A new venture capital fund will start investing in Wisconsin’s university and college entrepreneurs this fall after closing on $6 million in fundraising.
The Winnow Fund, a seed-stage venture capital fund led by Richelle Martin, announced the fundraising in a news release Monday.
The Winnow Fund plans to start investing in November. The fund plans to invest in existing startup companies and entrepreneurs at colleges and universities in Wisconsin. It will continue to raise funds for another couple of months.
Winnow Fund has raised $6 million from the Badger Fund of Funds, as well as The Capital Times, Johnsonville Ventures and more than two dozen other investment firms and individuals, according to a news release. Martin left her job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she led the Office of Industrial Partnerships to work on the fund two years ago.
“Students have great ideas but need someone to guide them through the process of creating a company to commercialize their idea,” Ken Johnson, a Badger Fund of Funds partner, said in a news release. “Richelle Martin’s legal background, know-how, and experience at UW-Madison make her a perfect fit to help student inventors and entrepreneurs create and grow their companies.”
Martin said she believes the pandemic has played right into her strategy for the fund focused on very early-stage investment opportunities.
“The pivots and pandemic-related innovations are all still in the pre-revenue and pre-seed stage and that is exactly what we’re looking at,” she said. The Winnow Fund finished raising $6 million during the coronavirus pandemic and related economic downturn.
“The pandemic has kind of been an equalizer so that we’ve all kind of found ourselves with the same limitations, frustrations and new experiences,” Martin said.
Another venture fund formed under Wisconsin’s Badger Fund of Funds ended its effort to raise money to invest in Wisconsin companies this spring because of uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. The Milwaukee-based fund, Bold Coast Capital, intended to raise $10 million to invest.
The Badger Fund of Funds was established in 2015 with $25 million from the state to invest in startup companies. The Winnow Fund is the fourth fund in the Badger Fund of Funds to begin investing. The Idea Fund of La Crosse, Winnebago Seed Fund and Rock River Capital Partners all raised funds and are investing with a commitment from the Badger Fund of Funds.
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