Nov 7, 2018
50 people and companies heating up Wisconsin tech.
Wisconsin Inno's inaugural 50 on Fire list has arrived.
Wisconsin Inno's inaugural 50 on Fire list has arrived.
Today, we’re officially announcing the 50 people, companies and organizations that are heating up Wisconsin tech. Over the next few weeks, we’ll spotlight a few of these companies in stories and in our newsletter, The Beat.
So, what exactly makes a company or individual on fire? We’re looking at people and businesses that have had a banner year—whether that’s new funding, product launches, big hires or innovative approaches to solving problems. 50 on Fire is a snapshot at some of the biggest movers and shakers across the state's tech communities. Winners range from innovative upstarts to publicly traded tech giants to organizations looking to make Wisconsin's tech scene more diverse.
We invite you and your team, friends, family—and anyone that wants to network with the Wisconsin tech community—to join us December 5 at South Second in Milwaukee to celebrate this year’s winners as we honor the individuals and companies that are moving Wisconsin's tech scene forward. At the event, we’ll also recognize seven honorees from the list as Inno Blazer winners, as picked from a panel of esteemed judges. Get tickets here.
50 on Fire winners were sourced by nominations, selected by the Wisconsin Inno editorial team, and listed below in no particular order.
1. Brad Hollister, SwanLeap
Brad Hollister is the CEO of SwanLeap, a Madison logistics technology company that brings artificial intelligence to the supply chain. This year the company took the No. 1 spot on the 2018 Inc. 5000 list, an annual ranking of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.
2. Young Enterprising Society
Founded by brothers Khalif and Que El-Amin, Young Enterprising Society promotes people of color through STEM programing in schools. This year, with money from Northwestern Mutual, Milwaukee Institute and the City of Milwaukee, the group started The Blueprint, a bootcamp and accelerator for minority entrepreneurs in tech, advanced manufacturing and e-commerce.
3. Titletown Tech
TitletownTech is a joint venture by The Green Bay Packers and Microsoft that aims to increase tech activity in Northeastern Wisconsin. Led by Managing Director Craig Dickman, TitletownTech will feature a state-of-the-art facility, set to open in 2019, that will include an innovation lab, venture studio and venture fund.
4. Reza Shaker, Medical College of Wisconsin
Reza Shaker, MD, is the Joseph E. Geenen Professor in Gastroenterology, Chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Director of the Digestive Disease Center and Provost for Clinical and Translational Research at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and director of the Clinical Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin. Dr. Shaker’s patented invention, the Reflux Band, was brought to market in 2018 as an over-the-counter product by Wisconsin-based company Somna Therapeutics.
5. Discovery World
Discovery World, Milwaukee's non-profit science and technology center, continues to focus on the depth of its programs that it offers in order to impact the pipeline of the future workforce, especially in STEM-related fields. In 2017 Discovery World began a pilot program that brought 600 students from eight schools in the city of Milwaukee to the center for programming.
The startup, whose headquarters are in Milwaukee, makes floor sensor technology to track and collect data on human movement patterns. It has more than 100 clients, ranging from Microsoft to SAP, and its technology has collected over 188 million impressions, otherwise known as footsteps. Scanalytics has also raised $3.6 million in venture capital funding, and plans to hire more data engineers by the end of this year.
7. Ideas that Evoke
This year Ideas That Evoke—a social media, digital and PR agency located in Madison, was named to the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America. Evoke reported 550% growth from the previous year, making it the 11th fastest growing privately owned company in Wisconsin. Evoke was also identified as one of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” by Entrepreneur magazine’s 2018 Entrepreneur360™ List.
8. Milwaukee School of Engineering
In 2018, the Milwaukee School of Engineering broke ground on its new Dwight and Dian Diercks Computational Science Hall and launched a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. Diercks Hall aims to position MSOE at the educational forefront in artificial intelligence, deep learning, cyber security, robotics, cloud computing and other next-generation technologies.
9. Venture With Impact
Venture With Impact is a travel startup that specializes in organizing workspace, accommodations and volunteering opportunities for professionals who live and/or travel abroad for over 4 weeks or more. The startup is a graduate of gener8tor's gBeta program.
Montage creates interviewing software to help companies hire better. It works with 100 of the Fortune 500, and counts well-known brands like Johnson Controls, Rockwell Automation and Northwestern Mutual among its customers. The company has raised more than $27 million in funding to date.
Coinigy is a Milwaukee-based app that gives cryptocurrency traders the tools they need to buy, sell and manage their portfolios on the go. The app gives users access to real-time cryptocurrency pricing, charting, news and SMS price alerts. This year, the company hit 500,000 users.
Concurrency, a Brookfield-based tech consulting firm, provides technology expertise to help Wisconsin businesses stay competitive, both nationally and globally. Since its founding in 1989, Concurrency has worked with all of the Wisconsin-based S&P 500 companies.
13. Stephanie Findley, Midwest Construction
Stephanie Findley is the CEO of Midwest Construction, a Milwaukee-based commercial contractor. Findley mentors a number of up-and-coming female entrepreneurs in the industry, and she established the ConstructionASAP program to train individuals in the construction trades due to worker shortages in the industry.
