Student Stories

The BPC class of 2020: Finalist profiles

 

The Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest began in late January and will culminate June 4 during the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference. Some contest finalists were profiled by senior and graduate students in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication. Here is today’s profile. Visit our websites to see more stories about these young companies.

Partita, which 3D-prints violins, shifts focus to face shields during pandemic

By Jessica Knackert

 

The wooden, handmade design of a violin is easily recognizable with around 180,000 violins sold each year in the United States alone. One local company has aimed to redefine this traditional look by changing how the instrument is produced. Partita LLC instead creates violins by using a 3D printer.

 

Partita was founded in 2019 by husband and wife duo, April Weir-Hauptman and David Hauptman. Weir brings her business expertise to the table. She not only earned her master’s in business administration from UW-Madison, but also has extensive experience in company development and growth. Hauptman provides expertise in 3D printing and illustration, ultimately creating the design for the company’s novel violin.

 

The violins produced by Partita are much cheaper than their counterparts. Traditional violins used by students or ensemble performers can range from $500 to $1,500 or more. Partita sells the company’s violins for $369 each. The parts are also cheaper to produce and replace if damaged.

 

The lower price of the 3D-printed violins plays a large role in Partita’s aim to make the instrument more affordable and accessible. With this goal in mind, the company has focused on partnering with local schools. The cheap cost of the 3D-printed violins makes them an inexpensive option for children whose parents can’t afford the high cost or rental prices of traditional violins.

 

“There have been many studies that show learning a new instrument provides many benefits to the learner, such as increased coordination, better memory, and (offers) a way that one can feel worth,” Weir explained. “We believe that price should not be a roadblock to all kids having at least the opportunity to learn about music and try to play an instrument.”

 

Partita also gives customers more bang for their buck. Around 16 violins of all sizes are made each week from a plastic polymer that comes in a variety of colors. This not only makes them more durable and weather-resistant than traditional wood violins, but also provides an equal, if not better, sound profile as a violin that costs four times as much.

 

Due to the pandemic, Partita has temporarily shifted its business focus. The company is now using its 3D printer to create face shields for local healthcare workers.

 

“I recruited a team of over 40 printer volunteers and together we created over 2,000 shields in just three weeks,” Weir stated. “We know this is a part-time diversion to create these (personal protective equipment), but it was easy for us to do and we wanted to do our part to help out during this time.”

 

As Partita continues to grow, the company plans to focus more on marketing its product as well as building relationships with retailers and music programs. As emphasized by Weir, “Our hope is that we can get more violins into the hands of more kids, and that in doing so, they will find a new hobby, gain confidence, and overall feel good about themselves.”

 

The future of Partita appears to be as bright as their iridescent violins. At a time when most of us are stuck in our homes, music could bring an extra sense of comfort, especially when we have the option to make the tunes ourselves.

 

Partita is one of 28 finalists in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which culminates June 4 at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference.

 

Knackert is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.

“Steady Shot’ aims to make injections more precise for diabetics

By Hailey Jauquet

 

In the 2020 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, a UW-Madison graduate finds himself a finalist as he strives to provide a low-tech syringe adapter to assist insulin users in the United States and beyond.

 

Shawn Michels, himself a diabetic who knows the tedious day-to-day annoyances of poking oneself multiple times throughout the day, is hoping to make that regimen better for others through Steady Shot.

 

Michels came up with the idea when he started noticing his own consistent bruising and lipohypertrophy, or lumps under the skin caused by accumulation of extra fat at the site of many subcutaneous injections of insulin. It was particularly so in common injection sights, such as easy-to-reach places like the abdomen and thighs.

 

Feeling unhappy with this, Michels decided to 3D-print a cap to go on his needle, thus stabilizing the needle and allowing for easier injection in a range of places. A few prototypes later and Steady Shot was born.

 

Feeling that such a simple devise had dramatically improved his own life, Michels wanted to share this idea with the other 7.3 million Americans who use insulin. Shawn worked through a startup accelerator at the UW-Madison, called Discovery to Product, that funded the initial commercialization of Steady Shot.

 

Stead Shot is a $30 plastic syringe guard that lasts six-plus months and simply connects to the pen needle to keep it steady during injections. The product typically allows for a reduced injection sensation but also is extremely helpful in facilitating one handed injection, something that diabetics know is crucial when poking themselves multiple times a day with both their dominant and non-dominant hands.

 

Michels has been persistent in getting Steady Shot noticed and off the ground. The idea has received just over $47,000 in grant funding from a variety of different business plan contests. Following that, Steady Shot participated in Gener8tor’s gBETA’s Milwaukee spring 2019 cohort to refine the business model, meet mentors, strategize growth, gain customer traction and pitch to investors. As of the Feb. 1, Steady Shot is on the market and is being sold direct to consumer the website, mysteadyshot.com, or business-to-business in three Milwaukee-area retail pharmacies.

 

In terms of competition, Michels believes he has found a niche market. The only similar product on the market is TickleFLEX, and injection aid that attaches to needles, which is based in the United Kingdom and not FDA-approved for sale in the United States. Being the only product of its type for the huge diabetic and insulin industry, TickleFLEX realized $4 million in revenue during the 2019 fiscal year and is untouched by any competitors in the United Kingdom.

 

While the idea and physical mechanics of Steady Shot are simple – nothing more than a piece of plastic – the benefits that diabetics in the United States will experience due to this hitting the market may be huge. Of the 7.3 million insulin injectors in America, 38% — or roughly 2.8 million people – need to rotate injection sites more consistently. The burden associated with the need for extra insulin is estimated at about $200 to $400 per year for each injector with lipohypertrophy, which represents a burden of $650 million to $1.1 billion in the United States alone that could be saved with the purchase of Steady Shot. If all the 7.3 million insulin injectors in the United States purchased Steady Shot two times a year for roughly $30 per applicator, it could exceed to a roughly $440 million annual market.

 

Michels hopes to see Steady Shot grow not only financially but he hopes to see drastic improvements in the lives of insulin injectors as he feels this product has provided for himself.

 

Jacquet is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.

GoDx uses point-of-care test to quickly diagnose gut, COVID-19 pathogens

By Katy Bergeron

 

GoDiagnostics, or GoDx, was formed with the vision to “democratize diagnostics” so that all people can learn more quickly and at the point-of-care about infections that make them sick.

 

The founder and chief executive officer of GoDx, Chang Hee Kim, and his team are in the process of gaining approval of their two diagnostics tests – GutChecker and CoronaChecker.

 

Kim founded the company to combat deaths related to diarrhea inducing gut pathogens. With 4 million to 6 million annual deaths, diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children under age 5 worldwide. Furthermore, there is an unmet need for quick, inexpensive and effective diagnostics tests in our healthcare system. GoDx is tackling this unmet need head on.

