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Wisconsin establishes $100M business startup assistance fund

Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Economic Development Authority announced Wednesday the creation of a $100 million public-private fund, the largest in state history, to help startups and entrepreneurs get started.

The Wisconsin Investment Fund will initially be funded with $50 million the state has received from the federal government and $50 million from private investors. Evers announced the new fund at Forward BioLab in Madison, a nonprofit that helps launch startup companies.

“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, executive director of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the state’s economic development agency.

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The venture capital firm tasked with managing the fund must put in at least $1 in private investment for every dollar of public money. Any revenue the state makes from those investments is then reinvested in the fund.

Tony Evers

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature at the State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, on January 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Manis, File)

“As these invested companies begin to grow, the value of the fund grows with them, creating new opportunities to help even more companies expand,” Evers said.

The federal funding will come from the U.S. Treasury Department’s State Small Business Credit Program. Wisconsin’s funds will invest in companies operating in sectors such as technology, health care, agriculture and manufacturing, the governor’s office said.

The first round of winners are Madison-based HealthX Ventures with $15 million, Madison and Milwaukee-based Venture Investors Health Fund with $12 million, Champaign, Ill.-based Serra Ventures with $7 million, Madison and Milwaukee-based NVNG Investment Advisors with $6 million and La Crosse’s Idea Fund with $5 million.

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The state is in negotiations with a sixth fund manager for an allocation of the fund’s remaining $5 million.

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