An increasing amount of investment in QNBV-certified startups shows “real strength for the ecosystem,” according to the WEDC’s Aaron Hagar.

Just ask Ashley Prange, founder of Au Naturale, a Green Bay-based producer of organic cosmetics products that has been QNBV certified this year and the last. This 5-year-old company closed its first round just last summer, and Prange says the certification has been helpful in conversations with VCs.

She said potential investors were especially interested in her company because the 25 percent tax credit made the option to invest more attractive and less risky.

“It allowed for more meaningful conversations with investors,” she said.

Based on WEDC’s annual report on QNBV companies, startups in the state’s Qualified New Business Venture program got 60 percent more total funding last year than in 2015.

This certification was established in 2005 by state Legislature, and is granted by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Investors in qualifying companies can get tax credits for up to 25 percent of the total investment.

In 2016, the 211 QNBV-certified startups saw over $281 million in funding — up from $177 million for 180 certified companies in 2015. Read the full story here.