 

Traditionally, such pathogen diagnostic tests may take several days to yield a result because samples had to be sent to a lab, which in many cases isn’t enough time to effectively treat a potentially life-threatening pathogen. Most pathogen detection tests are also expensive and require instruments, expensive machinery and plenty of time in order to yield accurate results – resources not readily available to some clinics nationally and globally.

 

The GoDx tests under review is a rapid diagnostic free from machines, instruments or even a laboratory, and can yield results in roughly 30 minutes.

 

This non-invasive diagnostic method works by amplifying pathogen DNA and RNA through a process called isothermal nucleic acid amplification. This process uses enzymes to amplify pathogen DNA and RNA, which replaces the need for heat and time required by most traditional diagnostic tests.

 

After 20 to 30 minutes, a practitioner will test for gastrointestinal pathogens by transferring the amplified DNA or RNA to a paper strip which will identify a positive or negative result for a specific pathogen. “Think of it like a pregnancy test,” Kim said.

 

GoDx plans to bring GutChecker to developing countries most affected by diarrheal pathogens.

 

GoDx initially used this point of care technology for the GutChecker test for GI pathogens which uses stool samples with a $3 million Small Business Innovation Research SBIR grant funding from National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.

 

With the rise of the coronavirus pandemic, GoDx is also aiding the current state of emergency by developing a fast-tracked FDA Emergency Use Authorization test called CoronaChecker to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes the COVID-19 pandemic. For this test, saliva or nasopharyngeal samples will be used.

 

“There is an urgent need for coronavirus testing at (volumes that are) currently unmet,” Kim said.  “We were already working on the technology to find G.I pathogens… we already had our base platform.”

 

GoDx’s instrument-free tests make rapid diagnostics available to hospitals and labs that do not already have the specific and expensive instruments required for the current FDA EUA approved tests.

 

GoDx also hopes to develop an at-home CoronaChecker test by the end of the year. With the current public state of emergency, GoDx is prioritizing the rapid development of CoronaCheck over GutChecker. Kim projects the company must still deal with roughly a year and a half’s worth of development procedures regarding the GutChecker rapid diagnostic test.

 

Kim obtained his Ph.D. from CALTECH in biochemistry, HHMI post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard with Nobel Laureate Dr. Jack Szostak and has a background in diagnostics and genomics.

 

While GoDx originated in California in 2017, the company made the move to Madison, Wis. “We love the supportive startup environment here,” Kim noted.

 

The company also received funding from WEDC through the Center for Technology Commercialization to accelerate commercialization.

 

“We would also like to thank Merlin Mentors for their mentoring in business,” Kim added.

 

GoDx is among the finalists for 2020 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will culminate at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in June.

 

Bergeron is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication

AGent Plus Solutions LLC is a finalist in the Governor’s Business Plan Contest

By Allie Breunig

 

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that germs can thrive almost anywhere and spread in the blink of an eye. Today, most people are wiping down the same countertop with a disinfectant that kills the germs currently on the surface but leaving behind a breeding ground for new germs.

 

In 2011, a Wisconsin couple was looking for a cleaning product that could protect their home from germs, even after the cleaning supplies were returned to their cupboards. After scouring the soap and cleaning compound industry, they decided to create their own.

 

Enter AGent+ Cleaner & Protectants from AGent Plus Solutions LLC. These naturally derived cleaning products, with multi-purpose and hard surface solution, have a water-based formulation that cleans with citrus oils and isopropyl alcohol like typical cleaning products.

 

The AGent+ difference comes from adding a bonding agent along with nano-scale copper and silver to protect the cleaned surfaces for up to three days. The small particles provide a high surface-to-volume ratio, allowing consumers to use less product and have a smaller environmental impact. This unique use of nanotechnology was awarded patents in the United States and Canada, giving APS exclusive intellectual property rights to the technology.

 

Five of six disinfectant product categories do not include a product with residual protection, and the sixth has a brief residual property. Two of APS’ competitors, SC Johnson and The Clorox Company, do not offer products with the same ability to protect surfaces for up to three days, based on results from numerous independent studies.

 

Controlling the growth of microbials is always important but has become top-of-mind for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic. With consumers looking for products that will keep their families safe when they’re needing products that will clean their surfaces, and keep them protected for up to three days, there is a huge opportunity for APS in the marketplace.

 

The soap and cleaning compound industry generated over $60 billion in 2016, with 57% and 43% representing the household and commercial segments, respectively. AGent+ is competitively priced for households in a 32-ounce spray bottle at $12.49 for the Hard Surface Cleaner and $13.95 for the Multi-Purpose option, with bulk sizes available for use in commercial settings.

 

Because of AGent+’s ability to diminish the cross-contamination and microbial growth risks in high-traffic places with many people, they have focused on entertainment venues to enter the market and gain awareness. Customers included the Wisconsin State Fair and seven Major League Baseball teams, including the Milwaukee Brewers.

 

The current business model of APS is business-to-business, with commission-based sales representatives in addition to the management team. For direct-to-consumer sales, there is an e-commerce platform, www.ProtectedByAGentPlus.com. They expect to see growth through their online presence within the medical market. Other opportunities, including specialty catalogs and multi-level marketing companies, are being discussed at this time.

 

The leadership team is comprised of people with a wide range of backgrounds in business, law, healthcare, software and government regulations. This creates a broad network for introducing AGent+ to new markets.

 

Jeffrey Lord, inventor and manager of APS, said: “Most household cleaning products have been around since the 1940’s & 50’s.  Since then, science has taken us to the moon and back, and we have a rover on Mars that can be controlled from Earth.  AGent+ has taken this same pioneering approach by safeguarding everyday items using nanotechnology to not only clean, but protect surfaces, naturally for up to three days. This is an innovation, given global concerns, whose time has arrived.”

 

APS is one of 28 finalists in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will conclude in June at the Entrepreneurs’ Conference. Winners of the contest receive access to a statewide network of community resources, advice, education, talent and possible sources of capital. APS is seeking $1 million in funds to support their strategy, which is broken into three phases. The phases include their e-commerce platform, building brand recognition for sales growth and a regulatory foundation for their entry into the medical market.

 

With confidence in the product, and exclusive ownership rights to the intellectual property, the APS team expects strong contribution margin results, even in low volumes. The operating profit break-even point is estimated at a little over two years with margins of 25% in year four and 30% in year five. The estimated enterprise value, excluding licensing opportunities, is $16.7 million by the end of year five. Growth may be expedited if they see success during the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

 

Breunig is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.

