WI Fund Urged to Think Wisconsin in Start-Up Support

August 11, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Wisconsin Investment Board has agreed to up its investment in start-up companies located in the Badger State.

Board members agreed at a meeting this week to consider increasing the percentage of the state’s $70 billion portfolio invested in Wisconsin-based investment opportunities to give emerging companies the financial backing they need to grow and produce new jobs, according to a WisBusiness.com news report.

Trustee James Senty said the board hopes to invest more in emerging technology companies, but must weigh that against earning the highest possible return for its investors.

Starting five years ago, he said the board began putting money in four venture capital firms. To date, $135 million has been invested, though only $70 million has been used, according to the news report.

Tim Keane, head of the Marquette University Golden Angels Network investment group, told the investment board trustees that Wisconsin produces more than its share of ideas.

“Ideas are not the problem, though,” he said. “It’s how to find venture capital for companies worthy of investment. And there are many more of them than we’ve seen in a long time.” Last week, his group put $535,000 in eMetagen, a drug-development firm in Madison.

In addition to universities creating spinoffs, he said businesses like GE Healthcare can spawn new firms when scientists strike off on their own.  He also said deal flow is improving in the state.

“We are seeing ideas before they go elsewhere,” he said, lauding the efforts of the newly created Wisconsin Angel Network. “The environment is improving for venture capital deals,” he said. “And more entrepreneurs will come forward as the economy improves.”