Ideadvance Seed Fund offers help to WI startups

By Anna Lardinois, Startup Storyteller

Ideadvance might be the solution for innovators affiliated with the UW System who are looking for help with their startup businesses. The program is a partnership between the UW System’s Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC)

Established in 2014, Ideadvance is currently working with their 13th program cohort. The two-stage program offers business training and funding to advance new and growing businesses in Wisconsin.

A key requirement of the program is that a UW System faculty, staff, student, or alumni is involved in the company.

The entrepreneurship training is based on the Lean Startup approach. Designed to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable, Lean Startup provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups and get a desired product to customers’ hands faster. This method focuses on new product development that involves early customer interaction to help guide the process.

Stage 1 of the program required the emerging company have a minimum of two employees and focuses on funding education and sales planning. Participating companies can receive grants up to $25,000 to develop the growing company. Successful completion of Stage 1 is required for companies to apply for Stage 2 of the program.

Stage 2 of the program provides additional mentoring, as well as a $30,000 grant that must be matched by the business. “At least 50% of that match has to be a cash match and the rest can be in kind,” Dr. Idella Yamben said. “It is structured so companies have some wiggle room to use in kind resources to build their strategy.”

Dr. Yamben, the New Idea Concierge for the program, is an expert in Lean Startup methods, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grantsmanship and program development.

This statewide program is primarily delivered online and runs from September to December. Founders should expect to spend between 15-20 hours a week working on the program. There are ten companies currently enrolled in Ideadvance. Since its launch, the program has awarded grants to 82 distinct awardees, totaling $2.8 million in funding disbursements.

“Ideadvance is trying to attract and train serious entrepreneurs,” Yamben said. “That means that you have to be seriously able to invest the time in doing the strategic work. It is not always a good fit for everybody and where they’re at.”

Yamben notes that Ideadvance is just one of the many resources available to Wisconsin entrepreneurs. “We benefit from an ecosystem. There are so many entry points in our Wisconsin ecosystem for entrepreneurship and I want to encourage people to just get started. Ideadvance is a certain kind of push to get started, but there are definitely other resources out there.”

“Ideadvance is a tremendous resource for Wisconsin entrepreneurs and is a great example of how UW resources can extend beyond the immediate campus community and current enrollment,” said Aaron Hagar, WEDC vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation. “The program does a great job of understanding the needs of businesses and challenging the entrepreneurs to discover for themselves what is needed to give their idea the best chance of success.”

To learn more about the Ideadvance program, click here.

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