WED AM News: Skip & Co. Maritime navigates online training for mariners; Startups getting more than a check from corporate VCs

— More than 690 commercial and recreational boating deaths have occurred since 2015 because of collisions at sea, according to the co-founder of Skip & Co. Maritime, Robert Carsey of Fond du Lac.

He says recent investigations of these accidents have revealed a large operator training gap, resulting from competing demands on modern mariners.

In the past, most mariner courses have been offered in person. This approach can be difficult for mariners since course schedules don’t always align with the ship’s operational schedules, according to Carsey. He says obtaining a license can be logistically challenging for mariners, resulting in a lack of proper training at sea.

Skip and Co. Maritime intends on removing many of these barriers through modern, e-learning technology.

Company leaders presented yesterday in Milwaukee as part of the “Diligent Dozen” in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, during the first day of the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference. Contest winners will be announced today at Venue42 in Milwaukee.

“While earning my commercial maritime licenses, I faced multiple logistical challenges which made it difficult for me to complete the requirements,” Carsey said in an earlier interview. “From my time in the Coast Guard, I found that many sailors experienced the same challenges. I realized there must be a better solution.”

See more:

— Landing a deal with a corporate venture capital fund can be a game-changer for startups, but these early-stage companies are getting more than just a big check.

Panelists representing some of the state’s largest corporate VC funds spoke yesterday at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Milwaukee.

“I have a small team, but I can tap into the vast resources of my company,” said Craig Schedler, venture partner with Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures.

The fund is one of several created in the state in recent years. According to the Wisconsin Technology Council, which puts on the conference, corporate venture capital has more than doubled in the past five years, reaching an all-time high in 2018.

Schedler says Northwestern Mutual has entire divisions of experts in various subject matters such as cybersecurity and medicine that he can call and get answers.

“I think it’s a no-brainer, right?” said Jed White, managing director for TASC Ventures. “You get access to a lot more expertise a lot more easily … If you’ve got a company that knows the industry, and they must because they’re willing to invest, that can add value to your company immediately.”

Brian Kaas is managing director CMFG Ventures, the VC arm of CUNA Mutual Group. Through the larger company, he says the fund has relationships with around 5,600 credit unions and 1,400 banks. He calls it “the holy grail” for companies seeking investment from the fund, which has access to a large sales force.

“For certain companies, we have full sale distribution deals, where we’re selling the company’s platform into banks and credit unions,” Kaas said. “A lot of times they might have a sales force of one or two, and when they can have access to 300, that provides incredible value.”

According to White, the benefits of a traditional VC fund have “always been” operational experience and access to more capital. He said corporate funds cover both of those areas in excess.

“The benefit of a startup company is not just a new idea,” White said. “There are lots of smart people that work in our companies that have new ideas all the time. The benefit of a startup company is their ability to get that idea into the world and innovate on it really quickly. That’s what bigger companies aren’t good at.”

As corporate venture capital funding has been trending up, Wisconsin’s corporate VC funds have been looking around the country for complementary startups.

“I think all of us spend a fair amount of time on the road,” White said. “The fact is, we’re all here in Wisconsin. … We would love to do more deals in Wisconsin; all of us would love to do more deals in our backyard. But you know, if they’re not there, they’re not there. And you’ve got to go where the deals are.”

Kaas said CMFG Ventures has a strategic focus for its investments, and looks mostly at companies working in financial technology.

“There have been very few companies that have emerged in that space,” he said. “But we certainly are looking forward to the day that we’re able to invest in Wisconsin.”

The Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference continues today in Milwaukee. See event details:

— UW System President Ray Cross is pressing lawmakers to OK the university’s capital budget, saying it’s needed to attract talent to Wisconsin and educate students to fill high-demand jobs.

Cross ticked off projects around the system he said amounted to $38 million just to modernize classrooms. In all, the university requested $1.9 billion in projects.

“You simply cannot run a chemistry lab out of your kitchen. We need modern, advanced labs to do that,” Cross said.

