THU AM News: Madison VC firm partner calls for young entrepreneurs to reset funding expectations; GOP lawmakers raise concerns about PSC broadband program

— A partner with Madison-based Rock River Capital Partners says many young entrepreneurs in the state need to reset their funding expectations as they meet with venture capital firms. 

Speaking during a recent Wisconsin Technology Council meeting held at UW-Whitewater, Andy Walker explained coastal startup culture is “a lot more cutthroat” than the Midwest. When meeting with early-stage companies that aren’t a good fit for investment, he said he strives to be supportive but direct in turning them down. 

“A lot of times though, the second we give them a meeting, they think ‘I’m getting funded,’” Walker said, noting it takes about a dozen meetings on average to reach the point of making an investment. “Before we invest, we’ve probably seen the company and followed it for over a year, right? This isn’t how it works. We don’t have one meeting and hand you a check. And I think we have this very kind of naive mentality in a lot of these young entrepreneurs.” 

Walker also discussed the VC firm’s strategy for bringing in other investors on rounds that exceed its typical capacity. The $27 million fund can write checks between $250,000 and $1.5 million, but that doesn’t keep it from participating in larger rounds, he noted. 

The firm networks with many other VC funds from around the country, and encourages them to get involved with deals that seem especially promising. 

“What I’ve learned is if it goes really well, we’re going to need more money. If it goes really poorly, we’re going to need more money,” Walker said. 

While Rock River Capital Partners describes itself as “industry agnostic,” Walker noted the firm often targets software companies for potential investments because that’s his area of expertise and such ventures are often less capital-intensive. He said startups that appeal most to venture firms have the potential for huge growth while remaining efficient with funding. 

“For it to be a VC-backed company, we’ve got to see a [10 times] return on our money. We’ve got to see market sizes that are just massive,” he said. “We’re going to lose 100 percent of our money on a third. We’re going to lose some of our money on the next third. So the winner’s got to be really, really big.” 

He added investors in the fund typically expect to triple the money they put into it, which drives the focus on companies with greater potential for growth. 

The Tech Council on Monday is hosting the 10th annual Wisconsin Tech Summit in Green Bay, featuring panel discussions, a keynote speech from Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy, and strategic meetings between early-stage companies and investors. 

See more event details here: 

Listen to an earlier podcast on Rock River Capital Partners: 

See more on the firm: 

— Republican Legislative Audit Committee co-chairs raised concerns the PSC won’t know for sure if completed broadband expansion projects actually provide the service they promised.

The Public Service Commission reimburses with federal funds internet service providers for broadband expansion projects after they’re completed. Sen. Eric Wimberger in the more than two-hour long hearing yesterday questioned how the PSC would know for sure the projects do what they say they’ll do in their grant applications.

PSC Chair Rebecca Cameron Valcq said the final reports providers have already submitted in order to receive CARES Act fund reimbursement for their work include documentation of any project changes between applying for a grant and completing the project.

“So that final report, in my mind, is documentation of: Yes, you did what you said you were going to do and you are legally attesting that the monies that you are requesting were used for the purposes enumerated in your grant,” Valcq said.

The Green Bay Republican said that’s the problem, “because just because I say something is accurate doesn’t mean it happened that way.”

“You see, we wouldn’t need any police if that’s how the world worked,” he said. “A prosecutor could just say ‘well it’s illegal to commit murder, therefore there aren’t any, and we’re not going to collect any records to check that out.'”

PSC Broadband Office Director Alyssa Kenney also at the hearing said internet service providers have also been checking in monthly about any delays and how close to project completion they are.

The Legislative Audit Bureau in a recent report noted PSC could do a better job documenting how it knows providers are doing what they say. Kinney said in addition to the monthly check-ins, “staff did some additional checks that we failed to document properly and certainly will not in the future.”

Wimberger and Co-chair Rep. Robert Wittke, R-Racine, said they’re concerned about making sure PSC can handle existing federal funds for broadband grants after Gov. Tony Evers proposed spending another $750 million to expand broadband.

See more from the hearing at WisPolitics: 

— State officials are rolling out $473,000 in grant funding to help 14 school districts in Wisconsin expand advanced manufacturing programs. 

In a release yesterday, the state Department of Workforce Development announced the Wisconsin Fast Forward Program grant funding. The agency says the funds will help connect at least 2,000 students with careers in the manufacturing industry. 

Grants range from about $9,000 to $50,000, and can be used to install new equipment such as robotic welders, laser cutting equipment, 3D printers and more. 

See the list of recipients and funded projects here: 

— The Aspirus Health Foundation is providing $450,000 in scholarships as part of an effort to address the health care worker shortage in central Wisconsin. 

The foundation announced first-year students at the Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin in Wausau are getting scholarships through a partnership between Aspirus and MCW. They funds cover tuition, fees and a living stipend for each academic year. 

As part of the scholarship program, the students commit to working at the nonprofit health care system in primary care, psychiatry or general surgery, according to a release from the college. 

See more: 

<br><b><i>Top headlines from the Health Care Report …</b></i> 

— Family caregivers in the state provided nearly $4 billion in unpaid care in 2022 for people with dementia issues, a new report says. 

And GOP lawmakers are circulating legislation that would add exceptions for rape and incest to the state’s 1849 abortion ban.

<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> 

Sign up here:


# Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly says he would follow the Legislature to address collective bargaining laws

# Wisconsin Supreme Court to rule on whether Transportation Utility Fees are legal to fund roads

# Why new housing rules stir so much trouble in Madison



– Call for public feedback on special registration of potato fungicide 

– Wisconsin farmers learn and connect at National Farmers Union Convention 


– City of Milwaukee hiring contractor to raze Northridge Mall’s Boston Store building this year

– WM plans $38 million rebuild of Germantown recycling facility


– Lake Michigan water in Waukesha closer to reality as tower’s construction completes

– DNR Secretary says changes are coming to the state’s wolf management plan–hunt-management-plan

– Here’s how inheritance will shape future of Wisconsin’s forests


– Sacred Heart, Encompass open rehabilitation hospital in EC


– Investment group wants to take over Window Select’s contracts, create new company


– WPS Health Solutions names new president and CEO


– Quad shutters Massachusetts plant, will bring some client work to Franklin  


– The company that airs Milwaukee games filed for bankruptcy. Now what?


– Preserving Wisconsin’s agricultural heritage: A new bill aims to protect farmland 

– Wisconsin Republicans propose abortion ban exceptions


– New city program converts underused Milwaukee streets into plazas

– Milwaukee Bucks star Connaughton’s growing real estate firm doubles down on Milwaukee


– Road America brings hundreds of millions to Wisconsin, study says


– Growing team of IT professionals volunteering to help communities, school districts respond to cyberattacks

– Fetch Rewards cuts 100 positions as the company looks to restructure


– New owner of Palace Theater in Dells plans to transform dinner theater


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

Wisconsin Farmers Union: Retreat draws ‘Emerging Leaders’ to Stevens Point

UW-Madison: UW-Madison Day in Washington, DC