Wisconsin Investment Fund provides important support for Wisconsin startups

By WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes

WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes

For many startup owners, access to capital is a lifeline that can determine the success or failure of their business.

While Wisconsin entrepreneurs have long had access to initial capital or “angel investments,” it is more difficult for firms to access larger investments needed to grow. In the last few months, rising interest rates and tightening credit have also made it more challenging for start-ups to secure the funding they need to grow.

That’s why the recent announcement from the U.S. Treasury Department provides a groundbreaking opportunity. Wisconsin is receiving $50 million in federal State Small Business Credit Initiative funds to establish the Wisconsin Investment Fund, a new venture capital fund under the direction of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

Using a fund of funds model, the aim of the Wisconsin Investment Fund is to provide later-stage investments to help Wisconsin startup businesses attract the capital they need to scale up. Sourcing these dollars in Wisconsin increases the odds they continue growing here.

The federal funding gives us the opportunity to build this fund and put the infrastructure in place to lean into local funds and private sector expertise.

Funding from local sources is critical because startup companies often locate near their biggest investors. This means that the more Wisconsin investors, including WEDC, can help lead later stage and larger funding rounds, the more likely our state will hold on to promising startups as they are ready to scale.

The Wisconsin Investment Fund, in partnering with other funds, will, at a minimum, double the amount of capital available here in Wisconsin, allowing those businesses to stay here, grow here, and keep that capital working here.

It’s time for our state to take that critical next step.

Missy Hughes is the Secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the state’s leading economic development organization.