Gyld provides unique networking platform for skilled trades

By Kylie Donovan

 

The business goal of Gyld is to emerge as an efficient networking platform, catering to blue-collar professionals and making it easier to showcase skills, certifications, education, and past projects.

 

Realizing there was a gap in the networking market for skilled trades, co-founders Kahloong Teh and Kyle Shelton founded Madison-based Gyld Inc. in 2019. The name takes inspiration from the medieval term “guild,” an association of craftsmen or merchants, often reaching a high level of their skillset.

 

The founders believe other networking services, such as LinkedIn and TradeHounds, lack the features that display the strengths and experiences of trade workers. By incorporating profile management, project portfolio and networking features, Gyld aims to provide an effective platform catered to these strengths.

 

Demonstrating expertise and examples of their work is key for tradespeople when it comes to marketing themselves to employers. With a place to package all they have to offer in one spot, users can confidently represent themselves- and potential employers are provided with instant validation.

 

Aside from self-marketing and connecting with potential employers, Gyld also provides a way to collaborate with other tradespeople and work together.

 

Teh provides this example: “A handyman can’t bid on a bathroom refresh project requiring plumbing work if his plumber contact is busy.”

 

With Gyld’s collaboration feature, the handyman can easily connect with other plumbers in their area. This feature also allows for younger tradespeople and minority groups, such as women in trades, to find mentors and other career-developing services.

 

Many different skills go into completing a project and these workers need to be efficient with their time. “You need to be able to bring that team together and find those people in one spot in order to get to the point of being able to work on that project” explains Shelton.

 

Because the company is in early stage development, the focus is on obtaining users and building a networking effect. The service is free to join and will eventually move toward providing premium services for their users – which will be a main source of revenue alongside advertising.

 

Teh and Shelton recently launched on the app store within the last few weeks, marking an increase in promotion for the company.

 

With the money raised from investors, development can become more of a focus and will help move the product forward. The two most important things in any startup is building a product and getting it in front of people — that’s where the money will go.

 

Shelton also commented on the company’s adjustment to the current COVID-19 crisis, saying “as an entrepreneur and a startup, regardless of the situation, you have to stay positive and keep looking for opportunity.”

 

While one challenge they face right now includes frozen venture capital funding, the company seems to be focusing on the positives. Companies around the country and state have had to lay off tradespeople, leaving many in the unfortunate circumstance of looking for work. Gyld is a platform that helps them find that.

 

When asked about their strongest asset, Shelton cited their team dynamic, describing how they work well together and bring different strengths to the table. “Kahloong and I love to innovate and we love to provide efficiency to an industry, there will never be a period of time that we will be okay with the product being stagnant.”

 

Gyld is one of the 28 finalists for the 2020 Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will culminate at the Entrepreneurs’ Conference in June.

 

Donovan is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication

Company uses ‘smart phone’ app to help people with hearing difficulties

By Kaitlin Edwards

 

The World Health Organization estimates more than 5% of the world’s population experiences some type of hearing impairment. A Wisconsin-based company called Ascending Hearing Technologies is helping by utilizing something most people constantly keep near them – their smartphones.

 

AHT was founded in 2018 by Christina Runge, a professor of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin who specializes in audiology, and Yi Hu, a professor of electrical engineering at the UW-Milwaukee who specializes in sound processing. After collaborating for more than 10 years, Ph.D.’s Runge and Yi recognized a gap in the market for clinically-based hearing amplifiers.

 

AHT’s first product is an iOS app that uses an iPhone with ear pods to amplify sounds for the user in real time. “When you first use the app it will test your hearing and then allow you to do a fine tuning procedure to ensure the highest quality sound,” Runge said. She added that the app utilizes machine learning for the fine tuning and sound optimization, and AHT is currently developing noise suppression for the next iteration.

 

AHT plans to offer the app on the Apple App Store using a subscription-based model following a one-month free trial period.

 

The app will be suitable for people who report difficulty hearing in some daily listening situations. It isn’t designed for people with more than a moderate degree of hearing loss, instead depending on individual listening needs it could potentially still offer some benefit. During the initial hearing test, it will also notify the user if it identifies hearing loss that should be assessed by a hearing professional.

 

Currently the app is a protype developed within Phase I of a Small Business Technology Transfer grant through the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. AHT recently submitted a grant proposal for a Phase II STTR, to fund further research and development of the app. For Phase II, AHT plans to finalize the app’s features and ensure it reaches the standards established by the Apple App Store. The product is slated to be available in two years.

 

Having the app funded by the NIH means it will undergo vigorous testing, and for the STTR grant the AHT app will also be tested in a human clinical trial.

 

“Other amplification apps can be developed and made available on the App Store, but few if any of these apps have been tested in clinical trials,” Runge said. To her knowledge, very few of the current available products are developed by people with clinical expertise with fitting hearing aids. “There is some competition, but I feel that our app will definitely be able to stand up to it,” Runge said.

 

AHT is a finalist for the 2020 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will culminate at the Entrepreneurs’ Conference in June. AHT is hoping to raise $1.5 million through investors. They would use the money to help with a Phase III clinical trial and to hire four new employees, including two audiologists, a marketing specialist, and a research administrator.

 

“Already up to this point, the exposure that AHT has gotten to local business professionals, and everyone involved in this process has just been invaluable,” Runge said. “I’m positive it’s opening doors already that AHT will see in the future, that we don’t even know about yet.”

 

Runge noted she is amazed by the support of many others in the state. Along with funding opportunities and people eager to help, that support “motivates you to keep going when things are tough because you know a lot of people are rooting for you.”

 

“If nothing else, it makes you really feel good to be a part of the state and a part of the process,” she said.

 

ATH has already created a part-time position and has the potential for much more growth. The company’s goal is to get the technology to the hands of people who can use it. As Runge noted: “To help people hear better, and communicate better, and help the quality of life for the people in Wisconsin and beyond.”

 

Edwards is a student studying life sciences communication and neurobiology at UW-Madison.

ModuTree

By Trevor Anderson

 

Is there anything that says “Wisconsin” more than the combination of hunting and innovation?

 

ModuTree, a modular hunting blind system developed by UW-Whitewater graduate Trevor Santarius, is a blend of both. It is also among the 28 finalists in the 2020 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will culminate in June at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference.

 

Created in 2004, the Governor’s Business Plan Contest has given students and entrepreneurs of all ages chances to win cash, services and exposure with their ideas. Santarius said he hopes to be among the contest’s winners.

 

Santarius graduated in 2011 from UW-Whitewater’s School of Business with a degree in entrepreneurship. He later founded AriusTek, an e-commerce startup that operated profitably for six years selling specialized LED filament light bulbs. His success with AriusTek gave him confidence to expand and test his other ideas that he had.