14. Scott Resnick, StartingBlock Madison and Hardin Design & Development
Scott Resnick is the entrepreneur-in-residence at StartingBlock, a 50,000-square-foot entrepreneurial hub in Madison that opened this year. He was also the group's founder and first executive director. He also co-founded Hardin Design & Development, a startup focused on full-cycle software development and enterprise web creation.
SafetyNet is a Madison-based startup that focuses on providing financial wellness solutions. SafetyNet’s product is a first-of-its-kind insurance that provides workers a lump-sum payment after an unexpected layoff, illness or injury. This year it has grown from one market to nine additional states.
16. American Family Insurance
This year American Family Insurance opened Spark, an 8-story building that aims to be an innovation and entrepreneurial hub near downtown Madison, bringing together teams from American Family, StartingBlock Madison, and other local startups. American Family Insurance also launched its own startup, Moonrise, a "gig" platform that helps workers who are looking for additional shifts to make ends meet.
Ethoplex is a Wireless Internet Service Provider, delivering 5G fixed wireless Internet connections to businesses throughout the Metro Milwaukee area. It utilizes innovative wireless (over-the-air) technologies which are different from both satellite and fiber carriers.
18. Paul Hager, Information Technology Professionals
Paul Hager is the CEO of Information Technology Professionals, a provider of managed IT service and strategy for small to mid-sized businesses. This year it ranked on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies for a fourth consecutive year. Hager previously developed and sold a patent for a voice-to-text technology platform to Microsoft.
BizTank is non-profit organization and scholarship program for high school juniors and seniors. Its goal is to introduce young people in the community to various career options. BizTank awarded close to $40,000 in scholarships in 2018, and expects that number to double in 2019.
devCodeCamp is Wisconsin's only Immersive Software Development Bootcamp. Since its inception 3 years ago, it has produced over 180 Jr Software Developers earning a median income of $50,000. Its graduates are working at many prominent companies in Wisconsin, including Northwestern Mutual, Rockwell, Baird and more.
TechCanary is an insurance technology company that brings insurance solutions to the Salesforce platform. This year it made the Inc. 5000's list of fastest growing companies in the United States. It added 50% more employees and relocated to a larger headquarters in Milwaukee in the first quarter of 2018.
22. Ssali Media Group
Ssali Media Group is a brand strategy firm focused on government, healthcare and nonprofit branding.
23. Diamond Assets
Diamond Assets provides IT buy-back programs for organizations across the country. This year it was recognized as Inc. 5000's 7th fastest growing company in the United States, including 1st in the computer/technology category and 2nd in the state of Wisconsin.
24. Karl Gouverneur, Northwestern Mutual
Karl Gouverneur is the vice president of digital workplace, corporate solutions and head of digital innovation with Northwestern Mutual. He's a member of the Northwestern Mutual Future VenturesCorporate VC investment committee, the Diversity and Inclusion committee, and responsible for all of the company's digital collaboration and workplace products.
25. Matt Cordio, Startup Wisconsin Week, Skills Pipeline
Matt Cordio is the co-foudner of Startup Wisconsin Week and Skills Pipeline. Cordio is one of the most vocal supporters of Wisconsin's growth as a hub for technology, working to create meaningful connections between technologists, entrepreneurs and corporate innovators in Wisconsin
The Madison-based startup has launched several new initiatives in 2018. It revealed Project North, which aims to connect tech startups with major corporations in hopes of launching partnerships. It launched a new gBeta startup accelerator in Madison aimed at social impact companies and nonprofits. Additionally, it took its operations to the west coast when it launched gBETA Musictech in Los Angeles.
27. Propeller Health
The Madison startup has picked up the reputation as Wisconsin’s most valuable startup for how it’s growing. In May, the company raised $20 million to help expand its business, which helps patients better manage asthma.
The Madison-based company makes a software that allows family caregivers to keep their aging relatives at home longer, rather than be placed in a nursing home, by using algorithms that create individualized care plans. Founded in 2014, TCare has raised $5.5 million and participated in the MassChallenge accelerator in Boston this year.
Founded in Madison in 2014, Smart UQ makes a software that provides engineering analytics. It has raised $7.8 million, about $1 million of which was raised this year, according to Crunchbase.
30. MatchBack Systems
Based in Green Bay, Matchback provides a SaaS platform for logistics. It was founded in 2016 by Todd Ericksrud.
31. Torq Labs
Launched in 2016, Torq Labs is developing a smart legging that they say will help prevent and decrease knee and hip injuries among athletes. Their leggings have pockets for small, light-weight sensors that monitor movement and activity.
The Madison-based startup and genera8tor alum that’s changing the way agriculture companies do business raised $500,000 this year in seed funding from the Idea Fund of La Crosse. The financing is being used to hire more software developers and build out the company’s software, which combines satellite imagery, field data and machine learning algorithms to provide yield estimates for crops at the field level.
