Investors have committed more than $3.5 million to a new Wisconsin venture capital fund that is led by a woman manager, according to a recent federal Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
The Winnow Fund will invest in pre-revenue startups and will create new companies around innovative products generated by some of Wisconsin’s best and brightest college students. The fund is managed by Richelle Martin, Managing Director.
The Winnow Fund is designed to ultimately put $8 million into creating and investing in new Wisconsin-based startups. It will take advantage of the growth in student interest in entrepreneurship that is supported by more entrepreneur clubs and startup programs on campuses across the state.
The Winnow Fund’s unique focus is to create companies around student innovative product ideas rather than around technologies obtained through the patenting and licensing offices, in addition to investing in pre revenue existing startups.
The fund will visit Wisconsin campuses both to access ideas and provide students access to a professionally managed Wisconsin-based venture capital fund – a concept Martin calls the “Venture Capitalist in Residence” program.
Martin’s fund will be the only Wisconsin-based, woman-led venture fund that is actively investing in Wisconsin.
“In a state where there is a lot of corporate brand building and talk around diversity, there has been a surprising lack of commitment to diversifying our venture capital ecosystem,” said Ken Johnson the Wisconsin-based partner of Sun Mountain Kegonsa, which manages the Badger Fund. “From a national perspective, the number of female venture partners dropped to 6% in 2014, from 14% in 1999; the Winnow Fund provides Wisconsin with an opportunity to be a national VC ecosystem leader.”
“After performing extensive due diligence on the Winnow Fund’s unique concept of a having a Venture Capitalist in Residence, the Badger Fund decided to be the lead investor” said Brian Birk, managing partner of Sun Mountain Capital. “Richelle’s experience working in the UW-Madison bureaucracy and her legal work with the Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic on the Madison campus uniquely positions her to implement this novel concept.” Read the full story here.