 

His latest idea, ModuTree, is a modular hunting blind system that gives hunters the ability to design, build and modify their own custom blind configuration. The modular system consists of sturdy interlocking composite plastic tiles engineered for inexpensive manufacture and simply assembly.

 

Santarius said the idea is a mix of two of his passions, entrepreneurship and hunting.

 

“I came up with the idea while sitting in my hunting blind this past year and realizing the lack of customization in current offerings of blinds out on the market,” Santarius said.

 

Of course, with every idea comes competition that will stand in the way of a startup being successful or not. Santarius said possible competitors to ModuTree include Banks Outdoors, Shadow Hunter, Nature Blinds and Redneck Blinds.

 

He added that what separates ModuTree from its competition is that his system is completely customizable and includes a suite of add-ons and accessories not found elsewhere.

 

“This market is ripe for innovation, there are no existing products that come close to the level of customization that ModuTree would be able to offer,” Santarius said.

 

To create something of such sophistication won’t be cheap. With the global pandemic continuing, investors aren’t necessarily falling out of trees to invest in a startup company such as ModuTree.

 

Winning the Business Plan Contest would go towards the target number of $600,000 that Santarius is looking for this idea to leap into action.

 

“(The $600,000 investment target) would go towards manufacturing tooling, initial production runs, and patents, website development, advertising costs and hiring a salesperson.” Santarius explained.

 

The pandemic has interrupted ModuTree’s plans, Santarius said, because “COVID-19 is affecting almost everything in the supply chain and manufacturers are getting hit especially hard, and timelines are certainly going to be pushed back on the initial production runs. But we aren’t anticipating a delay greater than six to 12 months out from what we’ve forecasted.”

 

Santarius noted ModuTree would likely be best for “big-game” hunters, such as deer and elk. There are about 9.2 million such hunters in the United States, and they collectively spent $12.8 billion on equipment in 2016 alone.

 

The Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference will take place on a virtual platform June 4, with attendees able to watch presentations by the top 12 finalists. Winners will be announced during the conference.

 

Anderson is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.

MyGenomeRX shows how DNA variations can affect one’s response to medication

By Liz Grady

 

Whether it is allergies, cold, flu or pain and chronic disease management, most people turn to medication for relief and intervention of symptoms. However, each person has variations of DNA sequences, and these variations can affect how a person responds to various medications.

 

MyGenomeRX is the only known digital health company to offer educational information on the influence of a person’s DNA on their response to medications. The company uses pharmacogenomics, a combination of pharmacology, the study of drugs and, and genomics, the study of genes and their function.

 

As an information technology tool, MyGenomeRX allows customers to upload their existing genetic data from commercial genetic testing providers such as Ancestry and 23andMe.

 

Anyone can have their DNA tested. Companies like Ancestry and 23andMe have commercialized genetic testing, making it easier for individuals to learn about their genetics for a variety of reasons; some to learn about their family history and others to learn about their susceptibility to genetic disorders.

 

Genetic data is often collected as simply as a swap of saliva or with a strand of hair. These samples of DNA are shared with genetic testing facilities through the mail. Once tested, the individual will receive a comprehensive report based on their DNA sample. Depending upon how extensive of genetic data a person would like to receive, the cost of personalized genetic testing is between 40 and one hundred dollars.

 

But commercial genetic testing does not analyze how DNA sequences affect one’s reaction to various medications. That’s where MyGenomeRX comes in. Customers upload their genetic data to MyGenomeRX. Next, choose between three levels of reports, each level offers more comprehensive and personalized information to their specific list of medications. These reports provide insight into how their DNA could influence drug choices and dosing.

 

The first report offered is a personalized drug to drug interaction report for zero dollars. The second is a pharmacogenomic overview with personalized information at the general drug class level for $39.99. The third is a pharmacogenomic drug report which includes the overview as well as a personalized medication report based on the customer’s provided medication list, for $59.

 

At-home genetic testing is on the rise. In the next two years alone, more than 100 million people worldwide will use at-home genetic testing. MyGenomeRX is recommended for those who take five or more medications, about10% of the population and 30% of adults over 65.

 

MyGenomeRX was founded by chief executive officer Annette Gilchrist, Ph.D., an associate professor of pharmacology/medicinal chemistry of oncology drugs and pharmacogenomics at Midwestern University. Gilchrist is a serial entrepreneur, having also founded Cue Biotech and Caden Biosciences.

 

Others on the management team are Christopher Narys, chief technology officer, and Dimitra Georgonapullou, chief business officer. Both Narys and Georgonapullou are serial entrepreneurs as well, working with several startups in the health information and technology industry.

 

Narys is a technical expert on distributed systems and natural language processing. He is the co-founder of BioBlaze and was recently the CTO of a now-acquired educational technology startup. The previous director of commercialization at INVO, Georgonapullou is an experienced biotech professional and well-versed on medical devices, diagnostics, health IT and therapeutics.

 

MyGenomeRX is a finalist for the 2020 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest. Finalists are vying to split upwards of $150,000 in cash and prizes during the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in June, when the contest will culminate.

 

Grady is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication, with certificates in agri-business management and entrepreneurship.

For entrepreneur and survivor, double mastectomy led to idea for clothing line

By Janel Hutchison

 

Jaimie Sherling’s life was forever changed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2018. Just two months after diagnoses she underwent a double mastectomy, and for the following 15 months she endured a series of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

 

By September 2019, Sherling was cancer-free and cleared to resume life as normal. However, life as a survivor, she found, was anything but normal.

 

After her double mastectomy, Sherling chose to forgo reconstructive surgery, which presented the new challenge of navigating life with a changed body. At first, Sherling found a solution in prosthetics, silicone disks that are inserted in bras to emulate breasts. After several months of use, however, Sherling decided to stop wearing the inserts.

 

“They’re not exactly comfortable,” Sherling said. “So [I thought]- Why would I wear this if I don’t have to?”

 

But without prosthetics, Sherling’s clothes didn’t fit anymore. V-neck shirts were too low, form-fitting clothing laid differently, and shirts with darts were useless. When Sherling started shopping for new clothes, she found that locating flattering feminine clothing that fit her body type was nearly impossible.

 

“It was a very painstaking process,” Sherling said. “I might be in a dressing room for two hours with stacks and stacks of clothes and find three things that work, maybe.”

 

After research, Sherling discovered there was not even a single line of clothing that caters specifically to women without breasts. With thousands of women undergoing double mastectomies every year, Sherling knew that many women were likely in the same situation, struggling with clothing fit on a daily basis. And so, after floating the idea to a few breast cancer survivor networking groups, Sherling decided to start her own line of clothing – one specifically made for survivors such as herself.

