The Badger Fund of Funds has selected another fund manager, who has launched a fund that will invest in college student entrepreneurs statewide.
Richelle Martin this month launched the new Madison-based venture capital fund, The Winnow Fund, with the aim of raising $8 million to $10 million. The Badger Fund has committed $4 million to the Winnow Fund. Martin said she hopes to close at least an initial round of funding within six months.
“We’re going to look at students at universities all across the state,” she said. “We’re going to be founding the companies. The plan is that we will find the ideas.”
The Winnow Fund would make a small initial investment in establishing new startups, and later make seed investments of up to $500,000.
“Truly anyone who is interested in supporting students (could invest),” Martin said. “I think it would be really interesting to see the alumni come out and encourage us to meet with students from their university.”
An attorney by training, Martin was most recently the assistant director of the Office of Industrial Partnerships at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She previously was an industrial partnerships contract specialist at UW-Madison, and worked as an associate attorney at David F. Grams & Associates S.C. Martin, 34, holds a bachelor’s in art history, political science and psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a law degree from UW-Madison.
“I think that there is an unmet need in the state and that the Winnow Fund is going to at least partially fulfill some of that need,” Martin said.
This is the fifth Badger Fund of Funds venture capital fund that has been launched in Wisconsin. The state awarded $25 million in 2013 to establish the Badger Fund of Funds, which raised another $10 million from the private sector and agreed to create six to eight venture capital firms across the state. Santa Fe-based Sun Mountain Capital, which specializes in regional investment programs, and Kegonsa Capital Partners are running the program. They plan to have all of the regional funds established by the end of 2018. The fund managers they have selected have so far established Bold Coast Capital Fund in Milwaukee, Idea Fund of La Crosse, Winnebago Seed Fund LP in Neenah and Rock River Capital Partners Fund I, which is based in Madison.
“Many look at university innovation as spinouts based on patents, but the Winnow fund focus is creating companies based on student product ideas, most likely without patents with the student innovator continuing their college career as an owner in a new startup,” said Ken Johnson, a partner in the Badger Fund. “The Winnow Fund will not only create the startup, but also recruit the management and be the first investor.”