FRI AM News: WisBusiness: the Podcast with Nick Myers, co-founder and CEO of RedFox AI; Investors striving to improve diversity in startup space

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with returning guest Nick Myers, co-founder and CEO of RedFox AI. 

Myers, who took part in this week’s Early Stage Symposium in Madison, provides an update on the company’s efforts to accelerate growth and connect with potential customers. 

RedFox AI has a voice assistant platform for the medical field called the RedFox Digital Guide, which aims to help people with at-home medical devices and testing. 

“Growth has been trending in the right direction,” he said. “Of course, as a founder, you always wish it was leagues beyond where you’re currently at, but we feel pretty comfortable and are really pleased and happy and excited.” 

He also discusses his recent experience with participating in the Milwaukee Health Care Innovation Pitch competition in October. RedFox AI won the health technology track of the competition, and Myers says that has led to promising conversations with investors and potential partners. 

The company is in the midst of a fundraising round with a goal of securing $500,000 by the end of the year. 

“Yes, we are still early but we have made a lot of progress and we have a lot of traction going for us,” he said. “And not only that, I really think the market conditions — albeit as turbulent as they are in the greater economy right now — when you look at artificial intelligence and health care specifically, that is a booming market.” 

Listen to the podcast here: 

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— Investors in the Midwest and nationwide are striving to improve diversity and inclusion among startups and those who help fund them. 

Kelli Jones, co-founder and general partner for Sixty8 General Partners in Indianapolis, yesterday discussed these efforts during the Wisconsin Technology Council’s Early Stage Symposium in Madison. This seed-stage fund focuses on diverse tech startup companies. 

“I think the more and more we can support the grassroots organizations, the people on the ground that are already serving these communities and deploy more capital into those places, I think we’ll start to see a really large amount of growth in the number of funders, in the number of new entrepreneurs, and also in the number of potentially new venture capital funds,” she said. 

Since starting to raise funds in 2019, Sixty8 Capital has invested in 14 companies including 10 led by Black entrepreneurs, Jones said. The $20 million fund targets investments between $250,000 and $500,000 for these early-stage businesses. 

Meanwhile, TitletownTech partner Cordero Barkley discussed the Green Bay-based fund’s efforts to bridge the gaps between existing resources anchored in Milwaukee and Madison. As another seed-stage fund, TitleTownTech is also looking to make investments up to $500,000 in promising startups. 

He also underlined the importance of diversity in the startup environment, pointing to missed opportunities tied to a lack of representation. 

And Margie Bacheler, director of educational initiatives for the national Angel Capital Association, tied the discussion to the broader issue of the racial wealth gap. She noted the average white U.S. household has six times the equity of the average Black household, and spotlighted the role of capital gains in building generational wealth. 

She said an “Angel University” effort spearheaded by the association is providing educational programs to break down barriers to early-stage angel investing. 

“You don’t have to look like the guys on Shark Tank to be an angel investor … we really go into a community and equip community members and ecosystem builders with the knowledge and tools to successfully start an angel fund,” she said. 

See more coverage from this week’s conference: 

— The head of a Milwaukee pharmaceutical firm called Estrigenix Therapeutics says the company has raised $1.7 million as it develops alternative menopause therapies. 

Speaking during this week’s Early Stage Symposium in Madison, company President and CEO William Donaldson described existing hormone replacement therapies for menopause as a “double-edged sword.” 

He explained that while HRT can help offset the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, depression, sleep problems and more, these existing therapies can also raise patients’ risk for side effects including blood clots and cancer. 

Donaldson said the company’s therapies “have the benefits of hormone replacement therapy but without the undesirable side effects.” Since launching in 2018, the company has filed a patent for the technology behind the new therapies and completed animal studies showing their effectiveness, he added. 

About $650,000 of the company’s $1.7 million in total funding has come in the past 12 months, including a $300,000 National Institutes of Health grant announced in October. 

