Water Startups, Hyde, Lucigen, & More: This Week’s WI Watchlist

Just in time for the unofficial start of summer, we’re looking at news on startups in Wisconsin developing new water technologies, as well as one that has created a product for water sports enthusiasts. Plus, an award for growth in exports, an upcoming pitch event, commercial licensing agreements, and more happenings in the state’s innovation community.

—The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article that takes stock of efforts to create a strong water technology sector in the city. The newspaper’s assessment is somewhat critical; after explaining how groups in the Milwaukee area have in the past several years sought to market the region “as a global hub of water tech,” reporter John Schmid writes that there has been a dearth of “innovators and entrepreneurs who can generate new investment and growth in the water-driven economy.”

—One of the organizations in metro Milwaukee that works to help improve and grow the area’s water tech industry is The Water Council. Last week, the council announced that Milwaukee-based water heater maker A.O. Smith (NYSE: AOS) had signed on to help support the council’s water tech accelerator. The program—called “Business. Research. Entrepreneurship. In Wisconsin.,” or the BREW—will begin in September, according to a press release.

—In other accelerator-related news, leaders at Wisconsin-based Gener8tor said it is considering holding some of its entrepreneurial training programs in Indiana as soon as late 2017 or early 2018. Gener8tor, which launched in 2012, has held programs in various regions of Wisconsin, as well as in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. If it elects to expand into Indiana, Gener8tor would likely start by holding one of its equity-free accelerator programs there, said Maggie Brickerman, one of the organization’s managing directors.

—Middleton-based Lucigen, which makes tools for life sciences researchers, received a national award recognizing American organizations that make significant contributions to the expansion of exports from the U.S. According to a press release, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said that Lucigen’s “flexible international sales model tailored to individual markets” was one factor that helped the company capture the 2017 President’s “E” award, part of a series of awards that have been presented since 1961. Last month, Lucigen announced that it had received the exclusive distribution rights for genomic kits, enzymes, and ancillary agents developed by Madison-based Epicentre.

—The Journal Sentinel also profiled Hyde Sportswear, a company based in the city that sells an ultra-thin life vest designed to be worn by fishermen, paddlers, and others who spend time on the water. The vest, which is known as Wingman and retails for $249, is now sold in water sports shops in Iowa and Florida, according to the report. Previously, Hyde beat out dozens of startups to win last year’s Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

—Speaking of which, this year’s Governor’s Business Plan Contest was recently narrowed down to 13 finalists. Each of the startups will give a seven-minute pitch to a panel of judges next week, and a winner will be announced on June 7 as part of the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference. One of the finalists is Sheboygan-based VibeTech, which is developing a leg press machine that exercises a user’s leg muscles by delivering vibrations to the skin.

—Another future event that may be of interest to members of the Badger State’s tech ecosystem is the inaugural Midwest Games Development Conference, which will be held in Madison on Oct. 27. The conference is likely to attract hundreds of professionals … Next Page »

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

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