Ideadvance Seed Fund attracts diverse applications with expanded eligibility

Up to $220,000 in grants will be made available to 12 companies diverse in business stage, idea and ownership in the latest round of awards by the Ideadvance Seed Fund.

The Ideadvance program fosters teams that want to advance a scalable, profitable business model. Grant dollars are earned after demonstrating key learnings toward commercialization goals. Awardees are supported by a teaching team, mentors and the program manager as they work through the Ideadvance Lean Startup program.

New this year are two Stage 1 tracks:

  1. Small Business Innovation ($15,000): These awardees are likely to pursue follow-on funding through revenue, angels or venture capital funding, and therefore Lean Startup learning objectives focus toward a sales launch with pilot customers and consider debt financing and/or equity financing.
  2. Partnered Innovation ($25,000): Awardees should be actively engaged with or expect to require partner expertise toward commercialization of an innovative process or deep technology. Lean Startup learning objectives focus toward a pilot or fully executed partner agreement or engagement for competitive grant/contract, debt and/or equity financing.

The 2021 Stage 1 Small Business Innovation awardees are:

  • AdventureCast of Whitewater, a mobile app and website that provide weather forecasts to outdoor recreationalists. By using the app, users can pick the best time and place for their outdoor recreation activities that matches their custom weather profile;
  • Cereus of Mondovi, a software as a service (SaaS) product that automates identifying, classifying and ranking privacy compliance risks in websites and mobile apps;
  • Doctor Dyslexia Dude, LLC of Oshkosh, a realistic and culturally responsive game-based learning app for students with specific learning disabilities;
  • Leutheria, LLC of West Allis, which empowers people to take full advantage of the cryptocurrency economy through time-saving trading tools, educational resources and a global community;
  • Pill Skills, LLC of Madison, which progressively teaches children an important life skill with a series of graded pill sizes, instructions and a progress log;
  • Prototype Your Life of Platteville, which uses a mindset tool to help innovators and inventors develop entrepreneurship success traits;
  • Stratf, LLC of Brookfield, which is developingUnytus, an edutainment app that enables kids to experience and embrace diversity right from their childhood; and
  • Yevma Inc. of Appleton, which developed Yevma Tech, an app-less, contact-less mobile payment technology to help businesses run more efficiently and offer superior customer service.

The 2021 Stage 1 Partnered Innovation awardee is:

  • American Medical Technologies, LLC  of Milwaukee, which developed Seemed, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology with applications to cardiology and orthopedic surgery.

Stage 2, with follow-on funding up to $30,000, helps a select few to advance their business models to deliver customer solutions and attract investors as they demonstrate commercial milestones and a match.

The 2021 Stage 2 awardees are:

This year’s awardees are:

  • Empresaria Cosmetics of Milwaukee, which engineers and sells easier-to-clean makeup brushes to ease maintenance for the heavy makeup user;
  • Siren Shrub Co. of Stevens Point, which makes flavorful concentrates from tangy, raw, organic apple cider vinegar, fresh fruits, roots and herbs and sweetened with just the right amount of organic cane sugar or maple syrup; and
  • Solar Forma Design of Eau Claire, a renewable energy product developer and manufacturer that pairs the talents of artists with leading solar technologies to redefine the relationship between renewable energy and public spaces.

“Ideadvance has evolved to respond to the impacts of a post-covid world,” said Dr. Idella Yamben, Ideadvance program manager. “Recovery and growth include a statewide approach to foster innovation inclusive of existing small businesses. The change in Stage 1 tracks, broader eligibility and enhanced programming reflects Ideadvance’s commitment to meet foster diversity and innovation in Wisconsin.”

Since 2014, Ideadvance — a partnership between the UW System’s Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) — has awarded $2.65 million in grants to 73 distinct companies. As of June 2021, the impact of these grants has resulted in $5.9 million in additional funding allocated to the awardees. Ideadvance is part of the WEDC’s S3 program, which is working to further incorporate startups by providing operational and financial assistance to aid in navigating commercialization barriers.

“Ideadvance is a tremendous resource for Wisconsin entrepreneurs and is a great example of how UW resources can extend beyond the immediate campus community and current enrollment,” said Aaron Hagar, WEDC vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation. “The program does a great job of understanding the needs of businesses and challenging the entrepreneurs to discover for themselves what is needed to give their idea the best chance of success.”

Solar Forma was founded by Brian Graff and Greg Johnson in 2019 to create aesthetically pleasing multi-purpose solar products for public spaces. Its E-Cacia Solar Tree, based on the acacia tree of Africa, provides shelter, lighting, wireless device charging, electric vehicle charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Their goal of selling their first E-Cacia Solar Tree by mid-2021 has been supported in part by the Ideadvance Seed Fund Program, where they initially received a Phase 1 $25,000 grant to help reduce business and technical risk through idea validation with expert support and intensive customer interviews.

“Ideadvance has been a great experience in that it has forced us to be more disciplined and introspective in our business planning,” said Graff. “Being compelled to distill our value propositions down in the manner that the methodology required and then to analyze those responses was eye-opening but very helpful in more specifically positioning our company and targeting prospects. Of course, the grant money was very helpful and much appreciated as well.”

Those who are interested in applying for the annual program in 2022 can read more on the Ideadvance page, sign up for the CTC newsletter and follow @WisconsinCTC on Twitter to stay up to date.

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a proud part of the University of Wisconsin System’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to innovative, problem-solving small businesses throughout Wisconsin. Regardless of the business stage, CTC has the programs and support to help businesses compete for funding. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and additional funding for clients. Learn more at; follow @WisconsinCTC on Twitter.

About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

WEDC leads economic development efforts for the state by providing resources, operational support and financial assistance to companies, partners and communities in Wisconsin. Working with more than 600 partners across the state, including regional economic development organizations, academic institutions and industry clusters, WEDC develops and delivers solutions that help businesses, communities and people maximize their potential In Wisconsin. Learn more at; follow @WEDCNews on Twitter.

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