THU AM News: Entrepreneurs approaching similar challenges from varying perspectives; GrowthChart wins Gov’s Biz Plan Contest

— Many startups face similar struggles as they work to define their own brand, develop products and secure investment. But as one Milwaukee investor points out, not all entrepreneurs have access to the same resources and support systems.

Dana Guthrie is the managing director and founder of Alchemy Angel Investors, as well as a product manager for Johnson Controls. She moved to Milwaukee from St. Louis about 13 years ago to attend the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

As she progressed through her education, Guthrie began researching the process for launching and growing companies. That eventually led her to create Alchemy Angel Investors, but only after she realized the deck wasn’t exactly stacked in her favor.

“I learned about this thing called the friends and family round, and this was one of the biggest things that stood out to me,” Guthrie (pictured here) said at this week’s Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Milwaukee.

According to her, the average ‘friends and family’ early-stage investment round brings in between $50,000 and $100,000. Startups often use those funds to jumpstart some revenue, so they can obtain additional money from venture capital firms and continue growing.

“If I were to go to my aunt, or my mom, or anybody today — and I think I’ve got a good track record — if I went to them today and said, ‘can you give me $10,000?’ They’d say, ‘Girl, are you serious?’

“There was just no way I could raise that money in order to get my thing off the ground,” she continued. “So when I thought about launching Alchemy, that was one of my points.”

She stressed that her angel investing firm isn’t exclusive to any one demographic. But she says she does have “an appreciation for someone who’s hustling and trying to figure it out — and you can’t go to your rich uncle.”

As an African American, Guthrie shared her perspective as part of a panel focused on two often-paired words: diversity and inclusion. Although many companies have cultural sensitivity programs aimed at improving these measures, several panelists said the terms are still sometimes poorly understood and misused.

See more:

— After nearly six months and several rounds of competitive judging, GrowthChart has been named the grand prize winner in the Governor’s Business Plan Contest, held each year by the Wisconsin Technology Council.

The Stoughton-based company has a voice assistant documentation tool for child care centers. It beat a dozen other finalists for the grand prize and also won the contest’s information technology category.

“This contest absolutely pushed us to really put our ideas on paper,” co-founder Brent Brenner said yesterday.

Contestants in the final round were narrowed down from more than 200 qualified entries when the contest first began in late January. Since the contest began in 2004, over 3,900 entries have been submitted.

As part of the contest, entrepreneurs are tasked with writing an executive summary, capturing all the important details about their business idea. GrowthChart also participated in the contest last year but only made it to the executive summary round.  

Brenner said that was the toughest part of the contest, “because you really have to boil it down to two pages, front and back. You have so much you want to communicate, and you do it precisely.”

His advice for contestants next year: “Keep at it. Entrepreneurship is not easy, and I think everybody knows that. So you just have to really demonstrate persistence more than anything.”

See a recent story on GrowthChart:

Listen to an earlier podcast on the contest with Tom Still, president of the Tech Council:

— The Senate’s top Republican and the Assembly co-chair of the Finance Committee say they’re open to a new plan floated yesterday that would provide $133.6 million to counties and towns for road work.

But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, both said they want to look at the proposal outside of the transportation plan JFC is expected to vote on today.

The new proposal from 10 Senate Republicans — including all six caucus members on the Finance Committee — would give each county $1 million and each town $1,000 per mile of road in its jurisdiction. The latter would total $61.6 million.

It would use a piece of the additional $753 million in revenue the state is now expected to take in through mid-2021. Much of that is expected to be one-time money as taxpayers take advantage of the 2017 rewrite of federal tax laws, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Fitzgerald, who didn’t attend the news conference, called it a “laudable idea” to use one-time money. Meanwhile, Nygren stressed it was something that would be considered as a one-time use of surplus funds, not something to build into the transportation budget.

Sen. Howard Marklein said at yesterday’s news conference the proposal represented the position of the 10 Senate Republicans who were there, not the full caucus.

“We want to use this one-time money to make a difference in the one thing all of our constituents have told us they want: to fix our roads,” said Marklein, R-Spring Green.

