WisBusiness: Investor group aims to help SE Wisconsin start-ups succeed

By Sarah Glider

The winds may be changing for entrepreneurs in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Wisconsin ranks in the bottom third of the country for start-up companies. However, with a little help from Successful Entrepreneur Investors, LLC, an angel investing network based in Milwaukee, that statistic may soon be changing.

Five months ago, three Milwaukee businessmen decided to create Successful Entrepreneurs Investors (SEI) to help entrepreneurs in Southeastern Wisconsin turn patented ideas into what they hope will become flourishing companies.

The president and organizer of the company is Dan Steininger, founder of Steininger and Associates and former CEO of the Milwaukee Catholic Knights. John Torinus, chairman of Serigraph Inc., and G. Woodrow Adkins of Adkins Holdings LLC are the two other organizers of SEI.

The angel investing firm is a group of about 50 high-net worth individuals. Almost all of them are successful entrepreneurs themselves now looking to provide other entrepreneurs with the same opportunities. All 50 of these individuals get together and invest capital into start-up companies.

“(They) have a lot of money, but enjoy the thrill of entrepreneurship,” Steininger said. “It’s not just about investing, it’s about sharing knowledge, experience and advice.”

Steininger also said the group hopes to turn the region’s sluggish economy around. The goal is to start more successful companies and provide more jobs, because the area’s low ranking is a “tragedy,” according to Steininger.

Steininger founded the company on the emphasis to make Southeastern Wisconsin an entrepreneurial region again.

Its mission statement reads: “We bring investors together with start-up companies to assist in creating an innovation economy in Wisconsin again.”

According to Steininger, North Carolina, Georgia, and Kansas City have had recent success through angel investments. Capital provided by angel investors has provided a plethora of success in these regions. Steininger hopes for the same type of success in not only the Milwaukee area, but throughout Wisconsin.

The company’s first investment is Ven-T Boats, an Allenton-based boat builder. Ven-T Boats is a start-up company developing a new, patented recreational fishing boat. Successful Entrepreneurs has recently just made two other investments in start-up companies. One of their recent investments is a company called Paradigm Sensors, LLC. This Wisconsin based company created a handheld device to test the quality of biodiesel fuel.

Steininger says the group uses a screening process to decide in which companies they will invest. Ultimately, they look for the potential for high growth. Before the group decides to make an investment they also look to see if the entrepreneurs have a good track record, their quality of management and if they have invested some of their own money into their good or service.

As far as goals for the group, Steininger says that there is no specific number. The group just wants to provide as much help to as many different entrepreneurs as they have capital for.
SEI is one of a number of investor members in the Wisconsin Angel Network.

It was founded a little over three years ago with the same goal in mind, to increase the number and amount of equity investments in Wisconsin’s Entrepreneurs. Steininger said the Wisconsin Angel Network is “outstanding in providing rich resources of help (for entrepreneurs).”

According to Steininger, the Wisconsin Angel Network has provided Successful Entrepreneur Investors with the opportunity to meet a number of entrepreneurs that they might be interested in investing in.

Glider is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.