BrightStar Wisconsin Invests $550K in 3 Milwaukee Startups

BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation has invested a combined $550,000 in three Milwaukee-based startups, the nonprofit said Thursday in a news release.

The most recent additions to BrightStar’s portfolio, which now comprises 32 companies, are: Access HealthNet, which gives employees of business clients the ability to purchase and schedule common medical procedures from local providers; OnKöl, which sells a box-shaped device aimed at older adults that ties together myriad home and health monitoring devices; and Rent College Pads, which has developed technology to help students find off-campus housing.

“This round is exciting because BrightStar made investments in companies with unique technology products,” Adam Berger, a member of BrightStar’s board of directors and vice president of sales at Brookfield, WI-based Doering Fleet Management, said in a prepared statement. “We expect rapid growth from all three during the next 24 to 36 months.”

Milwaukee-based BrightStar uses an unconventional venture philanthropy approach that pumps charitable donations from wealthy individuals and foundations into early-stage businesses that are creating jobs in Wisconsin. Any returns BrightStar nets from its investments are plowed back into the organization’s fund.

“With the ongoing support of generous donors who share our goals, we will continue to actively invest in Wisconsin companies that will help the state’s economy continue to grow,” Michelle Picard, portfolio manager at Henderson Geneva Capital Management and a member of BrightStar’s investment committee, said in the news release.

In October, BrightStar invested $250,000 in Moxe Health, which develops digital tools to help facilitate the flow of data between healthcare providers, insurers, and software applications. Earlier that month, Moxe Health raised $5.5 million in a Series A financing round led by Radnor, PA-based Safeguard Scientifics (NYSE: SFE).

The other company that BrightStar added to its portfolio this year was Phoenix Nuclear Labs, which has developed particle accelerator technology with applications in areas such as medical imaging and weapons inspection.

Many of the companies in BrightStar’s portfolio are graduates of Gener8tor, a startup accelerator that has run programs in several Wisconsin cities and the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Among the Gener8tor alumni that have received investments from BrightStar are AkitaBox, AltusCampus, Beekeeper Data, Bright Cellars, GrocerKey, Project Foundry, and Quietyme.

According to BrightStar’s website, other Wisconsin-based companies that the nonprofit has invested in include Fetch Rewards, Forward Health Group, Shine Medical Technologies, Stemina Biomarker Discovery, and Swallow Solutions.

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

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