Phenomenelle Angels Fund I LP has invested $250,000 into TrafficCast International, a Madison company with patented, Web-based software that provides route-specific travel time forecasts in the United States and China.
The fund, based in Madison, also put another $250,000 in Information Development Consultants, or IDC, a Chicago company that offers Web-based accounting software for government and not-for-profit customers.
The investments represent a fast start for Phenomenelle, which in May announced $2.3 million of capital commitments. The fund now has raised $2.8 million, said Joe Hildebrandt, a Foley & Lardner lawyer who is a general partner in the fund through a group he formed with his two daughters.
Phenomenelle stopped fund- raising while it worked on the two deals, Hildebrandt said.
Organizers have said they hope to raise $10 million to invest in young women- and minority-run businesses in the Midwest that operate in the information technology, life sciences, and consumer goods and services industries.
Organizers say part of the fund’s purpose, along with making money for its investors, is to help owners of such businesses get the kind of initial funding that helps them raise more money.
“Even when people like your deal, they want to know who’s in it,” said Lauren Flanagan, who is a general partner in Phenomenelle through her company, SCIO Corp., a Douglas, Mich., consulting firm that helps young companies with strategy and finding financing.
“Part of the role Phenomenelle can play is to be the first domino that can mobilize other interested parties to get serious.”
TrafficCast uses a wide range of inputs to develop traffic flow models, including information from transportation departments, live accident reports, historical weather patterns and its own mathematical formulas that calculate how cell phone signals bounce from tower to tower along major highways. The company is the exclusive traffic information provider to Yahoo, a major provider to Google, and has a strategic partnership with Westwood One, a CBS subsidiary, Hildebrandt said.
IDC has more than 50 customers, including the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Hawaii judiciary. The company offers an option that allows customers to either buy a software license or pay a monthly fee to “time-share” when they need to use IDC’s software, said Flanagan, who started four software companies in California before moving to the Midwest.
Flanagan’s firm, SCIO, worked with both TrafficCast and IDC to help them prepare to seek financing before Phenomenelle made the investments, Flanagan said.
Phenomenelle is in the “right place, at the right time with the right mission,” as women- and minority-owned businesses continue to grow faster than other segments in the U.S., said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council.
The number of Asian businesses, for example, grew 24% between 1997 and 2002, about twice as much as the national average, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Black-owned businesses increased by 45% during the same period.
“We know there’s good deal flow there. Three out of four new businesses are being formed by women,” Flanagan said.
“Our job is to try to uncover and source the gems.”