Wisconsin entrepreneurs benefit from WEDC-UW System programs

MADISON – Thanks to a key strategic partnership with the UW System, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is investing more than $2.6 million in Wisconsin’s small businesses.

WEDC’s commitment provides much-needed funding to startup and nascent companies as well as the technical assistance to support them. The UW System’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship facilitates delivery of state agency dollars and services to the entrepreneurs who access these essential resources locally through the university’s statewide network. 

The funding includes: 

  • $1.75 million for matching grants for early-stage businesses furthering technology and innovative solutions; and
  • $865,000 for consulting and training programs.

“A strategic goal at WEDC is to accelerate economic recovery by providing lift during the pandemic; these efforts help increase innovation and further support the vitality and growth of startup businesses,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. “We are pleased to continue our partnership with UW System for the benefit of Wisconsin startups and entrepreneurs.”

The matching grants programs include SBIR Advance and the Ideadvance Seed Fund, administered by the Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC).

SBIR Advance provides assistance to companies in the process of completing a project in the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Since 2014, 111 awards totaling nearly $8.8 million have been given. 

Ideadvance, an award-winning WEDC-UW System partnership, offers a rigorous two-stage process of seed funding and mentoring to move innovative ideas forward into feasible, scalable businesses. The program, which receives matching funds from UW System, is open to university staff, faculty, students and alumni. Since 2014, Ideadvance has awarded $2.27 million in grants to 64 startup and high-growth companies. 

“The University of Wisconsin’s tradition and heritage is to help find creative solutions to challenges great and small,” said UW System President Tommy Thompson. “True to the Wisconsin Idea, programs like Ideadvance provide entrepreneurs with the resources and counsel they need to build their businesses, promote economic growth, and deliver innovative products and services that are accessible throughout Wisconsin and beyond.”

Rebound, founded in Milwaukee by Luis Rivera, exemplifies the success of Ideadvance. Five years ago, it was a pilot program to rehabilitate injured first responders more quickly to improve both health and financial outcomes. In 2020, the workplace wellness company has grown to 42 employees with more than $2 million in revenue, serving clients in nine states. 

“Without Ideadvance, we would not be in business,” Rivera said. “I continue to apply many of the principles and strategies I learned. Now we are able to impact the lives of so many essential workers and their families.” 

The additional consulting and training programs include the Food Finance Institute’s FaBcap Accelerator, a nine-month program that helps food and beverage companies build capacity and capital, and the Entrepreneurial Training Program, an 8- to 10-week course offered by the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network to help startups craft their business plans.

Mark Lange, executive director for the Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship, said WEDC’s funding is critical to the Institute’s work with Wisconsin entrepreneurs across a wide variety of new and innovative companies. 

The strong WEDC-UW System partnership was especially evident in the rapid, wide-ranging efforts to provide relief to small businesses hurt in 2020 by the pandemic. 

Through Dec. 15, the Institute provided COVID-19-related training and informational webinars to 7,720 individuals and consulting assistance to 5,833 clients, leading to $33.7 million in capital investment; this work ultimately supports 13,500 jobs.

“The Entrepreneurship and Innovation team at WEDC provides superb guidance and smooth pathways for working together,” Lange said. “This was affirmed yet again in this year’s launch of the “Start In Wisconsin” searchable online directory, which will help our entrepreneurs reimagine and revitalize their businesses at a time our state needs it most.”

About the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network.

About UW System

The University of Wisconsin System serves approximately 165,000 students. Awarding nearly 37,000 degrees annually, the UW System is Wisconsin’s talent pipeline, putting graduates in position to increase their earning power, contribute to their communities, and make Wisconsin a better place to live. Nearly 90 percent of in-state UW System graduates stay in Wisconsin five years after earning a degree. The UW System provides a 23:1 return on state investment. UW System institutions also contribute to the richness of Wisconsin’s culture and economy with groundbreaking research, new companies and patents, and boundless creative intellectual energy.

About UW System Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship

The Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship helps entrepreneurs, businesses and economic development professionals across the state to achieve their goals. The Institute, part of the University of Wisconsin System, offers business consulting, education and data services through five distinct program units: Small Business Development Center Network, Center for Technology Commercialization, Food Finance Institute, Center for Business Intelligence and Business Dynamics Research Consortium. This critical business outreach enhances the value of Wisconsin one business at a time.

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