The year in review

By Anna Lardinois, Startup Storyteller

2022. What a year it has been!

After a few years dominated by pandemic shutdowns and a paralyzed supply chain, 2022 was noteworthy for the gradual reopening of the Milwaukee ecosystem. Crowds heralded the return of in-person events, filling seats for Summerfest Tech Week, MKE Tech Week and Wisconsin Technology Council’s (WTC) Early Stage Symposium.

Newly released DataTool information from the Wisconsin Policy Forum indicates other positives, including that metro Milwaukee performs well on overall technology talent, ranking fourth among our 11 comparison metro areas and well above the national average. That same report also revealed that metro Milwaukee stands out for its progress on the ratio of business openings (births) and closures (deaths) — from having one of the lowest business birth-to-death ratios from 2010 to 2015, to being middle of the pack from 2016 to 2019, to ranking third in 2020.

In this environment, the following high-growth, scalable startups in the metro Milwaukee area flourished. Read on to see the notable startup of 2022, and the ones to watch in the new year.

2022’s Startup Standouts

Hydrogen energy pioneers Advanced Ionics had a tremendous year. The company more than doubled its workforce, expanded its laboratory, and secured more than $4 million in funding. The Milwaukee-based startup is developing an electro-chemical process to decarbonize the hydrogen used in manufacturing. If development stays on course, Advanced Ionics estimates it may be able to eliminate a gigaton of carbon dioxide emissions from being released into the atmosphere by 2050.

Atomix Logistics is a third-party logistics (3PL) business operating a unique ecommerce fulfillment platform. Led by founder and CEO Austin Kreinz, the company has found early success by catering to clients that include new brands, and those with high-touch shipping requirements, whose needs are best met by a 3PL with a boutique approach.

In 2022, the company launched an app, made a number of key additions to their staff, and finalizing plans to relocate to a new warehouse space, which will more than double its current footprint.

Blue Line Battery began the year with unicorn buzz, which only grew as the year continued. Founded in 2015, the company produces lithium-ion batteries for the industrial market. The wildly popular batteries are notably safer and cheaper to use, and the innovative product is making big waves in an industry slow to embrace new designs.

COnovate, the company working to bring the world’s only solid form of carbon monoxide to market for use as battery anode material, secured funding, added staff, and relocated to Technology Innovation Center. The move allows the team to make greater quantities of Cophite material. The substance, when added to lithium-ion anode batteries, results in faster charge times, greater capacity and improves safety.

If you were at a pitch event in 2022, changes are good you saw eCourt Reporters telling the story of the revenue-generating company that offers certified legal support services throughout the nation. As the first legal connection tool to market, the company plans to expand its offerings to stay ahead of the competitors that have sprung up since eCourt Reporters launched. They are working to offer additional legal support services, including process servers, proofreaders, and interpreters.

MedTech startup, Geno.Me made headlines throughout 2022. From funding wins, strategic talent acquisitions to its well-received public launch in September, this company continues to make news- and generate unicorn buzz!

Rex Academy had a winning year. The startup gained some high-profile clients, secured additional funding and placed in both the Summerfest Tech Pitch Contest, and the Early Stage Symposium Elevator Pitch Olympics.

The ones to watch in 2023

Racine-based Houstr made headlines in November when it announced it received $300,000 of funding from Gateway Capital. Co-founder and CEO Nick Koenen announced a soon-to-be launched pilot program for the novel marketplace with an estimated 80 properties owned by Milwaukee short-term rental startup Frontdesk.

SoFresh, a manufacturer of food packaging that keeps food fresh and mold-free for weeks had a number of significant wins this year, including a successful $3.3 million raise. The cutting-edge packaging can be found on Kwik Trip shelves, and the team has is looking forward to expanding its facilities and product line.

You may not have heard of VocaTone Studio, but by the end of 2023, chances are that will change. The company has created a novel piece of AI voice technology that allows musicians and other content creators to access an electronic vocalist. The company won the People’s Choice Award at WTC’s Early Stage Symposium and shows no plans to slow its momentum.

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