Winnow Fund: Raises $3.5 million; launches as only Wisconsin-based, woman-led venture fund actively investing

Contact: Steve Lyons at 608-220-7478

MADISON, Wis. – Investors have committed more than $3.5 million to a new Wisconsin venture capital fund that is led by a woman manager, according to a recent federal Securities and Exchange Commission filing. 

The Winnow Fund will invest in pre-revenue startups and will create new companies around innovative products generated by some of Wisconsin’s best and brightest college students. The fund is managed by Richelle Martin, Managing Director.

The Winnow Fund is designed to ultimately put $8 million into creating and investing in new Wisconsin-based startups. It will take advantage of the growth in student interest in entrepreneurship that is supported by more entrepreneur clubs and startup programs on campuses across the state.

The Winnow Fund’s unique focus is to create companies around student innovative product ideas rather than around technologies obtained through the patenting and licensing offices, in addition to investing in pre revenue existing startups.

The fund will visit Wisconsin campuses both to access ideas and provide students access to a professionally managed Wisconsin-based venture capital fund – a concept Martin calls the “Venture Capitalist in Residence” program.

Martin’s fund will be the only Wisconsin-based, woman-led venture fund that is actively investing in Wisconsin.

“In a state where there is a lot of corporate brand building and talk around diversity, there has been a surprising lack of commitment to diversifying our venture capital ecosystem,” said Ken Johnson the Wisconsin-based partner of Sun Mountain Kegonsa, which manages the Badger Fund. “From a national perspective, the number of female venture partners dropped to 6% in 2014, from 14% in 1999; the Winnow Fund provides Wisconsin with an opportunity to be a national VC ecosystem leader.”

“After performing extensive due diligence on the Winnow Fund’s unique concept of a having a Venture Capitalist in Residence, the Badger Fund decided to be the lead investor” said Brian Birk, managing partner of Sun Mountain Capital. “Richelle’s experience working in the UW-Madison bureaucracy and her legal work with the Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic on the Madison campus uniquely positions her to implement this novel concept.”

Martin, a Milwaukee native, has undergraduate degrees in Art History, Political Science, and Psychology from UW-Milwaukee and a law degree from UW-Madison. She previously was assistant director of the Office of Industrial Partnerships, which reviews and negotiates agreements involving business-sponsored research at the UW-Madison.

About the Badger Fund of Funds

Formed in 2015, The Badger Fund of Funds I, L.P. includes $25 million from the State of Wisconsin. Sun Mountain Kegonsa, LLC (SMK) is a partnership of Sun Mountain Capital Advisors, LLC and Kegonsa Capital Partners. The State of Wisconsin, qualified individuals and the fund manager (SMK) have invested over $30 million in the Badger Fund as of December 31, 2018.

About Sun Mountain Capital

Sun Mountain Capital Advisors, LLC is a venture capital firm based in Santa Fe, New Mexico and was founded in 2006 to focus on investing in high potential underserved geographies both in the U.S. and abroad.

About Kegonsa Capital Partners

Kegonsa Capital Partners (Kegonsa) was founded in 2004.  Currently Kegonsa manages the Kegonsa Seed Fund I, LP, and Kegonsa Co-invest Fund, LLC.  The Wisconsin based funds focus on seed and early stage investments in Wisconsin startups.  In 2011, Kegonsa and Sun Mountain Capital Advisors, LLC agreed to form a partnership (Sun Mountain Kegonsa, L.L.C.) to manage a Wisconsin based Fund of Funds investment vehicle, the Badger Fund of Funds.

About Sun Mountain Kegonsa  

Sun Mountain Kegonsa (SMK) is a partnership between Kegonsa Capital Partners of Dane County, Wisconsin, which manages Wisconsin focused venture capital funds, and Sun Mountain Capital Advisors, LLC which manages highly customized regional venture capital investment programs both in the United States and abroad.