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Q&A with Idella Yamben – Ideadvance Seed Fund


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Q&A with Idella Yamben – Ideadvance Seed Fund


Q. What is the Ideadvance Seed fund?

A. The Ideadvance Seed Fund supports commercialization of ideas and technologies from UW System faculty, staff and students. The focus of the Ideadvance program is not on crafting a business or research plan, but instead supports entrepreneurs as they move through commercialization milestones such as determining the most strategic market for their product or service. What makes this program truly unique is the support entrepreneurs receive along the way. With assistance from UW-Extension’s Small Business Development Centers, the Center for Technology Commercialization, and support from the Lean Startup Consultant and the New Idea Concierge, entrepreneurs have a team of experienced business professionals to help them pursue their ideas as well as tap into local resources to help them take their idea to the next level. Ultimately, the Ideadvance Program has the potential of creating new businesses, fostering business expansion, creating jobs, retaining UW System school graduates in the State, and improving the quality of Wisconsin’s products and services.


Q.  How did the fund come to be?

A. UW System faculty, staff and students generate ideas and technologies that could lead to new products and services.  Reducing the risk needed to commercialize these innovations requires new sources of capital and additional support that, until now, was lacking in Wisconsin. To fill this need, UW-Extension, UW System, and WEDC combined their resources to create the Ideadvance Seed Fund. The Fund bridges the gap from idea to business creation and first investment. The program combines $1 million from UW System’s Incentive Grant Program with $1 million from WEDC’s Capital Catalyst program to create a $2 million fund expected to make awards through CY 2016. Together with UW-Extension’s array of business consulting programs and statewide reach, the Ideadvance Seed Fund can help support entrepreneurs at both the two-year and four-year UW institutions.


Q. What types of companies does the fund target?

A. The Ideadvance program supports ideas across all disciplines. The types of eligible businesses are very broad, including ideas in agriculture, manufacturing, music production, textiles, art or science. Regarding business type eligibility, the only restrictions are that the business cannot be real estate, direct consumer retail or a hospitality business, including restaurants.


Q. What type of funding is available for companies?

A. The Ideadvance Seed Fund provides up to $75,000 in two stages to support entrepreneurs as they evaluate product or service ideas, explore key markets, validate demand and develop strategies for investment sources. Stage 1 funds up to $25,000 and focuses on helping entrepreneurs reduce the risk in their idea by determining what features will solve a real customer need.  Stage 2 funds up to $50,000 and focuses on developing a business model that effectively delivers solutions to customers and prepares the idea for investment. To support the mission of commercializing ideas, awards are not given in one lump sum but are incrementally dispersed based upon completion of certain milestones.


Q. How often do you fund companies?

A. UW-Extension will accept applications in three rounds yearly beginning in March, June and November 2014. Awards will be determined by an investment committee with representatives from a UW System campus, WiSYS Technology Foundation, UW-Extension, WEDC and an entrepreneur affiliated with an eligible UW campus.


Q. Are there other requirements to be eligible to apply for funding?

A. Grants are available for part-time or full-time staff, faculty and students who are part of the UW System. Also eligible are applicants and young companies with technologies affiliated with the WiSYS Technology Foundation or UW-Milwaukee Research Foundation. Those affiliated with UW-Madison are not eligible to be primary clients but may contribute to projects with eligible applicants from other Wisconsin universities and colleges.