Looking ahead, Estrigenix will be continuing with Phase 2 clinical trials for the treatment of hot flashes. After that, Donaldson said the company aims to license its intellectual property to a pharmaceutical partner to help carry it through Phase 3 clinical trials and obtain FDA approval. 

See an earlier story on the company: 

— Sen. Devin LeMahieu, who has been reelected as Senate majority leader, told he would like to work toward a flat income tax in the upcoming session, perhaps by cutting in half the current number of tax brackets.

LeMahieu said in an interview ahead of yesterday’s leadership elections that tax cuts will be a priority for his caucus with the state’s budget surplus heading into 2023-25 expected to top $5 billion. That includes eliminating the personal property tax that businesses pay.

LeMahieu said it was too early to say exactly what a tax package might look like from his caucus. Still, priorities would include lowering the top rates after back-to-back budgets that dropped the lowest rates.

He also raised the prospect of going to two tax brackets from the current four. He said that could move the state toward a flat tax without the possibility of raising taxes on those in the lowest brackets.

The income tax brackets now range from 3.54 percent to 7.65 percent.

“I think that’s a good way to attract people to Wisconsin, a good way to keep people in Wisconsin, and that can be a small step in helping the workforce shortage that we’re experiencing,” LeMahieu said in the phone interview.

— UW System President Jay Rothman said the state is in a “war for talent” as he shared a draft of the system’s strategic plan, which aims for a 10 percent increase in enrollment over the next five years.

Rothman presented the plan at yesterday’s Board of Regents meeting at UW-Madison. The board is set to vote on approval of the final plan at its Dec. 7-8 meeting. The draft plan seeks to turn out 41,000 graduates across UW-System schools each year.

Other enrollment-related goals outlined in the plan include:

*Boosting participation rates for high school graduates from 27 percent to 34 percent;

*Increasing the number of transfer students from 7,000 to 10,000 per year; and

*Increasing overall graduation rates by 5 percentage points to 75 percent.

“In my opinion, our primary issue in the state is not about enrollment at our system schools, but rather the fact that we are not turning out enough graduates to fill the needs of state employers,” Rothman said.

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— The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association is calling on federal lawmakers to provide more legal avenues for immigration to help address labor shortages. 

The group yesterday released its immigration policy platform, which covers a number of suggestions for policymakers. It includes: expanding the eligibility for an agricultural guestworker visa program; eliminating requirements for such workers to periodically return to their countries of origin; improving opportunities for permanent U.S. residency; and more. 

WCMA President Steve Bechel, who runs Eau Galle Cheese in Pepin County, notes the U.S. dairy industry relies on immigrants from farming to processing and other industry areas. 

“The nation’s labor crisis will worsen in the years ahead, and legislative action is needed now to provide the workforce that dairy businesses must have to meet the demands of a growing global population,” he said in a statement. 

See more on group’s policy priorities: 


# Wisconsin voters show overwhelming support for abortion rights, marijuana legalization through advisory referendums

# Veterans chamber president: Employers must be intentional when drawing ex-military members into construction jobs

# A look back at Kohl’s under CEO Michelle Gass



– State corn yields still expected to break records

– Deadline approaching for DATCP export expansion grants


– Developer proposes 55-unit apartment building in Milwaukee, but will have to change original Art Deco building

– 5-story apartment building planned on Mitchell Street


– Former Sennett principal was fired for comments on accidental voicemail


– Cocktail hour gets an upgrade in Andre Darlington’s ‘Bar Menu’

– New restaurant to replace former TGI Fridays in Brookfield


– Nurse accused of amputating patient’s foot to put on display


– Alleged child labor violations lead to restraining order for Grant County-based company


– Milwaukee Chamber Theatre managing director to step down


– Veterans in Business: Cari Tralongo, Rockwell Automation

– Harley-Davidson names new logistics firm for its Pennsylvania plant


– Chicago firm buys Germantown industrial building for $21.3 million


– Past pledges to Sears, Gimbels curb redevelopments at Southridge, Regency malls


– Unusual venues make nonconference games more memorable


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