WED AM News: DataChat closes on $25 million funding round; Flu vaccines recommended as COVID-19 pandemic continues

— A software company called DataChat has closed on a $25 million funding round following a limited product launch of its data analytics platform. 

The Madison-based company has developed a system that relies on artificial intelligence for natural language processing. Through a chat function, users can ask complex data questions and get answers and visualizations. The company’s CEO and co-founder, Jignesh Patel, says this reduces the need for technical expertise and empowers businesses to better understand their data. 

This latest funding round builds on a previous seed funding round that raised $4 million in October 2020. Nepenthe Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, led the seed round and joined the $25 million round as well. Other investors included Redline Capital, Anthos Capital and Celesta Capital, all of which are also based in California. 

“Jignesh and his team have a radically different approach to democratize analytics using a novel conversational paradigm, and they have a compelling vision to dramatically transform the existing analytics ecosystem,” said Tatiana Evtushenkova, a partner at Redline Capital. 

The initial seed round supported technical development and the initial product launch with a limited set of customers, while the latest round will help the company “accelerate execution of both our product roadmap and our customer growth strategy,” Patel said in a statement. 

“The reception has been a huge success,” he said. 

Patel is a professor of computer sciences at UW-Madison, where the research that underpins the company’s technology was conducted. DataChat has also received funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the university’s patenting and licensing organization. 

See the release:

Listen to an earlier podcast with Patel: 

— Despite last year’s relatively tame flu season, health experts are urging people to get a flu vaccine this fall as Wisconsin’s hospitals see rising numbers of COVID-19 patients. 

During last year’s pandemic peak, measures taken to limit the spread of COVID-19 also dramatically reduced the number of flu cases in Wisconsin compared to previous years. Those included social distancing, mask wearing and more frequent hand-washing and sanitizing. 

“Those recommendations helped us avoid a catastrophic situation last fall when COVID-19 infections and seasonal flu cases could have overwhelmed our health care facilities even more than they already were,” said Dr. Jennifer Frank, chief medical officer for the ThedaCare Clinically Integrated Network. 

The Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard shows 1,045 people in the state are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and 315 are in the ICU due to the virus. Both of those numbers have been increasing since early July. And the Department of Health Services site shows 88.9 percent of the state’s hospital beds and 91.6 percent of ICU beds were in use at the end of August. 

The flu season typically runs from around October to April, with the peak in cases usually seen between December and January. During the 2019-20 flu season, Wisconsin had more than 36,000 cases of the flu, over 4,000 flu-related hospitalizations and 183 deaths. During the 2020-21 flu season, just 68 cases were seen, 14 of which required hospitalization. Wisconsin had no recorded flu deaths for the season. 

A fact sheet from the Mayo Clinic shows the flu vaccine doesn’t protect against COVID-19 infection, but it does reduce flu symptoms that could be mistaken for the symptoms of COVID-19. Frank said in a statement that it’s safe to get the flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. 

“September and October are good times to get vaccinated for the flu, as it takes two weeks for the vaccine to provide immunity,” she said. “As long as the flu virus is circulating, those who haven’t been vaccinated yet can do so into January or later.”

See the DHS numbers on hospital capacity here: 

— The state’s seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases has dipped slightly to 1,583 cases per day after reaching a recent peak of 1,769 cases per day on Sunday. 

Yesterday’s seven-day average for COVID-19 deaths was six deaths per day, with a total of 7,667 virus deaths so far in Wisconsin, the Department of Health Services dashboard shows. 

Meanwhile, 55.3 percent of the state’s population have gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 51.9 percent have completed the vaccine series. By comparison, 62.5 percent of the U.S. population have received at least one dose, and 53.2 percent are fully vaccinated. 

See the latest case numbers here: 

— Madison Gas and Electric has filed a settlement agreement with the state Public Service Commission that would reduce electricity costs for its residential and small business customers in the coming years. 

A release from the Citizens Utility Board shows the rate increase under the settlement would be $2 million per year lower than what was first proposed by MGE. If the PSC approves the settlement, the company’s fixed charge for electricity customers would decrease from its current level of $19 to $17 in January and $15 in 2023, the release shows. 

“The reduction we negotiated will greatly improve the way rates are structured and will allow customers to control their electricity use to help them save energy and money,” said Tom Content, executive director of CUB, in a statement. 

The agreement was reached between MGE and CUB, Clean Wisconsin, RENEW Wisconsin, the Sierra Club, the UW System and Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group. 

“We’re pleased to have worked with stakeholders in a collaborative way to reach this settlement agreement and submit it for approval,” said MGE spokesperson Steve Schultz in an email. “We look forward to continued work with them and with all of our customers to achieve our shared energy and sustainability goals benefiting all of our customers.” 

See the settlement agreement: 

See the CUB release: 

— A recent USDA report shows Wisconsin’s crop growth for corn and soybeans are proceeding ahead of the five-year average. 

Meanwhile, harvesting of oats and cutting of alfalfa hay are also ahead of the five-year average, the report shows. Temperatures last week were “near normal,” while precipitation levels were below normal. 

See the report here: 

— Waupaca is getting a $118,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for a downtown development project. 

The project from Stevens Point developer Point Housing will include repairs and renovations to a property that’s been “underused and in disrepair” for nearly 40 years, a WEDC release shows. Once complete, the project will include two street-level commercial spaces and four apartments on the building’s second floor. 

Repairs funded by the Community Development Investment Grant include roofing, electrical, plumbing and an HVAC system, as well as facade enhancements, adding new lighting and appliances, and restoring the original hardwood flooring in the apartments. 

WEDC estimates the project will be completed by August 2022. 

See the release: 


# Average Wisconsin cranberry crop expected after dry summer

# ‘People are looking for other jobs’: As COVID surges again, frontline staff at UW Health are burning out

# Fork Farms of Green Bay raises $2 million in round led by TitletownTech



– State & national cheese production higher in July

– Wisconsin hemp program to transition to federal agency next year


– Wisconsin’s best bricklayers to battle to qualify for world championship


– Better wages, stronger benefits key to post-pandemic economic recovery, UW-Madison study finds

– Report: Unions weaker, wages stagnant in Wisconsin in recent years

– Capital campaign underway for Center for Black Excellence


– CALS to honor exemplary leaders during 2021 banquet

– UW-Whitewater offering extra incentives for students who get vaccinated


– Blockbuster movie releases drive a return to Marcus Theatres 


– Environmentalists monitor downstream impacts of soft water

– Storm includes large hail, powerful wind, heavy rain


– ‘Wisconsin Restaurant Cookbook’ aims to help food industry recover


– Hunger Task Force hosting drive up food distribution Sept. 15


– Somers apartment proposal along Lake Michigan scaled back after input from community

– Real estate tech brokerage Compass expands to Wisconsin with 19 agents in Wauwatosa, Glendale


– Fee relief: MGE to reduce flat charges as part of settlement to trim rate increase


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

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