WEDC partnering with Invest in Wisconsin on tech startup initiative

WEDC is partnering with three members of Invest in Wisconsin to make available $1 million in new loans and grants to early-stage tech startups.

Invest in Wisconsin is made up of four of the state’s certified community development financial institutions aiming to improve economic opportunities for people of color and low-income residents in rural Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has awarded a $500,000 matching grant to three of these members: Community Assets for People, First American Capital Corporation and Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation. These groups will match the WEDC grant and facilitate the loans while also providing business technical support.

Lesley Hutchins, development and marketing director for Invest in Wisconsin, says the group and its partners in the state have “identified a need to reduce risk aversion” for tech startups and are now making opportunities for them outside the more traditional fundraising avenues.

“Venture capital or traditional bank financing may not be a fit for many technology startups and early-stage businesses, and that can suffocate potential development opportunities,” Hutchins said.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch made the announcement alongside Invest in Wisconsin yesterday in Wausau.

“The Invest in Wisconsin partners have deep experience in supporting the launch and growth of new businesses, and this funding will help them expand those efforts,” Kleefisch said.

Between the three of them, the partners have over 75 years of experience in education programs, mentorship for startup leaders and other supportive services in agriculture, technology and engineering and other industries.

With the new funds, Invest in Wisconsin will focus efforts on entrepreneurs transitioning from the proof-of-concept stage to the manufacturing stage.

Mary Patoka, president and CEO of CAfP, says the initiative will lead to positive impacts in local communities and create new jobs. And Wendy Baumann, president and chief visionary officer of WWBIC, says the new funding will increase the group’s ability to support tech-focused companies in particular.

“This specific investment from WEDC through the Capital Catalyst Program is clear recognition of the needs for creation and sustaining technology businesses” Baumann added.

–By Alex Moe