FRI AM News: WisBusiness: the Podcast with Wes Schroll, Fetch Rewards; PSC hearing highlights opposition to We Energies rate increase

— The latest episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Wes Schroll, founder and CEO of Madison-based Fetch Rewards. 

Fetch Rewards has a mobile app that provides users with rewards points for purchases such as groceries. Since being founded in 2013, the tech company has grown to 18 million active monthly users and more than 6 million daily active users. 

“Which is crazy — that’s almost twice the size of Starbucks’ app, in terms of daily active users … we’re not seeing any slowdown in the growth, and that’s also meant we’ve had to grow the rest of the business around it,” he said. 

The company now has about 830 full-time employees. Schroll explained the team has had to step up technical support efforts to compensate for the millions of people using the app each day.  

“It used to be okay for us to have uptime of 99.9 percent of the time, you know, when we had a million users,” he said. “Now, at 18 million users, it has to 99.999 percent of the time, so engineering is always finding challenges they need to go solve because the bar just keeps getting raised.” 

Looking ahead, Schroll said the company aims to keep growing at a rapid pace with an eye on international expansion at some point. For at least the next two years, though, he said the company is “doubling down on the growth here in the U.S. — it’s something that’s really important to us.” 

Listen to the show here: 

See the full list of podcasts: 

Listen to an earlier podcast with Schroll: 

— Members of the public railed against a We Energies rate increase during a recent Public Service Commission hearing in Milwaukee. 

As of 4:40 p.m. yesterday, at least 21 people had spoken against the company raising its electric rates for customers, while only a handful had expressed support. We Energies, which is owned by Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group, is requesting the PSC approve a 13 percent increase for residential electric rates in 2023. 

Many of the speakers who testified against the rate increase slammed the company for raising prices while continuing to make a profit, raising concerns about residents struggling to pay their energy bills. One person who testified in favor of the rate increase highlighted the company’s support for educational initiatives and nonprofits. 

Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, testified against the rate increase, arguing the company has “little to no justification” for raising residential electric rates. He said the company has posted “huge profits” for five years in a row, including a net profit of $1.3 billion last year. 

He urged the commissioners to reject the rate increase, adding the company is more interested in delivering profits to its shareholders than serving the customers that rely on its electricity services. 

In an emailed statement, WEC Energy Group spokesperson Brendan Conway said the company’s rate increase request is “being driven by our clean energy investments and reliability investments, including grid hardening projects to bury power lines and strengthen our system against severe weather.” He said this is only the second time in eight years that the company has asked for a base rate increase. 

He also said the company believes the impact of the rate increase on low-income customers “can be wiped out” by energy assistance funding, and noted WEC Energy Group is contributing to the nonprofit charity Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund. 

“For all our Wisconsin customers, the bottom line is this:  Their electric bills will remain below the national average,” he said. 

The PSC is expected to make a decision on the request within the next month or so. 

See more in Top Stories below. 

— The state’s Enhanced Prescription Drug Monitoring Program has received a $1.4 million federal grant, according to the Department of Safety and Professional Services. 

The funding from the Federal Bureau of Justice Assistance will go toward improving data quality gathered by the ePDMP system, expanding customer support options and other modernization efforts, DSPS says. The program has gotten more than $5 million in grants from this bureau in the past three years. 

The enhanced program was launched in 2017 by the agency and the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Board, replacing an earlier version of the tool that was created in 2013. 

It’s meant to provide information to care providers as they make decisions about prescribing addictive drugs such as opioids, as well as trend reports for health agencies and law enforcement entities as they work to combat the opioid crisis. 

See the release: 

— Despite the numerous challenges posed by COVID-19, the head of the Wisconsin Hospital Association says the pandemic also presented “a number of silver linings” related to regulations around health care. 

Speaking yesterday during a Competitive Wisconsin event held at Western Technical College in Mauston, Eric Borgerding said he has viewed the last several years as “a giant regulatory reform pilot program.” 

“There was a lot of regulation, both at the state and federal level — much of it around telehealth or locations where care can be delivered — that was waived,” he said. “And we’ve learned a lot of lessons from those regulatory waivers that can serve us well going forward, especially as it relates to access to care and utilizing the workforce that we have.”

Along with spotlighting the benefits of telehealth for expanding access to certain types of primary care and behavioral health care, Borgerding also discussed a “hospital at home” program that provides certain patients with in-person care without going into the hospital. He said that’s important because it allows limited hospital beds and staffing to be used for those who “really, really need inpatient hospital care.” 

Many panelists at yesterday’s event discussed the crisis in the health care workforce related to older personnel retiring, an aging population more prone to illness, worn out workers leaving for less stressful industries, the impact of the pandemic and other factors. 

<i>For more of the most relevant news on COVID-19, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and</i>

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