Whitewater entrepreneur receives Ideadvance grant

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Jeff Angileri | May 23, 2014

WHITEWATER. – The University of Wisconsin-Extension and its partners have selected Dan McGuire, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Art Professor and Whitewater Incubation Program Fellow, among 12 UW faculty, staff, students and affiliated companies to receive up to $25,000 each through the Ideadvance Seed Fund.

"Innovative Foundry Technologies Inc. is a new business startup focused on developing cutting edge foundry-related inventions, securing intellectual protection for those inventions through WiSys Technologies, and then disseminating the concepts into the applied world,” said Dan McGuire, founder. His business partners include Jack Ziemba and James Caldwell. “UW-Whitewater has been instrumental in providing an environment that has allowed for the development of Innovative Foundry Technologies' research to a point where the research is resolved and ready to be commercialized. Through our relationship with the Whitewater Innovation Center we have been exposed to a huge entrepreneurial tool box that provides new companies like ours with all the tools needed to launch our business concepts into the real world.”

The grants also include business mentoring to help awardees develop a strategic business model for ideas and technologies generated at UW campuses. UW System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) created the $2 million seed fund, which launched in February.

“The grant provides an opportunity for an innovator's team to focus on market analysis and customer discovery -- an important first stage in lean start-up,” said Denise Ehlen, a member of McGuire's team and Executive Director of the Whitewater Incubation Program.

“Ideadvance provides critical early-stage funding for university entrepreneurs that will facilitate research commercialization and a successful launch.”

The Ideadvance Seed Fund provides support for entrepreneurs as they evaluate product or service ideas, explore key markets, validate demand and develop strategies for investment sources. Unlike most early-stage funding, this seed fund encourages ideas from all disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences and liberal arts. Grants are available for faculty, staff and students who are part of the UW System or affiliated with WiSys or the UW-Milwaukee Research Foundation. Teams that complete this first stage of Ideadvance activities will be eligible for stage two funding, which offers grants up to $50,000.

Dan McGuire's team includes Choton Basu, Director of the Incubation Program's Innovation Hub, Jeff Vanevenhoven, Entrepreneurship Program Coordinator and Director of the introductory student business incubation initiative (or iWHIP), and Denise Ehlen. Vanevenhoven is the strategy expert and described the team as dynamic, with each member bringing a unique skill set.

“The creativity in both application and execution increases in this regard,” he said. Vanevenhoven applauds the sponsors for recognizing that job creation and innovation occur in all sectors. “I am impressed that funds are available for non-traditional disciplines and are not limited to hi- tech based ideas only. This approach creates and fosters a truly innovative environment without sacrificing diversity in team composition.”

According to Basu, “Our goal is to use lean start-up methods to assist Dan and his team to quickly figure out specific problems that can be solved with their approach. The other huge benefit of this approach is to ensure that assumptions about customers and markets are tested and the right business model emerges to help this company grow and flourish and contribute to the Wisconsin entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

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