 

Wasting no time, Sherling completed the entrepreneurial training program at the Wisconsin UW-Madison Small Business Development Center this past fall, which she said was “a very valuable program for someone looking to be an entrepreneur.” Throughout the nine-week session, Sherling was connected with a business consultant who helped her write and finalize a business plan for “YDY (You Do You), Sweets,” a clothing line specifically designed for women who have had mastectomies.

 

“If I get my act together and things happen soon enough, I would be the first to market [to this demographic], which is pretty exciting,” said Sherling.

 

Sherling plans to design the line herself, which will eventually include tops, blouses, tunics and dresses. While she doesn’t know how to sew, Sherling said she “knows what works and what doesn’t,” and so “feels confident” in her ability to work with a pattern maker to design items that are both comfortable and flattering.

 

Already, Sherling has one item that she is ready to launch, a cowl neck tunic that she has named “The Heather.” Marketing at $80, the top features “no fuss, wash and wear” fabric that skims the body and will be offered in a variety of different colors and feminine prints. Sherling plans to launch the item by taking pre-orders on social media, which she said was the “lowest risk” option given her limited budget.

 

Until Sherling secures the funding to develop a website, she plans to market her line through Instagram and Facebook, through which she will actively respond to questions and accept orders. Sherling said she hopes this initial marketing strategy will give her the success she needs to attract interest from investors.

 

While Sherling was hoping to launch her first item this month, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed back her timeline.

 

“I just don’t feel it’s the right time given our world [crisis],” said Sherling. “But I know that I still will [launch] and I’m ready to go. It’s just a matter of timing.”

 

Once launched, Sherling hopes that YDY, Sweets will attract interest from both consumers and investors, as increased funding will allow her to establish an inventory, build an online store, and eventually begin marketing in small boutiques, hospitals and cancer centers.

 

This business plan, Sherling said, is driven by the belief that breast cancer survivors deserve better — that their stories are theirs to tell, and they should have the power to decide how they look and how they dress.

 

“YDY, Sweets [stands for] ‘You Do You,’ and that is the basis of my entire line,” Sherling said. “If you want to wear my clothing and not have prosthetics underneath … perfect. If some days, you want to wear prosthetics in other clothing … great. It’s all your choice… And right now, women in my circumstances do not have [that] choice.”

 

Hutchison is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.

FixdPicks uses AI for ROI transparency in sports betting

By Diego Vega Rivera

 

FixdPicks is pushing for artificial intelligence to be the next big thing to come to sports betting.

 

Founder Zach Nichols came across the idea for the new company when he was working on some code and saw that the algorithm was predicting the outcomes of National Basketball Association games rather accurately. It was through this code that the team created FixdPicks.

 

FixdPicks offers a subscription service that allows its subscribers access to the picks that the algorithm believes will win. By utilizing the algorithm, the AI can comb through many more data points than the traditional expert and can therefore predict the winning teams better than any individual person can.

 

Part of what allows the AI to be so effective, he said, is that it takes out the error of human emotion.

 

While many people want to go with their “gut feeling” or favorite team, FixdPicks is offering the opportunity for people to be a little smarter with their money and play the stats, rather than go for the emotional victory.

 

There are already many pick sites available for consumers, with big names such as SportsLine and Action Network in the mix.

 

However, co-founder Caleb Dykema points out that a key difference between FixdPicks and its competitors is that “you cannot find [the competitors] numbers anywhere. What we really wanted to do is be transparent. We want people to know our numbers.”

 

The numbers Dykema is referring to are the accuracy of the results, and how much money you can expect to make from utilizing the site. By offering the return on investment (ROI) statistic, a potential client can see the benefits of utilizing the service before even paying for the subscription or using one of the picks.

 

What makes FixdPicks even more interesting is that they want to open the field of sports betting for everyone to get in on the action where it’s legal. Since FixdPicks only offers the numbers and does not place any bets, it is legal to use in any state.

 

The subscription service will not only offer the picks that the algorithm develops, but will offer training and tips on how to best utilize that information to maximize ROI as well covering the basics of sports betting. By combining the two, the team at FixdPicks believes users will see value to the service and also enjoy using it and learning more about the field.

 

As a finalist in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, the company is seeking $17,000 primarily to help fund its marketing campaigns when the next season starts. While the algorithm is currently being used for basketball, Caleb also mentioned that some of that money will be used for research and development so that they can expand to other major U.S. sports leagues.

 

While COVID-19 has shut down sporting events in the United States for now, with an indefinite re-launch, Caleb said the company will take its time to get better prepared and to be ready to roll out as soon as the seasons restart. Because the team was working remotely before the pandemic, it hasn’t slowed progress.

 

After having done a small trial run at the beginning of the year, Nichols and Dykema said they hope the October start date for the NBA will allow them to make a “fast break” in the new season with FixdPicks.

 

Diego Vega Rivera recently graduated after studying Life Sciences Communication at UW-Madison.

What happens when you mix tradition with technology? You lock up success!

By Brianna Van Matre

 

It’s hard to believe that during a time of technological innovation, people sometimes forget to incorporate tradition in their ideas.

 

For Jack Ryan, his idea began by looking at a traditional gated entryway and wondering how it could become better.

 

Ryan has developed a “smart lock” that is able to give people a more secure and advanced lock, while keeping the traditional look and function of a normal deadbolt. Ryan, founder of Last Lock, has designed a lock with “smart” software features as well as functions for a variety of uses.

 

When asked about his inspiration for this lock, Ryan responded: “When walking home one day, I saw a tangled string of locks on a gate on East Washington Avenue (in Madison) and snapped this picture.”

 

“It is a very practical system called a “daisy chain lock,” Ryan continued. “It is commonly found on construction sites and utility plants, and it allows a select number of people access without having to copy and share keys. Additionally, it is easy to add another user to the system by simply adding another lock to the chain. While very convenient, it occurred to me that this system has the same weakness as any other chain, it will always fail at the weakest link, or in this case the weakest lock. The unique solution I devised to solve this problem, not just in padlocks but in all locks, is the driving force behind Last Lock.”

 

Last Lock is a finalist in the 2020 Wisconsin Governors Business Plan Contest, which links up-and-coming entrepreneurs with a statewide network of community resources, expert advice, high-quality education, management talent and possible sources of capital. Last Lock has created a way to transform any doorway or lock into a smart access control system.

