TUE AM News: 2023 business plan contest winner shares innovation insights; Gallagher joins TitletownTech

— The winner of last year’s Governor’s Business Plan Contest, SixLine Semiconductor’s Katy Jinkins, says her approach to tech challenges is to “fail fast” and frequently as part of the innovation process. 

Jinkins, the Middleton-based startup company’s CEO, co-founder and co-inventor, was a featured speaker during a recent Wisconsin Technology Council luncheon in Wauwatosa. 

“I know it’s going to not work for a long time, but you have to have fast iteration cycles, and you have to find that next path,” she said last week. “You might keep failing and failing and failing, but eventually you’ll find that route forward. And that’s served me well so far, and that’s what we’re continuing to do at SixLine.” 

The Middleton-based company is developing advanced electronics components based on “carbon nanotubes,” microscopic structures that are 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. It officially launched in 2022 after Jinkins began working with these materials during her PhD at UW-Madison, exploring their “really extraordinary” electrical properties, she said. 

“That’s what SixLine is based around, is replacing the current materials that are used in your cellphones and in your other electronics with our material, carbon nanotubes, for faster performance, as well as lower energy usage, larger bandwidth … and at a lower cost,” she said. 

Jinkins said the potential for larger bandwidth is useful for in-demand AI applications, as it can enable large-scale data processing for machine learning software. She emphasized the importance of patenting this technology, underlining the potential impact of her company’s solution. 

“When this technology is fully commercialized and fully developed, the impact is going to be so big that I just didn’t want to give that to someone else to take my IP that I had developed and take it on that path,” she said. “As the co-inventor of the technology, the person who is maybe most familiar with it, I just felt like I had the broad picture and the narrow vision of, this is where we’re going and this is how we’re going to get there.” 

Still, she said she benefited from being “a little bit blind” to earlier failures in the field, noting some entrepreneurs can get caught up in the complications of previous failed attempts and subsequently discouraged. 

“I knew that it was a problem, and I knew that other people had attempted it, but I don’t think I knew all of the details,” she said. “And so that ignorance helped me a little bit.” 

She also discussed how the Tech Council’s Governor’s Business Plan Contest helped her refine the business and learn how to present it to others, while connecting her to Wisconsin’s startup ecosystem and investors. 

“So really bringing that network together throughout the business plan, and then getting the feedback from either judges or other people in the community was really, really valuable,” she said. 

The winner of this year’s BPC will be announced next month at the Tech Council’s Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference. It’s being held at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee June 5-6. 

See more from last week’s event, coverage of last year’s contest and another story on the company. 

Former U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Allouez, has taken on a new role as senior strategic advisor for TitletownTech. 

The venture capital firm in a press release yesterday announcing the hire noted Gallagher’s experience on national security issues, including U.S.-China geopolitical competition. Before resigning from Congress last month, Gallagher chaired the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.

Gallagher in a statement said he’s excited to help Titletown Tech, a partnership between the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft, transform Wisconsin into a hub of technological innovation.

“Wisconsin is on the front lines of geopolitical competition in the 21st Century, and has a critical role to play in enhancing America’s economic competitiveness in general and technological leadership in particular,” Gallagher said. “I look forward to working with the TitletownTech team to drive Wisconsin’s growth by making it the best destination for top-level tech-talent and thereby advance America’s national security interests.” 

See the release.

— Brad Smith, Microsoft’s vice chair and president, says it took the entire Southeast Wisconsin region and “even the entire state” to solidify its $3.3 billion investment into a new artificial intelligence data center in Racine County.

“It’s a massive construction project,” he told “UpFront,” which is produced in partnership with WisPolitics. “But more than that, we really see this as something that will create the technological foundation for the next generation of manufacturing.”

The company is predicting some 2,000 jobs by the end of 2026 and is being built on land once held by Foxconn.

“I think our philosophy in part, sort of reflecting some of the recent history here, is under promise, over deliver, work with the community,” Smith said. “But I think we’re going to go fast. That’s why we’re just talking about the next two-and-a-half years. I feel confident, given everything I’ve seen today, that before these two-and-a-half years end, we’ll be talking about the next phase.”

The project is also expected to bring some 2,000 construction jobs between now and the end of 2026.

“It’s entirely possible that we would have considered Southeast Wisconsin, but no doubt we are the beneficiaries of that earlier effort — the land that was initially acquired that we’re now able to buy, even the electrical infrastructure,” Smith said. “More will need to be built. We’re proposing to the utility commission a price that will pay so that we, in effect, pay for an expansion of the electrical grid, but we are building on what was started before, but we are building on what was started before, and no one should lose sight of that either.”

See more from the show.

— U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden has introduced a bill to reduce restrictions for building new medical facilities in areas impacted by hospital closures, the Republican lawmaker announced. 

Van Orden announced the legislation during a recent health care-focused roundtable in Eau Claire, according to a release. 

He says the “Rural Healthcare Revitalization Act of 2024” would allow states to request waivers to bypass certain restrictions on establishing a new health care facility following a small hospital closing in the region. 

The legislation comes after Hospital Sisters Health System and Prevea Health recently shut down hospitals in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, prompting worries about local access to health care. 

He said in a statement that “rural Wisconsinites should not be pushed to the sidelines ever,” especially when it comes to medical care. He argued “there must be a plan” to fill the care gap for rural residents when a hospital no longer provides services there. 

“Folks are still struggling to find accessible healthcare following the HSHS and Prevea Health closures in western Wisconsin, and I want to make sure we are doing all we can to get these people the resources they deserve,” he said.

See the release and the legislation.

Top headlines from the Health Care Report… 

— Marquette University’s School of Dentistry has announced its first graduating class to benefit from a regulatory change aimed at getting new grads into the workforce more quickly. 

And the state Department of Safety and Professional Services recently announced an initiative that will allow nursing school students to take a required national nursing exam before graduation. 

For more of the most relevant health care news, reports on groundbreaking research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from WisPolitics and WisBusiness.com.

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