Yesterday’s appeal from Cross and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank came as the Joint Finance Committee looks to finish work on the budget by the end of next week, when it is expected to take up capital projects.

While the system requested $1.9 billion in projects, Gov. Tony Evers proposed $1.1 billion for the university in his $2.5 billion capital budget. Overall, the guv sought nearly $2 billion in borrowing, but Republicans have vowed to pare back the plan.

Blank noted yesterday’s news conference was in a lecture hall that opened in 1903 and looks much like it did when it first opened; she said that wasn’t a good thing. After noting a number of upgrades the university says are needed for the room, Blank also pointed out significant pieces of the UW request that don’t rely on taxpayer money, but gifts, grants and program revenue, such as student fees.

Those projects include replacing UW-Madison’s natatorium, renovating Sellery Hall, improving the Kohl Center and upgrading Camp Randall.

“We have the money, and these renovations have to take place. All we need is approval from the state,” Blank said.

— UW-Madison and WARF have been ranked 7th in the world for number of new patents in a recent survey from the National Academy of Inventors and Intellectual Property Owners Association.

A release from the university shows the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation was granted 157 patents in 2018 for inventions created at UW-Madison.

“An innovative university is a competitive university,” said Erik Iverson, WARF’s managing director. “Before new technology can improve a crop, or a drug can save a life, a granted patent is often the first step on the path to development.

See the release:

— Three students from Hartford Union High School have won a product development competition held by Food and Beverage Wisconsin and Concordia University.

Oscar Arellano, Jacob Wagner, and Maddie Baker came up with an idea for stuffed baked potato cups as part of FaB’s Farm to Factory to Fork Career Discovery Day in May. They beat out over 150 students other students in 22 teams, which represented nine high schools around the state.

The winners of the competition each got a $20 gift card and a $440 check for their school.

See more on the competition:


# TitletownTech opening this week

# Silgan Containers selects Kenosha for large distribution center

# ‘Money for nothing’: consumer groups, utilities at odds over who pays for closing plants

# Wisconsin claims board rejects software company’s $14.3M claim



– Resources available for farmers facing setbacks from wet spring

– Farmers earn less for corn, soybeans; More for oats in April


– Postman Square in downtown Milwaukee reopens after $20,000 improvement project


– UW System officials make case for UW capital budget

– Wisconsin FFA Convention slated for Madison next week


– Scientists concerned with federal plan to remove protections for gray wolf

– Conservation groups threaten federal suit to protect lake sturgeon

– Field progress continues to be slow moving

– Lakes Erie, Superior set records as water levels surge


– Steel-Craft companies acquired by Kentucky private equity firm


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

– Cubanitas coming to The Corners of Brookfield

– Bayshore manager focused on local, regional providers for food and beverage


– Enrollment decline for Children’s Hospital’s ACA insurance unit hurts revenue


– Thiensville woman stole $81,000 from investment club over 16 years


– Meteor Timber challenges DNR chief’s decision on Monroe County wetland permit


– Wisconsin Democrats push for repeal of criminal abortion law

– Committee advances bill to have uniform rules for 5G networks

– Wisconsin Senate to take up abortion bills Wednesday despite Evers’ veto threat

– How could Gov. Tony Evers use his partial veto authority to rewrite the Republican budget?


– Senior community planned for southern end of former Gehl site in West Bend

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


– Plan announced to make Bradford Beach more accessible to patrons with disabilities


– Lands’ End attributes net revenue decrease to last year’s Delta launch, Sears closures


– Hartland Chamber partners with startup on AI-based connected commerce app


– Wisconsin, Minnesota ban overweight trucks on bridge between Duluth, Superior


– Spencer Black: Proposed ATC project threatens peace, productivity in Driftless region


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

UW-Madison and WARF: Again rank high in patents

Acuity Recognized for Outstanding Operational Performance

Early career Wisconsin scientists earn combined $600,000 from Greater Milwaukee Foundation