BluDiagnostics Wins Again As WI Pledges Cash For Women Entrepreneurs

[Updated 8/27/15 4:52 pm. See below.] BluDiagnostics, the Madison, WI, startup developing a saliva-based fertility test, continued its recent hot streak today when it took first place in the Doyenne Group’s 5x5x5 pitch competition that highlighted five local companies led by women.

BluDiagnostics co-founder Katie Brenner said the $5,000 prize money will go toward hiring a regulatory consultant, as the company attempts to bring its thermometer-like device to market by mid-2017. Brenner said the consultant will design clinical studies, a task that involves, among other things, determining how many people should participate and what measurements to take on them.

“We need to make sure the studies are compliant with the FDA and show what we’re doing is medically relevant,” said Brenner.

BluDiagnostics competed against HipCity, The RiverHouse Group, Square Harvest, and Freelance FindHER, a place for employers and female independent contractors to connect online. [This paragraph was added to the original version of the story to list the other companies that pitched at the event.]

Doyenne’s 5x5x5 was the second pitch contest won by BluDiagnostics this week. On Tuesday, the company beat out five other startups in the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s second annual “Pressure Chamber.” Both events took place during the city’s Forward Festival, an eight-day conference showcasing innovative startups and entrepreneurs in and around Wisconsin’s capital city.

BluDiagnostics also won the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest in June.

Another winner today was Doyenne, a nonprofit that seeks to support women in the local entrepreneurial community. Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch kicked off 5x5x5 by announcing the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) has awarded a $200,000 grant to Doyenne as part of WEDC’s Capital Catalyst program.

According to a WEDC press release, the grant will be combined with $200,000 Doyenne is in the process of raising to create the Doyenne Evergreen Fund, which WEDC CEO Reed Hall said “will provide critical support for women entrepreneurs in seeding and growing their companies.” Half of the proposed $400,000 fund would be used to award $5,000 grants to women-led companies, and the other half would be distributed through equity investments, WEDC said.

Doyenne co-founder Heather Wentler said the group has raised about $50,000 to date.

She said Doyenne plans to move into StartingBlock Madison, an entrepreneurial center that would be located within a proposed $69 million building project east of downtown. Doyenne is currently housed within the Sector67 maker space. If fundraising goes as planned, StartingBlock organizers intend to open the space by the end of 2016.

After BluDiagnostics was announced as the winner, Brenner briefly addressed the mostly female audience.

“This is amazing,” she said. “I’m always in front of men. People in this room actually understand how meaningful this is.”

Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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