Ideadvance Seed Fund attracts increased focus on Partnered Innovation

Up to $280,000 in grants will be made available to 13 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. 

Stage 1 was divided into two tracks last year: 

  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. 
  1. 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 2022 Stage 1 Small Business Innovation awardees are:  

  • All-In Peppers and Specialty Produce, LLC of Burlington is a sustainable agriculture research and production start-up dedicated to the localization of the food supply chain; 
  • Get to Gather, LLC of Plymouth is a social networking and adventure community platform that makes building diverse social connections organic and easy; 
  • Koda of Madison has developed HypoHolder, a medical device that will secure hypodermic needles to prevent needlestick injuries in healthcare workers; 
  • FreeStyle Peppers of Mount Pleasant makes chile, roasted garlic, extra virgin olive oil and sun-dried tomato medleys to be used in cooking or as a condiment; 
  • Sabhya Technologies of Brookfield seeks to automate data entry to boost productivity; and 
  • Spraywell of Madison is an advanced-level crop-detecting system that attaches to conventional air-blast orchard sprayers and actuates nozzles of the sprayer on/off by tree canopy, saving chemicals, water and fuel. 

The 2022 Stage 1 Partnered Innovation awardees are:  

  • Badger Dental Products, LLC of Madison has developed a splint to temporarily stabilize dental trauma; 
  • Betterbin of Kronenwetter is partnering with established business Fetch Rewards to learn the technical specs necessary to integrate Betterbin’s Desktop as a Service (DAAS) product into Fetch’s app software, as well as learn about the value proposition Betterbin brings to Fetch and other future DAAS customers; 
  • Fleet Cycles Inc. of Monona is designing and manufacturing a purpose-built electric cargo bike for commercial utility and last-mile delivery; and 
  • HeyGov of Sturgeon Bay is software built and used by local government, helping them go digital. They provide a platform for residents and businesses to fill out online forms and pay bills with a credit card. 

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. 

This year’s awardees are:  

  • AdventureCast of Whitewater is a mobile app and website that provides weather forecasts to outdoor recreationalists; 
  • Stratf, LLC of Brookfield’s flagship product Unytus provides culturally responsive curriculum and tools embedded into English Language Arts; and 
  • Yevma Tech of Appleton provides a fast and secure payment and billing solution to businesses and nonprofits. 

“Ideadvance’s evolution toward a statewide approach of fostering innovation in existing businesses allows applicants to seek out partners in the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Dr. Idella Yamben, Ideadvance program manager. “These developing connections and broadened eligibility allow for recovering and growing businesses to pursue riskier ideas. This cohort represents diverse ideas from across the state, including a returning innovator.” 

Since 2014, Ideadvance — a partnership between the UW System’s Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) — has awarded $2.85 million in grants to 79 distinct companies. As of June 2022, 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 truly embodies the Wisconsin Idea — leveraging the UW System’s resources and expertise to help entrepreneurs build the businesses our state will need in the future,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). “WEDC is working to build an economy for all and that requires investing in the people building new technologies and startup businesses.” 

Betterbin initially launched with Ideadvance in 2018. With just an idea, they quickly demonstrated the use of Customer/Ecosystem discovery to identify a pilot customer, define the ecosystem and perceived value, and tested analog version of their approach. 

In this new Partnered Innovation track, they are focused on technology integration to add value to new customers in a B2B play. In this round, customer discovery can help them define technology and operations barriers that may enable them to integrate into a prime customer’s system and hopefully scale this process to other brands. 

“Ideadvance really helped me figure out how to tell the story I needed to tell,” Goetsch said. I did not yet have the entrepreneur mindset of how to explain the problem and describe how I was the best person to solve it. I learned to describe not only how my solution would work, but also how it would make money. Ideadvance gave me the boost to first research and then prove that other experts agreed the problem even existed.” 

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 www.wedc.org; follow @WEDCNews on Twitter.