Milwaukee Biz Blog: 25 Milwaukee startups to watch in 2019

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This is Startup Milwaukee’s exclusive list of 25 promising young startups to watch in 2019. The list features a diverse group of companies that are building brands and breaking industry barriers right here in southeastern Wisconsin. Take a look…

TechCanary, developer of insurance industry software on the Salesforce platform. The company appeared on the Inc. 500 list for the first time this year at No. 393.

TAI Diagnostics a biotech startup developing non-invasive diagnostic tests to monitor the health of transplanted organs closed a $12.8 million Series A round this summer, with plans to leverage the investment for clinical tests of its technology.

Penrod had another solid year. The bootstrapped provider of Salesforce development services for life sciences companies once again made Inc. Magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in America by revenue.

Bright Cellars the wine subscription company for millennials, continued to raise money to finance its growth. The company, which reports having over 22,000 members, closed a $2.8 million round led by Chicago’s Cleveland Avenue and Milwaukee’s Cream City Venture Capital in 2018.

Sift Healthcare a HealthTech company developing a software platform leveraging machine learning and AI to help providers manage their revenue cycles closed a $1 million seed round in November, with Winnebago Seed Fund and Madison-based payment processor Wind River Financial leading the round. Sift also announced a strategic partnership with Wind River Financial and that the company was accepted into Startup Health’s Academy, a national accelerator program.

Dream City Music a platform for booking live music for events such as weddings, raised a $100,000 seed round from local angel investor Jim Mueller, who is one of the founders of Zywave.

SteamChain recently closed a $2.7 million seed round from backers such as Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Venture Capital. The company seeks to bring the “Machine as a Service” business model to the advanced manufacturing industry, leveraging blockchain.

Rent College Pads a real estate tech startup that connects millions of college students to off-campus housing, made its first appearance on Inc. Magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in 2018, coming in at No. 514. Rent College Pads was the third-fastest-growing company in the Milwaukee area.

Coinigy a fast-growing Milwaukee startup in the cryptocurrency trading space, launched a subscription platform for cryptocurrency traders earlier this year and continues to grow.

Frontdesk which provides corporate housing solutions, had a year of growth which included raising a $1 million+ seed round which included investors such as Milwaukee Bucks owner Mark Lasry and Madison-based family office Lancaster Investments.

PlasmaE a water tech company, partnered with Chryspac to produce its next-generation aerators in Milwaukee. The company plans to raise more funding and hire up to 50 people here in Milwaukee.

IdeaWake, developer of idea management software and innovation tools for large enterprises, was the first recipient of investment from Advocate Aurora’s InvestMKE fund, which is focused on spurring more entrepreneurial activity in southeastern Wisconsin. IdeaWake continued to add big blue chip brands around the world as users of the platform.

Socialeads a company being co-developed by Northwestern Mutual that applies AI to social media data to help financial reps acquire customers raised a $750,000 seed round led by Winnebago Seed Fund less than eight months after winning Northwestern Mutual’s Reverse Pitch Milwaukee competition.

Scanalytics, maker of IoT floormats, announced earlier this year it is raising $1 million round and then intends to raise a Series A.

Wantable, a subscription e-commerce fashion startup, continued to grow in 2018, moving to a larger warehouse space and closing a $1.4 million funding round which included an investment from Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Venture Capital.

Lumanu, a startup that helps brands connect with social media influencers, raised a $1 million seed round earlier this year.

Spaulding Medical, developer of a portable ECG, officially spun out of parent company Spaulding Clinical earlier this year. The new company has 14 employees based in West Bend. Spaulding Medical CEO Amanda Baltz expects the company to grow 4x and employ over 50 by 2023.

Margle Media produces social video marketing campaigns for big brands such as Petco. Earlier this year, it received an investment from South Dakota Private Equity firm Anza.

GenoPalate, a company that helps you optimize your diet based on your genetics, has developed two new product offerings to drive recurring revenue and recently closed a $1.35 million seed round from local investors to help scale.

PAXAFE is a Minnesota company that is developing smart packaging solutions for high-value products such as jewelry that decided to move to Milwaukee after participating in gener8tor over the summer. It will be great to see them grow a team here in 2019. They expect to have $85,000 in monthly recurring revenue by the end of 2019.

DocLaunch is a startup that helps enterprises securely manage document workflows using blockchain technology. The company was founded by Michael Adam, who also runs fintech company BankMyBiz. Earlier this year, the company brought on a former Zywave executive to help grow the business.

Custom Reality Services is a startup developing virtual reality content for alternative therapies and empathy training. Earlier this year, one of its films was screened at the U.S. Open.

Healthio, a Brookfield-based startup that is developing an app to help patients track their health, inked a unique partnership with GE Healthcare and aims to raise $6 million.

Who is backing the startups to watch?

  • The most active seed accelerator in Milwaukee was gener8tor, having backed 28 percent of the companies on the watch list. The Water Council’s BREW accelerator backed a couple, too.
  • Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Venture Capital was quite active, participating in Bright Cellars, Lumanu, Socialeads, SteamChain and Wantable’s rounds this year.
  • Winnebago Seed Fund, based in Appleton, led two seed rounds: Sift Healthcare and Socialeads, both B2B software plays.
  • Other funds active in the MKE ecosystem in 2018: Capital Midwest (SteamChain), Invest MKE (IdeaWake), Venture Investors (TAI), Lancaster Investments (Frontdesk), Wind River Financial (Sift) and Cleveland Avenue (Bright Cellars).

Now that you have reviewed the list of startups we’re watching in 2018, we want to hear about what local startups you’re watching. Drop me a note.

Matt Cordio is the founder and president of Skills Pipeline and Startup Milwaukee. Cordio is passionate about advancing the region’s economy through tech and startup ecosystem building. Cordio also serves on the board of Blue & Gold Ventures Inc.

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