33. Avid Ratings
Madison-based Avid Ratings, which makes software for the real estate industry, raised $6 million in September to hire more than 100 people over the next two years. Originally founded in 1992, the tech company says it now has more than 2,000 clients.
Publicly traded Fiserv made waves in 2018 when it landed the naming rights on the Milwaukee Bucks arena. Fiserv, a Brookfield-based tech company that serves financial institutions, generated $5.7 billion in revenue in 2017 and employs about 900 people locally. This year it acquired Elan Financial Service for $690 million.
35. Hyper Innovation
Hyper Innovation is an "Innovation-as-a-Service" agency. The company has collaborated with UW-Madison, the Wisconsin AV Proving Grounds, and other companies to plan a full roll out of the first autonomous vehicles in Madison.
36. BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation
BrightStar is one of the most active early stage investment organization in the Milwaukee area. Some of its portfolio companies include Wantable, GenoPalate and Lumanu.
37. Aoy Tomita Mitchell, Medical College of Wisconsin, TAI Diagnostics
Aoy Tomita Mitchell, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin and chief scientific officer, co-founder and board director of TAI Diagnostics. TAI Diagnostics launched to commercialize a non-invasive technology to determine rejection of transplanted hearts via a simple blood test and closed a $10 million Series A round this year.
The Madison-based startup that develops software for cancer care raised $15 million in venture capital this year from Ascension Ventures, Venture Investors and 4490 Venture. HealthMyne’s data gives physicians more information about the tumors they’re treating, such as volume, density, mass and doubling-times.
39. Doyenne Group
The Doyenne Group is a Madison-based organization that supports women-led and women-owned startups. Its goal is to build entrepreneurial ecosystems that invest in the power and potential of women entrepreneurs through events, mentoring and other resources.
The Fitchburg, Wisc.-based startup makes a software platform to manage all aspects of environmental services. It was launched in 2012 and has raised more than $16 million, $8 million of which was raised this year, according to Crunchbase.
The Madison-based startup that’s created an online and mobile platform for anglers was acquired by Raymarine this year, one of the only Wisconsin startup acquisitions of the year. The startup, which launched in 2012, provides a map-based information feed for fishers to connect with each other. Users can follow waterways, like lakes, rivers and oceans, and see where other users have fished and what their experiences there were like, which gives anglers the best tips and information that allow them to have successful fishing trips.
The Milwaukee company that’s built a smart groundwater information system to measure water quantity in a private water well, received a $150,000 investment from the Clean Energy Trust, a Chicago-based non-profit seed investor. Since its commercial launch in 2015, Wellntel said it has worked with more than 600 customers in 30 states and collected almost 10 million well readings.
The Milwaukee startup raised $1.4 million in equity funding this year from Cream City Venture Capital and BrightStars Wisconsin Foundation. Founded in 2012, Wantable sends customers hand-picked beauty items and fashion accessories. Wantable has raised more than $6 million to date, according to Crunchbase.
44. Bright Cellars
Based in Milwaukee, the startup raised $2.8 million in funding from Cream City Venture Capital and Cleveland Avenue, a food-focused venture fund founded by former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson. Bright Cellars delivers wine to your door based on a machine-learning algorithm that picks brands you’re likely to enjoy.
Founded in 2011, the Madison-based startup makes a platform that uses EMR data to provide users with electronic health record applications. It has raised nearly $18 million in venture capital funding, about $6 million of which was raised this year, according to Crunchbase.
The Milwaukee startup, which provides an influencer marketing platform for brands, raised $1 million earlier this year from San Francisco’s 500 Startups, Northwestern Mutual’s venture fund Cream City Venture Capital, gener8tor, Rightside Capital, and Peter Sachse, the former chief revenue officer of Macy’s. Lumanu was founded in San Francisco in 2016 and participated in gener8tor’s accelerator program that same year.
47. Northwestern Mutual
In 2018, Northwestern Mutual has made several strides in its effort to advance Milwaukee as national hub for technology and innovation. Northwestern Mutual has made multiple investments in the region's tech ecosystem, include through funds like Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, Cream City Venture Capital and the Wisconn Valley Venture Fund. In October, Northwestern Mutual opened Cream City Labs, a 17,000 sq. ft. creative space designed to inspire people to solve challenges and search for new market opportunities.
EatStreet, a popular Madison-based food delivery startup, has become one of Wisconsin's most high-profile startups. Founded in 2010, EatStreet is active in more than 250 cities nationwide. The company raised more than $6 million in October out of an expected $12 million round, according to SEC filings.
49. Fetch Rewards
Madison-based Fetch Rewards aims to optimize the in-store shopping experience for customers. The Shop Fetch app offers a way for consumers to utilize its in-store scanning technology while they shop to receive coupons and savings along the way, ultimately leading to an easier, more convenient checkout experience. It counts Kraft Heinz among its customers.
Kinnektor is a Green Bay-based organization that provides events and other resources to help Wisconsin startups thrive. Part of its mission is to connect startups and big companies, with the goal of increasing business activity throughout the region and beyond.
Katherine Davis contributed to this report.