 

As opposed to mechanical locks, the last lock cylinder utilizes a proprietary scanning system that allows it to read and be opened by any desired physical key. In addition, the cylinder can also be opened by an authorized user, their cell phone, or a computer. By combining tradition with technology, Last Lock has an abundance of potential new customers. They include the UW-Madison, which faces a struggle of constant stolen or misplaced keys, along with senior living facilities and managers of Air BnBs. Such customers stand to benefit from the ability to have a physical key, as well as digital access to monitor security.

 

Through the mentorship and investment of gener8tor’s gAlpha program, Ryan has been able to build a team, develop sophisticated prototypes, and pursue patents. “We are very fortunate. Just a few months after being founded, we have a great team of UW Badgers growing this company and pilot partners testing our product. After sufficient testing, we will be excited to bring the Last Lock to our strategic industry partners throughout the Midwest.” Ryan said.

 

Last Lock is aiming to secure a bright future, despite this year’s surprising economic slowdown due to COVID-19. When asked about the virus crisis, Ryan said: “We are very lucky to have been only marginally affected by the effects of COVID-19. Our low burn rate has enabled us to stretch our runway for the foreseeable future, while our traction on our patents and prototype testing has only accelerated. As a result of the pandemic, we are also looking towards the future and creating solutions that combat viral transmission spread through lock systems and door handles.”

 

Last Lock and other finalists will compete leading up to the June 4 Entrepreneurs’ Conference, which will be held on a virtual platform this year. The conference is part of a five-month process that includes the opportunity to work with mentors and receive feedback from judges. It also leads to valuable exposure for the top business plans and helps spur economic growth in Wisconsin.

 

Van Matre is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.

Gud Medical offers a less expensive yet precise IV tool to the medical world

By Alexis Terry

 

Madison-based Gud Medical is striving to be a leader in delivering medicine and intravenous fluids as precisely as possible.

 

In hospitals across the world, there is a common theme: people and trauma. In urgent cases, intravenous or “IV” compound medications are often used in order to help people and deliver essential medicines.

 

Intravenous technologies are even used in non-hospital circumstances such as in research, dentistry and veterinary applications. When it comes to blood samples, mixing medications, or dosing medication, IV is the “go-to” method.

 

Gud Medical was co-founded in early 2020 by Joseph Ulbrich and Dr. Robert Radwin. According to  Ulbrich, the idea was brainstormed when a contract research organization reached out to his UW-Capstone Biomedical Engineering class. Together, they collaborated to make the ErgoExact-50 syringe adapter device.

 

Gud Medical is among the 28 finalists for 2020 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will culminate at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference June 4.

 

The need for the ErgoExact-50 is designed to take the strain and pressure off the technician preparing the IV. The ErgoExact product line is being used in a piloted program at the UW Health Pharmacy Service Building.

 

Gud Medical’s ErgoExact-50 is a syringe attachment that allows accurate and precise volumes of fluid to be delivered in a comfortable manner for both the patient and administrator of the IV. The ergonomic design of the ErgorExact-50 is aimed at universal comfort in hands meaning the design is compatible with both left-handed and right-handed people.

 

The ErgoEcact-50 is patented by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. It is unique because it is compatible with the 50-milliliter syringe. The 50-milliter syringe is known as the most difficult syringe to use – even for the most seasoned technicians. What makes this device unique is that it draws and injects fluids.

 

The ErgoExact-50 is designed the guesswork of administering IV fluids in the age of precision medicine.

 

At present, IV bags are filled by manual and full-automatic methods. With manual methods it is timely is repetitive for the pharmacy technicians. On the other hand, the fully automatic IV methods are economically costly, ranging from $250,000 to $500,000 for both purchase and maintenance of the machinery. The fully automatic IV methods require annual calibration, maintenance, often repair service damaged.

 

“The ErgoExact-50 has the potential to save hospitals millions of dollars,” Ulbrich said.

 

As a result, fully automatic IV methods are often not an option for smaller healthcare centers and rural hospitals that may not have the budget to allocate resources towards IV.  ErgoExact-50 is a greater value with an estimated cost of $1,000 per unit. Each manual IV prepared in real-time can lead to a 2.25%-4.5% human error rate, while the ErgoExact delivers precise drug concentrations that falls within the range of less than 10% concentration error. Having too much medicine can be fatal for the patient.

 

In the age of COVID-19, blood transfusions are being collected from people who have recovered from the disease. IV methods are being used to collect plasma hundreds of times a day. From the plasma collected researchers can see what antibodies are present. Although, the competitor, BD Vacutainer, is a common device that separates plasma are often used for drawing a volume of blood. If there becomes a shortage of Vacutainer tubes, then the ErgoExact device can be used. The antibodies from blood can help with immunology and virology testing.

 

In the next six months, company leaders believe, there will be an increased demand for the ErgoExact-50 in order to accommodate for testing antibodies in recovered COVID-19 patients.

 

Terry is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.

eCourt Reporter is connecting talent to legal system more efficiently

By Mekenzie Steffen

 

eCourt Reporter provides a one-of-a-kind technology that allows for a thorough selection of court reporters who are needed in the legal world.

 

This Wisconsin-based marketplace allows law firms, government entities and court reporting agencies to directly schedule court reporters and legal videographers with live search capabilities across all 50 states.

 

The idea behind eCourt came from the difficulty in trying to efficiently find well-qualified court reporters across the United States.

 

Current reporter Karen Renee’s brother was one mastermind behind the unique technology. After using the popular mobile application, Uber, a lightbulb went off in his head. What if the searchability for legal personnel could instantly be done in a similar way?

 

In 2017, company president Karen Renee and vice president Judy Gerulat launched eCourt Reporters. Since starting, eCourt has been able to effectively reach members of the legal community through its unique technology-based platform.

 

Renee views eCourt as a one-of-a-kind for many reasons, mainly because she believes it is the trailblazer of this type of technology. eCourt is the first in the industry to successfully do the full process of searching, selecting, scheduling, and invoicing, she said.

 

Scheduling court reporters for specific proceedings can be time consuming. Users in the legal word are constantly waiting for responses on various platforms. However, eCourt has created a technology where there is no wait time making it very efficient for all users.

 

Law firms, government entities and court reporting agencies have all used eCourt’s technology. Their use has led them to receive direct results from live search criteria. The criteria feature upfront pricing, and contains information about certifications, years of experience, five-star ratings and availability.

 

There have been multiple companies that have tried to mimic eCourt’s system, but none have been completely successful. NexDep, Expedite, Statim and AppearMe are three companies that have GPS search process capability such as eCourt, but they fail to provide the full “gavel-to-gavel” service.

 

“We do the whole process: search, select, schedule and invoice. It allows for law firms to find the best reporter representations for specific proceedings in the United States,” Renee said. “Our competitors are similar to a google search. They do provide a lot of information, but they do not provide the specific information like we do.”

