Ideadvance Seed Fund expands female-owned entrepreneurship in WisconsinSubmitted: 06/22/2020
Ideadvance Seed Fund expands female-owned entrepreneurship in Wisconsin
Maya Reese
Maya Reese
Reporter/Digital Content Director

MADISON - Up to $275,000 in grants will be awarded to 10 small businesses, six of which are female-owned, in the latest round of awards by the Ideadvance Seed Fund.

Ideadvance is a rigorous two-stage process of seed funding and mentoring to move innovative ideas forward into feasible businesses. It is open to UW System staff, faculty, students and alumni at all campuses except UW-Madison. Ideadvance awardees must demonstrate significant progress toward a scalable, profitable business model in order to receive increments of Ideadvance seed funds.

Stage 1 teams are eligible for up to $25,000 in matching funds within a six-month period; mentorship focuses on helping reduce risk in their ideas by determining what benefits customers need and how to take steps to get started and prepare for follow-on funding and programming.

The 2020 awardees are:
  • 2 Ft. Design Data LLC. of Milwaukee, which automates integration of GIS parcel data with curated designs, targeting projects and easing access to capital for a new class of developer;
  • Avidity of Milwaukee, which brings new viable cell solutions for untreatable diseases;
  • Cultured Decadence of Madison, a cellular aquaculture company using cell culture and tissue engineering techniques to develop novel methods to make crustacean products directly from the animals' cells - no shell, no organs, no waste;
  • Empresaria Cosmetics of Milwaukee, which engineers and sells easier-to-clean makeup brushes to ease maintenance for the heavy makeup user;
  • Prexo of Oshkosh, whose mission is to make the executive branch understandable and engaging for American citizens, by tracking executive orders and putting knowledge into the hands of the people;
  • Siren Shrub Company LLC of Stevens Point, which takes drinks up a notch with flavorful combinations -- concentrates made from tangy, raw, organic apple cider vinegar, fresh fruits, roots and herbs, and sweetened with just the right amount of organic cane sugar or maple syrup;
  • Solar Forma Design of Eau Claire, which combines the latest in solar power technology with inspired designs to enhance and reimagine the relationship between public spaces and renewable energy;
  • TapTech Systems of Oshkosh, which uses an automated self-beverage service that eliminates barriers to obtaining a drink and maximizes revenue and efficiency for vendors;
  • Upstream AV of Eau Claire, which is solving the most pressing audio-visual challenges using wireless technology;
Stage 2 companies are eligible for up to $50,000 in matching funds within a 12-month period by focusing on a business model that effectively delivers solutions to customers and prepares the idea for investment.

This year's awardee is:
  • Roddy Medical of Wauwatosa, which develops innovative medical products that help maximize patient recovering and promote safety in clinical settings.
"It has been a goal at the Center for Technology Commercialization to be proactive in our recruitment of women- and minority-owned businesses and budding entrepreneurs," said Dr. Idella Yamben, Ideadvance program manager. "The Investment Committee's selection reflects the hard work from our Wisconsin growing entrepreneurial ecosystem around the state. The Ideadvance teaching team will work hard to build on those efforts, helping teams to identify growth opportunities that enrich their local communities and beyond."

Since 2014, Ideadvance - a partnership between the UW System's Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) - has awarded $2.27 million in grants to 64 distinct companies. As of February 2020, the impact of these grants has resulted in $5.5 million in additional funding allocated to the awardees. Ideadvance is part of the WEDC's S3 program, which is working to further incorporate startups by providing operational and financial assistance to aid in navigating commercialization barriers.

"New businesses and the creativity of entrepreneurs are critical to Wisconsin's economic future," said Aaron Hagar, WEDC vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation. "Ideadvance is a great example of the Wisconsin Idea and how the university system helps propel so many aspects of our state - including our newest businesses - forward."

After a harrowing personal experience, founder Lindsey Roddy, a registered nurse, knew she could improve safety for patients and nurses alike by decluttering healthcare workspaces. RoddyMedical LLC is disrupting healthcare by "helping patients move, safely" through development of an innovative organizer designed to reduce the hazards around medical tubing and cords, hazards that have become even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ideadvance program provided the support and mentorship to explore that problem. Through customer discovery and networking, Roddy was able to develop quantifiable milestones around safety, refine a competitive edge and evolve her product through numerous iterations.

"Ideadvance really forced us to modify our thinking and go talk to the customers and industry professionals in order to really grow our idea," Roddy said. "We learned to trust in the Lean Startup methodology. It takes a lot of time and effort, and it's a lot of work, but it allowed us to push beyond out initial assumptions and be certain we were providing something of value.

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