Wisconsin startups find growing venture capital opportunities

The combination of private and public funds is helping Wisconsin develop a healthy startup scene, with more chances than ever for promising entrepreneurs to obtain venture capital funding. This very week, more than a dozen companies have attracted close to $3 million from investors and accelerator funds.

Milwaukee's Okanjo Partners, an advertising and E-commerce startup, raised $1.7 million in a new round of funding from prior angel investors, bringing the company's total to $3.2 million. Okanjo offers a form of native advertising, enabling brands to sell products directly on related third-party websites.

"You could be reading an article about the Green Bay Packers, and you could see related Packers merchandise embedded within that article, under the brand of that news site, which you could then purchase without leaving the site," said president Brendon Thomas to TechCrunch.

The nonprofit BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation has announced that it will invest $1 million in five companies in industries ranging from health care to learning software. The organization has funded 14 companies since the beginning of last year, and says it has nearly $6 million raised for future investment.

On the public front, eight companies have been awarded $75,000 grants from the SBIR Advance program, an initiative of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation backed by the University of Wisconsin-Extension. This is the second round of investment from the million-dollar fund, whose first eight awardees were announced last fall.

Local IT consultants can contribute to the continued growth of Wisconsin's tech scene, providing startups with expert technical support and allowing them to focus on their entrepreneurial endeavors.