 

However, Renee added that eCourt welcomes the competition. “From a technology standpoint it will just be a matter of time before our competitors start to catch up. We gladly welcome new competition because it forces us to grow and implement new components into our preexisting technology,” she said.

 

In terms of growth, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has had a positive effect on eCourt from a business perspective.

 

eCourt typically averages between 30 and 50 registrations per month; in the past month they have had about 200.

 

“The recent pandemic has been an uncomfortable position for lawyers,” Renee said. “Lawyers are forced into a remote setting. This is promoting for us because lawyers are essentially forced to try our technology and, hopefully, they will find that they enjoy it and implement it into their lives even after the pandemic.”

 

eCourt is a finalist in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will end June 4 during the virtual Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference.

 

Mekenzie is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication

Keeping bikes safe from elements, and bikers active, is Pedal-Motive’s motive

By Elizabeth Schreiber

 

Pedal Motive aims to keep people riding their bikes year-round with “Speedcase,” a fully enclosed bike transmission.

 

Every day, people rely on bikes for recreation, training and commuting. Traditional bikes rely on exposed derailleurs to shift gears and provide an optimal riding experience with minimal pedaling effort.

 

The exposed nature of the mechanism leaves it susceptible to damage from rain and dirt. When exposed to the elements, chains and gears rust, leaving the rider with a worse riding experience. Weather conditions, thus, render the bike useless for a good portion of the year.

 

Pedal Motive’s Speedcase tackles this issue by enclosing the gears and chain from weather with a cover that mounts on any bike frame. The Speedcase allows riders to flip through the same 27-speed range offered by traditional derailleurs with a single control. The mechanism comes at the same weight and price as traditional versions but mitigates the potential for damage and repair cost.

 

Pedal Motive founder, CEO, and daily rider Nick Hein says the idea evolved during his time living on the state of Oregon’s often-rainy coast.

 

“For about three months of the year, the bike riding was wonderful,” said Hein, who now lives in Madison.

 

As for the rest of the year, weather conditions largely put his bike out of commission. Consumer surveys revealed that, like Hein, “most people just live with whatever happens to the drivetrain.”

 

Dissatisfied with clunky alternatives such as geared hubs and bottom-bracketed gear boxes, and unwilling to accept the inevitability of damage and seasonal use prevention, Hein sought a solution.

 

He says the change was a long time coming: “Car transmissions have had covers for years, so why not just do the same thing with bikes?”

 

According to Hein, the Speedcase, is less expensive to produce and maintain, and more versatile than alternatives such as geared hubs.

 

“Several types of bike transmissions are trying to solve this problem,” Hein said. “But, they’re a lot heavier, more expensive, and have to be designed for a specific transmission.”

 

Even with these alternatives, Hein says the Speedcase’s primary competitor is inaction. Most individuals will either stop riding when conditions get bad or accept that their bike will see damage. To combat this, the Speedcase will be sold on a bike as a working unit, “so that the user doesn’t have to do it as a DIY project.”

 

Going forward, Hein sees plenty of opportunities for Speedcase to make biking an efficient, low-maintenance mode of transportation. “It’s something the market needs,” he said.

 

“I want everyone to be able to have this. I want people to be able to ride their bikes without having to worry about the chains and gears getting messed up,” Hein added.

 

According to Hein, making the innovation available to consumers may be more urgent than ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“People more strapped for cash are looking to bicycling more than they would have before,” Hein said, adding that Speedcase may make bicycling a more reliable transportation alternative for healthcare and essential workers.

 

Pedal Motive now seeks funding to start manufacturing and move the product to the mass market where it will be sold as part of a complete bike for consumers to purchase from a vendor. The Speedcase will also be sold to other bike manufacturers as a component part.

 

In 2016, Pedal Motive created a prototype for the Speedcase with a grant from an environmental competition and was established as a limited liability company, or LLC, in 2019 during the Madworks business accelerator program.

 

Hein is the sole member of Pedal Motive LLC and is now a finalist in the 2020 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will culminate June 4 during the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference.

 

Schreiber is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.

Extended release opioid treatment is aim of Plumb Pharmaceuticals

By Emma Olstad

 

To the construction industry, the term “plumb” means the material is straight and true. Being straight and true brings a whole new meaning to Plumb Pharmaceuticals and its extended release solution for people trying to kick opioids.

 

Plumb Pharmaceuticals is a Madison-based company founded in 2016 by Timothy Heath and Lisa Krugner-Higby. Plumb Pharmaceuticals has created a drug-delivery technology for extended-release medications, specifically to help the fight against opioid addiction.

 

The United States diagnoses 2.5 million people annually with Opioid Use Disorder. Currently, Medication Assisted Therapies are the best on the market for treating OUD. These therapies help suppress cravings by blocking opioid receptors. However, relapse occurs between MAT doses.

 

Heath and Krugner-Higby have created a solution to help decrease relapse occurrences. A formula of liposomes, much like a “microscopic water balloon,” that is filled with medication is placed under the skin and slowly releases medications. The liposomes are filled with medications including naltrexone or buprenorphine. These medications help dirtier? opioid cravings and block receptors such as MATs through extended release.

 

The technology requires a single dose four times per year. This dosage is significantly less than MATs and significantly reduces the potential of relapse. In addition, this form of treatment allows for fewer clinic visits, thus reducing the financial burden for patients and treatment providers.

 

Plumb’s closest competitor is Vivitrol® (by Alkermes). The product is a one-month, extended-release injectable naltrexone. It is more effective than oral medications but does have side effects.

 

Plumb Pharmaceuticals primary focus is helping tackle opioid relapse, said chief executive officer Jackie Hind. In the future, their technology may have application for anti-narcotics, HIV drugs or Chloroquine to help treat COVID-19.

 

Both Heath and Krugner-Higby are graduates of the UW-Madison and have decades of expertise in pharmaceuticals research and veterinary medicine respectively.

 

In addition to the team’s co-founders, Plumb Pharmaceuticals is comprised of six employees.

 

Plumb Pharmaceuticals patented technology, Advanced Quantload Technology, was originally used in Krugner-Higby’s work at UW-Madison’s Research Animal Resource and Compliance center. She was looking for a better way to provide pain management to animals less frequently and started working with opioid formulations in liposomes.

 

The company started formed its first LLC in 2016, which was focused on animals, and transitioned its research to humans and opioid addiction in early 2018.

 

When deciding to make the change from animals to humans, Hind said they looked at areas in human medicine where there was “great need and that the company could make a positive impact.” That area was opioid medication to help mitigate relapse.