Backers also said they didn’t have an agreement on the proposal with Assembly Republicans.

“We’re going to sit down, and we’re going to negotiate an agreement,” said Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst and a member of JFC.

See more in the Wednesday PM Update:

— LeadingAge Wisconsin, which represents hundreds of nursing homes and other care facilities, is applauding Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee for approving a plan to increase reimbursement rates for providers like these.

Earlier this week, JFC approved a plan to put $588.2 million in general purpose revenue into the state’s Medicaid program, increasing reimbursement rates for nursing homes, hospitals and personal care workers.

That state-level investment would mean an additional $858.4 million in federal funds that would help cover the costs of the state-federal Medicaid program.

The motion from GOP authors cleared the committee 11-4 along party lines. Dems called the approach inadequate, because Republicans decided against expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

John Sauer, president and CEO of LeadingAge Wisconsin, says the JFC approval represents “a significant and much appreciated movement to address the challenges facing the long-term care provider community.”

Statewide, LeadingAge member organizations employ more than 38,000 workers who care for more than 48,000 people in the state.

Listen to a recent podcast with Sauer:

— Wisconsin added 233,101 private sector jobs in the eight years Scott Walker was governor, according to the latest quarterly employment numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Before taking office, Walker had pledged to create 250,000 private sector jobs in his first term. But Wisconsin gained less than 130,000 jobs during that period, and the latest figures show the state never hit his job creation goal in the eight years he was in office.

Get more info at the BLS site:

— A national coalition of more than 150 trade groups is running a digital ad in Wisconsin and other states highlighting Republican opposition to the Trump Administration’s trade policies.

The 45-second ad, from the Tariffs Hurt the Heartland Coalition, opens with a graphic that reads: “Despite President Trump’s claims China pays these tariffs… they’re actually paid by Americans. Members of his own party agree.”

It also includes video of U.S. Sen. Joni Earnst of Iowa calling the tariffs “overwhelming” and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kansas saying “nobody wins a trade war.”

The trade coalition has members in agriculture, technology, manufacturing and retail.

Watch the ad:


# Kalahari to open new resort in Texas in 2020 that will feature largest indoor waterpark in U.S.

# Aaron Rodgers launches $50M venture capital fund to back consumer startups

# MGS moving 115 jobs from Illinois to Germantown, after $20 million investment

# Transfer point: Madison accelerates plans to upgrade its transit system



– Wisconsin cheese output drops fifth consecutive month


– TAI Diagnostics launches series B funding round


– Building blocks: Renovation and expansion of Gresham Schools

– State board rejects Michels’ $125K complaint over mislabeled roadwork


– Wisconsin students earn National Dairy Shrine scholarships

– UW-Madison researchers’ study highlights voices of immigrant parents, students in public schools


– Steel-Craft companies acquired by Kentucky private equity firm


– Cubanitas coming to The Corners of Brookfield

– Coffee shop and bar planned for Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery

– Marathon Co. hosting grilled cheese competition

– City expands food cart rules to share the wealth beyond downtown


– Republicans stand by rejection of federal Medicaid money

– Republican lawmakers approve $588M increase in Medicaid, health care spending


– Aaron Rodgers launches venture capital fund


– Nuvo Construction joins Ganos in reaching deal to plead guilty in Sonag case


– Farm group wants to see road repairs in state budget

– With no deal on roads, some senators propose part of a plan

– Wisconsin Senate approves prescription-drug step therapy

– State Senate sends ‘born alive’ abortion bill to Evers’ desk

– Senate Republicans propose road funding increase for counties, towns

– Senate Republicans considering $10 vehicle registration fee hike as part of roads funding plan


– Developer planning 56-acre mixed-use development in Muskego


– If Bucks reach NBA Finals in 2020, will Fiserv Forum be ready for DNC?


– Milwaukee leaders weigh streetcar lakefront line alternatives if Couture project is further delayed, falls through

– Streetcar planners need to know Couture is moving forward soon

– Wisconsin Senate Republicans announce $134 million local road funding plan


– Matt Cordio: Income share agreements offer a pathway to tech careers


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