history.

The Wisconsin Investment Fund is initially being funded with $50 million the state received in federal funds and $50 million from private investors. Evers announced the new fund at Forward BIOLABS in Madison, a nonprofit that helps launch startups.

“We want to support entrepreneurs who want to start here, who want to grow here and most importantly who want to stay here,” said Missy Hughes, secretary of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the state economic development agency.

Venture capital firms selected to administer the fund must match each dollar of public money with at least one dollar of private investment. The state’s return on these investments is then reinvested into the fund.

“As the businesses that receive these investments start to grow, the value of the fund will grow with them, creating new opportunities to help even more businesses expand,” Evers said.

The federal money comes from the U.S. Treasury’s State Small Business Credit Initiative. The Wisconsin fund will be investing in companies working in technology, health care, agriculture, manufacturing, and other areas, the governor’s office said.

The first awardees are HealthX Ventures, based in Madison, $15 million; Venture Investors Health Fund, based in Madison and Milwaukee, $12 million; Serra Ventures, based in Champaign, Illinois, $7 million; NVNG Investment Advisors, based in Madison and Milwaukee, $6 million; and Idea Fund of La Crosse, $5 million.

The state is negotiating with a sixth fund manager for the fund’s remaining $5 million allocation.