 

Plumb has received grant funding through the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. In addition to the grants, Plumb’s market opportunity will require a capital raise of $8.6 million spread over multiple milestones between 2020 through 2023. This will allow them to complete “investigational new drug” enabling studies, IND-submission and Phase 1a of clinical trials.

 

Once on the market, Plumb anticipates the cost of its product to be $950 per three-month dose. At this price, it would be one-third of the price of its closest competitor, a naltrexone shot that lasts one month and costs $1,000 per month.

 

Plumb Pharmaceuticals has been selected as one of 28 finalists for the 2020 Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will conclude at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in June.

 

Olstad is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.

‘Assembly line’ approach makes building a website a one-day project

By Emily Matzke

 

Building a brand-new website is often a painstakingly long process, but with the help of the developers at Bizzy Bizzy, the process can be done in just one day.

 

Using traditional methods, the website development process can take anywhere from a few weeks to months until the project is completed. It is often hindered with clients not having enough time to focus solely on the website, and the developer being tasked with multiple client projects. This process leads to inefficiencies and time lost to gain brand awareness or bring companies to life.

 

Candy Phelps, the founder of Bizzy Bizzy, has experienced this challenge first-hand, as she has run her own experiential creative agency and marketing accelerator for years. Instead of shying away, Phelps rose to the challenge and used her prior experience in journalism to create the idea of a One Day Website, Bizzy Bizzy’s new signature service.

 

“Traditional website building methods take time,” Phelps said. “Typically, clients and developers are playing phone tag or emailing back and forth constantly, which leads to a back log in the work being done. We wanted to change that.”

 

Bizzy Bizzy designed a proprietary system that helps business owners save time and frustration redesigning or building their website. With the 1 Day Website service, clients and a team of experts meet for one day, often for nine hours and tackle all aspects of the website at once. This allows team members to create a vertical “assembly line,” and to get instant feedback, approval and access.

 

“To us, this process is more efficient, more fun and provides more benefits,” said Phelps of the 1 Day Website. “By having all of the team members together in person or virtually allows for super tight processes that produce a high-quality output.”

 

To date, Bizzy Bizzy has helped build nearly 50 1 Day Websites, but Phelps fears Bizzy Bizzy’s process is limited to the Madison metropolitan area with its current set up. Her goal is to be able to market the company’s licensing and certification program to the more than 75,000 web service providers in the United States.

 

While the cost of each site depends on the size, scope and how many people are required to work on the site to make it come to fruition, most clients can expect their new site to cost between $4,000 and $5,000 with the help of Bizzy Bizzy.

 

“Right now, we are just one team, able to focus on businesses in the greater Madison area, but my dream is bigger,” Phelps said. “One day I would like this process available to companies in all major metropolitan areas across the U.S., with web developers honing in on this process and providing the service to clients.”

 

To help make her dream a reality, Phelps decided to enter the 2020 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will culminate at the Wisconsin Entrepreneur’s Conference in June. In this contest, Phelps is competing against entrepreneurs and startups from across the state to receiving funding and investment for their companies.

 

While the ultimate goal is to gain money to further her company’s licensing program and to get it into the hands of other developers, Phelps says that regardless of the outcome she is happy she entered the contest.

 

“This competition is so much more than just applying for funding,” said Phelps. “Because of this contest I’ve been able to get my business plan tightened up and have gained feedback from experts in the field.”

 

The contest is designed so that contestants may take small, incremental steps as they advance through the contest. This allows contestants to get more focus and clarity behind what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, according to Phelps.

 

Whether or not the contest lands Phelps the funding she desires, entering this contest has pivoted her for success. Because of it, she understands her business better and is ready get this process into the hands of others and reach her goals.

 

Matzke is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication

A startup in Eau Claire is taking the audio-visual industry wireless

By Emily LaVoi

 

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – UpStream AV is enabling the audio-visual industry to go wireless.

 

The Wisconsin based company, founded in 2019, has developed the hardware and software necessary to create the next generation of AV products. These AV products will have no need for wires due to its ability to rely on pre-existing infrastructure and Wi-Fi networks.

 

UpStream’s solution is an intuitive, mobile, device-controlled application that utilizes pre-existing audiovisual equipment with a “firmwave” attachment that connect over Wi-Fi and is backed through the internet cloud.

 

The company was founded by a team of software and electrical engineers with a prior understanding of the AV industry, allowing for a deep understanding of the needs of the current system – where the “pain points” are and how to make it less complicated and less expensive.

 

UpStream is “solving AV’s most pressing problems to put the AV professional’s time where it is most valuable spent – on creating great systems for our customers,” according to Jim McDougall the CEO of UpStream and former software engineer at JAMF Software.

 

UpStream’s solution is more flexible than the current AV solutions that require hardwiring, allowing it to be easier to use and faster to install. The solution utilizes paired hardware and software, thus eliminating the need to wire AV equipment together.

 

As explained by McDougall, UpStream, “increases system flexibility and reduces non-value-added labor costs in commercial installations…. (Which, is done) by creating patentable, custom electronics supported by next generation software systems with cloud and mobile management.”

 

Currently live-event venues must rely on systems that require centralization with manual connection. While other current AV solutions still require dedicated infrastructure, UpStream’s solution does not.

 

The over-Wi-Fi connection can be utilized in a plethora of live-event venues by using existing equipment, including speakers and screens.

 

The system not only saves conference goers from tripping over wires and increases the users’ ease, it also lowers non-essential costs. The systems reliance on pre-existing systems will decrease cost of non-essential infrastructure. The system will reduce set-up times and allow venues to have a shorter downtime between events, increasing venue utilization rates.

 

UpStream will also alleviate pressures by the labor shortage currently facing the AV industry, A situation which is expected to last years. The reduction in need for set-up due to UpStream’s system will alleviate this issue.

“Solutions are needed that reduce labor demands without sacrificing the experience being delivered,” said McDougall. “The decrease in need for installation and reliance on existing networks and infrastructure will do just that.”

 

UpStream is currently in the investment and beta testing phase through 2020 and is on target to begin accepting pre-orders in 2021.

 

UpStream has taken on the challenges accompanying COVID-19 in two primary ways.

 

As explained by McDougall, conference and retail establishments will need support through reopening and more easily managing events, UpStream can help all these factors, he said.

 

UpStream is also looking into applications in hospitals, which may allow utilization of the solution to share information remotely as visitor access remains limited.

 

McDougall and team are taking COVID and 2020 in stride, accelerating their applications, continuing beta testing, seeking capital and using the information gained to make a better holistic and wireless commercial AV experience.

 

UpStream is a finalist in the 2020 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which culminates at the virtual Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference June 4.

 

LaVoi is a student in UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.