Stealthy Device Startup Invisible Connect Gets $2.5M From WI Investor

8/7/14Follow @XconomyWI

Invisible Connect, a stealthy hardware startup based in Eau Claire, WI, has raised $2.5 million in seed money from an unnamed Wisconsin investor, according to the founder and an SEC document.

Founder and president Scott Strangstalien is mum on details about what Invisible Connect is working on, but he says it’s developing a dozen devices that will run on proprietary software. He declined to specify the target industry.

Invisible Connect is seven weeks into an estimated 15-month timeline for completing product development, Strangstalien says. The company has hired 13 people since June 1, and now has 15 staff members. They include software, electrical, and mechanical engineers with experience across education, automotive, medical technology, enterprise software, smart devices, and other industries, according to Invisible Connect’s website.

The size of the deal, which is a mixture of equity and debt, is impressive for a Wisconsin startup’s first funding round. It’s also notable given that Invisible Connect is based in a small college town of about 67,000 people located about 90 miles east of Minneapolis.

“It shows that there’s innovation all across Wisconsin,” says Dan Blake, Wisconsin Angel Network director. Although it might fly under the radar, Blake pointed out that the Chippewa Valley region, which includes Eau Claire, has an established track record in tech, from Cray’s supercomputers to JAMF Software.

Blake, who says he has no direct knowledge of the Invisible Connect deal, says this type of investment is a rarity in Wisconsin.

“I don’t see a lot of deals where one individual investor makes this size of investment,” Blake says. “Typically those are types of deals that are syndicated among angel groups and individuals and funds working together to get a round done.”

Strangstalien wants to ramp up fast. He says he intends to hire another 50 people over the next nine months so the company hits the ground running when it launches its products commercially. He says he wants to grow to about 200 employees in three years, although that will obviously depend on the success of the company’s products in the marketplace.

“We’re really trying to do something really cool in Wisconsin,” Strangstalien says.

Strangstalien, who grew up in nearby Whitehall, says he wanted to form the company in Eau Claire because of the potential synergies with JAMF and other local tech companies, and the area’s quality of life. He also thinks Invisible Connect has a shot at standing out and making a bigger impact on the surrounding community by locating itself in Eau Claire, as opposed to a major tech hub.

“I didn’t think we would make a difference in Silicon Valley,” Strangstalien says, where his tech company would be “just one of many.”

Jeff Engel is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @XconomyWI

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