FRI AM News: WisBusiness: the Podcast with Aymen Azim, Technova Industries; Female business plan contest winners succeeding in male-dominated startup ecosystem

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Aymen Azim, founder and director of Madison-based Technova Industries. 

The early-stage data and security company was recently announced as part of startup accelerator gener8tor’s latest Madison cohort. Azim discusses the company’s software and path ahead as he seeks to grow the business with help from gener8tor. 

“We developed a software that can connect to any security system, and provide all the data to provide better management of our cities and our businesses,” he said. 

As one example, he said the company can connect and retrieve data on traffic patterns in a given city, cross-reference that with weather forecasts and collision information to deliver insights to municipalities. 

“We’re always looking to innovate and add more technologies, and follow up with what’s new in the innovation area,” he said. “Being a part of gener8tor Madison’s spring cohort is a great opportunity to get into the Wisconsin ecosystem … We want to bring this new piece of technology to help our communities.” 

The program comes with a $100,000 investment and other support including access to gener8tor’s network of mentors and investors, as well as the camaraderie of joining other entrepreneurs in a similar phase of growing their companies. 

Technova Industries is looking to expand its offerings to other market segments, Azim said, referencing possible applications in Wisconsin’s agriculture industry. That could include automating aspects of livestock management and environmental monitoring, “so they can spend more time doing other important things than just counting their livestock,” he said. 

“So we want to save them time first, because we know time is a pain point for them,” he said. “We’re also tackling other segments like retail … We are in a very early stage of development, we have some use cases for our cities and businesses, and we’re going to be developing more and more for the next couple of years.” 

Listen to the podcast and see the full list of podcasts.

— Women who have won past Governor’s Business Plan Contests have gone on to grow and sell successful health tech companies, despite the challenges facing female entrepreneurs. 

The Wisconsin Technology Council yesterday assembled a panel of past contest winners in Wauwatosa to share their experiences with the competition and entrepreneurship. The conversation highlighted disparities in the world of raising venture capital, which is largely dominated by men. 

Tech Council Investor Networks Director Joe Kremer noted just 17% of companies that raised capital in Wisconsin last year were led or co-founded by women, and women-led startups only raised 10% of the total dollar figure for the year. 

“Which sounds bad, because it is,” he said. “And we have to improve it, but it is better than it is nationally.” 

Laura King, who won the 2014 BPC, echoed his concern, calling it a “significant and substantial and monumental issue” in the business community. She said companies founded by women in the United States earn less than 2% of venture capital dollars each year. 

“I personally became a [limited partner,] meaning the person that invests into a venture fund, in a fund because they only fund women-led or founded companies,” she said. “Because if we don’t make different choices, we’re going to end up with the same result for our daughters or our granddaughters.” 

She discussed a previous venture called NeuWave Medical, which was built around a technology for killing cancerous tumors in the liver, kidney, lungs and bone. After launching in 2008, the company grew to $30 million in revenue and was sold to Johnson & Johnson Medtech for $300 million. She also touched on another venture, Elucent Medical, which has a surgical navigation product.

More recently, she founded another business called Accure Medical, focused on eliminating nail fungus and associated health issues. 

“It’s not about your toes looking good for your vacation in Florida; this affects diabetic patients, it affects walking and mobility,” she said. 

Another past winner, Vector Surgical founder Janet Phillips, discussed the Waukesha-based company’s tissue orientation systems for improving cancer surgery. It was launched in 2005 and won the 2007 contest for its product, which helps pathologists better understand the precise location of cancer cells. 

“All of the goals of conserving healthy tissue are met more effectively, the cosmetic result is better and the cancer outcome is better,” she said. “We also reduce the number of re-excisions.” 

The company has seen steady growth since its contest win, and currently serves 1,400 hospitals across the country, Phillips said. 

The winner of this year’s Governor’s Business Plan Contest will be announced in early June at the Tech Council’s annual Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Milwaukee. 

See coverage of last year’s contest, which was won by another woman-led business, Madison-based Sixline Semiconductor.

— Sift Healthcare, a Milwaukee startup developing AI-based health care payment software, has raised $20 million in a Series B funding round. 

The company today announced the close of the round, which was led by B Capital, an international venture capital firm with offices California, New York and Florida. Existing investors including Allos Ventures in Indiana, First Trust Capital Partners in Illinois and Madison-based Rock River Capital also took part in the round. 

Funding will be used to expand Sift’s team and invest further in AI for its payment platform, according to the release. It brings together clinical data and payment information, applying machine learning to predict “adverse payment outcomes,” provide alerts and recommendations and more. 

Justin Nicols, founder and CEO of Sift Healthcare, says the company is ready to scale up its platform in new and existing markets thanks to the support from lead investor B Capital. 

“As health systems face shrinking margins and growing payment complexities, leveraging AI-based technologies to ease the administrative burden and optimize reimbursement is more important than ever,” Nicols said in a statement. 

See the release.

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