With a spirit for entrepreneurship, the Madison Region is an ideal location to start and grow a business. The region and the state’s ever-increasing access to venture capital demonstrates our commitment to those who need help starting a business and seeing those new companies succeed. Make sure you’re signed up for Madison Region Funding Alerts.
In 2019, at least 114 Wisconsin early stage companies raised more than $483.7 million in investment capital. Several new venture funds and innovative funding options were also recently launched, including American Family Ventures and HealthX Ventures.
4490 Ventures is a technology-focused, early-stage venture capital fund based in Madison, WI. 4490 Ventures aims to make investments between $1.5M and $4.0M, typically only investing in priced equity rounds. Preferring to lead investments and taking a board seat alongside the founders, 4490 Ventures fully expects to support its portfolio companies throughout the life of the company. Criteria for its investments include disruptive technologies that solve difficult problems, capital efficiency, technical founders, and a preference for investing in startups located in the Upper Midwest. Greg Robinson, a San Francisco Bay Area VC investor with over two decades of operating and venture capital experience, is the fund’s managing director.
BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation is a non-profit organization created as a unique entity to provide early-stage funding by giving charitable foundations, corporations, and wealthy individuals a vehicle to help fund job creation. The foundation invests in Wisconsin early stage companies that will kick-start the state’s economy, create quality jobs for this and future generations, and make Wisconsin a magnet for commercial activity and hub of opportunity. BrightStar invests in companies from proof of concept, to early commercialization, and well into the revenue stage. The foundation’s co-founders have all built businesses themselves, and have pledged nearly $6 million for BrightStar’s initial capitalization.
Wisconsin was one of the first states to allow private companies to sell stock over the Internet through crowdfunding legislation, which passed with bipartisan support and took effect June 1, 2014. The Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) is charged with administering the program, which permits Wisconsin businesses to raise up to $1 million from state investors through crowdfunding portals. The amount that can be raised increases to $2 million if the issuer has had an audit in its most recent fiscal year, and has provided the audit to prospective investors and the DFI.
In 2014, the state committed $25 million in a limited partnership to invest in Wisconsin venture capital funds that will in turn invest in Wisconsin start-up companies. Sun Mountain Capital and Kegonsa Capital were selected as the fund’s investment manager. The managers plan to deploy a “money for minnows” strategy, investing small amounts across a broad portfolio of companies.
The descriptions above represent a snapshot of some of the venture capital funds available to Madison Region companies. More information on other funds is available through the Wisconsin Angel Network (WAN). A public-private initiative operated by the Wisconsin Technology Council as part of its overall economic development and job creation efforts, WAN is an umbrella organization providing services and resources to the early stage investing and entrepreneurial communities. WAN does not operate a fund or direct investments, but works to build early-stage capital capacity throughout Wisconsin.