Editorial Credit: Joseph Sohm, Shutterstock
Wisconsin has long been known as “America’s Dairyland” and is well-known for its thriving beer scene. But the state is home to much more and could soon be better known as a hotspot for startups.
Wisconsin has a lot going for it, making it a top-tier location for startups to pop-up due to its proximity to top-tier universities, low cost of living, and central location between the east and west coasts.
For those not well versed in Wisconsin’s geography, the state’s two largest cities (and startup hubs) are Milwaukee, the state’s largest city, and Madison, the state capital. Milwaukee is almost synonymous with brewing, serving as the home of storied beer brands like Miller, Schlitz, Pabst, and Blatz. But the city is reinventing itself and emerging as a haven for young workers and companies.
Madison, Wisconsin is home to the University of Wisconsin - Madison, which is one of the top public universities in the US and regarded as one nation’s best research institutions. This proximity to top-tier engineering, business, and creative talent has made the city a nest for a host of young startups.
Keep on reading to see our list of innovative and interesting startups coming out of the state of Wisconsin.
EatStreet burst onto the scene in 2010 as an online food ordering service allowing diners to order delivery and takeout from restaurants in their area. The Madison-based company also offers restaurants custom websites, mobile apps, Facebook ordering, and digital marketing services.
EatStreet has grown quickly since its launch and has raised over $38.5 million in venture capital. The startup’s services can now be found in over 250 markets across the U.S. at over 15,000 restaurants.
Bright Cellars is a data-driven monthly subscription wine club based in Milwaukee that has been providing its customers with personalized wine since it was founded in 2014. Customers take a quiz when signing up to create their unique taste profile that Bright Cellars then uses to recommend wine by comparing 18 attributes to your preferences. The company’s algorithm continues to learn users’ taste preferences and refine its selections with every wine they rate. To fuel its data-driven wine service, Bright Cellars has raised at least $13.5 million in funding.
Carepool is addressing a niche but important market by providing on-demand transportation to some of the state’s most vulnerable populations. The company’s software platform connects riders with disabilities and older adults to specialized transportation services. The startup began in Madison but has found that its services are in need almost everywhere, spurring it to expand to several Wisconsin counties and expanding into rural areas in Tennessee, Minnesota, and Colorado. To support its efforts the company raised $150,000 in a seed round in June 2019.
Remote learning is the new normal, but it has been on the mind of Fiveable since its founding in 2018. The startup seeks to address a massive opportunity gap in education stemming from inequality in education systems by opening access to AP exams to all students, not just those at a school lucky enough to offer AP classes. To do so the company has built a robust online course with office hours led by student TAs, feedback from real exam readers, and weekly hour-long lectures. In just over two years, Fiveable’s mission to democratize learning has paid off and the startup has helped well over 1.5 million students prepare for AP exams, of which 92% of Fiveable students passed, which translates into thousands of dollars in saved college credits.
Rent College Pads
Finding a safe, clean, affordable, and well-situated rental can be difficult for college students, many of whom are out of the house for the first time. This is an issue that Rent College Pads sought to tackle with gusto. The Milwaukee-based platform allows both students and landlords to find the right match, but what sets Rent College Pads apart is its connection with the universities. The company has partnered with university officials in Student Affairs, Student Life, and Residence Life across the country to enhance knowledge among the student-landlord off-campus housing community.
AmebaGone, headquartered in Madison, is attempting to solve a monstrous problem, a growing antibiotic resistance, and a dwindling supply of effective antimicrobial products. To solve an issue that the startup asserts is largely ignored by large pharmaceutical companies, AmebaGone is exploring new antimicrobial strategies, integrating its proprietary technology reliant on the use of benign, free-living phagocytes to combat bacterial pathogens in crops, animals, and humans. The company has founding funding support for its endeavor from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and the Madison Development Corp.
Fetch Rewards is another promising Madison-based startup. The company was founded in 2012 and allows shoppers to earn free rewards just by scanning their grocery receipts. Users earn points for each receipt scanned, which can add up, as reward points can be redeemed for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Sephora, Old Navy, and AMC Theaters. As of 2019, the company has raised around $50 million, which it said it would use to double its staff by the end of 2020 to help handle growing demand - in 2019 the company added more than 100 brands to its rewards program and over 2 million new users.
Campsite is tackling a problem common in social media, links. The Milwaukee startup aims to help bands, influencers, and everyday people circumvent the one link per bio limit on platforms like Instagram. By creating a Campsite page, users can host a collection of links with images, which enables brands to get potential customers where they need to go quickly. The linking tools customization is its biggest draw, enabling users to change up the design easily and even allowing them to remove the Campsite branding. The company passed 25,000 users in mid-2019 and shows no sign of slowing down.
Founded in Milwaukee, Okanjo is working to improve the affiliate marketing ecosystem and change the way publishers and influencers monetize their content. Affiliate marketing is one of the fastest-growing segments in digital advertising and Okanjo’s platform allows publishers to cross-compare affiliate networks in one place, which helps save both time and money, as Okanjo doesn’t take a cut of users’ commissions.
This Milwaukee-headquartered startup is on a mission to level the playing field and bring drug prices under control. Remedy Analytics, which was founded in 2012, uses real-time data analytics to help organizations lower their pharmaceutical spending. To do so, Remedy’s proprietary tech collects and analyzes data from up to 600 data fields including a patient’s name, their diagnosis, prescribing doctor, the prescription’s average wholesale price when it was filled, the employer, information about the health plan, and many other details.
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