This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion
The Badger State consistently ranks low on surveys related to angel investing and venture capitalists. But that didn’t deter Tom Shannon, who decided to take advantage of the state’s rich philanthropic history to help early-stage, rapid-growth companies.
The result is the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation – a non-profit organization that invests in start-ups.
“If you want a vibrant economy, you need job creation and these start-ups have the power to create jobs,” says Shannon, who donates his time as BrightStar’s president and CEO. “We have a great university system in Wisconsin, we have lots of people with great ideas, but we don’t have enough money to get those ideas off the ground.”
Shannon formulated the idea for BrightStar after seeing state budget dollars for investment in Wisconsin startups cut, including the elimination of all biotech firms from consideration. To get the ball rolling, he and seven other initial investors put up $5 million of their own funds to start the foundation.
“Seeing that money cut from the budget really irritated me so I went to the WEDC to see if we got a foundation if they would help us fund staff,” he says. “We’re unique. I don’t know of anything else like this in the country. People have approached me about how we’ve done it so I think the idea will spread elsewhere.”