Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. and Aurora Health Care each are committing $5 million to venture funds that will invest in startup companies in the Milwaukee area.
The two new funds also could spur other large companies in the Milwaukee area to set up similar funds.
“I definitely think there will be other companies interested going forward,” said Mike Rodgers, director of strategic innovation for Aurora. “This is what Milwaukee needs right now.”
Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Venture Capital and Aurora Health Care’s InvestMKE will have their own investment criteria but will often collaborate.
“We recognize technology is a key driver of Milwaukee’s future and the private sector needs to play a lead role in getting us there,” John Schlifske, chairman and CEO of Northwestern Mutual, said in a statement. “Cream City Venture Capital demonstrates our commitment to advancing the startup community to create a vibrant tech ecosystem in Milwaukee that attracts and retains top technology talent.”
Cream City VC, led by Northwestern Mutual venture partner Craig Schedler, will provide early stage funding for startups ranging from $100,000 to $250,000.
Northwestern Mutual also plans to help the companies by providing advisers, co-working space and technology resources.
InvestMKE, Aurora’s fund, will co-invest with Cream City VC and other investors up to $1 million in early-stage companies, focusing on companies in areas such as digital health.
Aurora plans to help the companies by enabling them to draw on the health system’s staff and resources.
Building an ecosystem for startup companies will take years, Rodgers said.
“We know that,” he said.
But he also sees encouraging signs, and he notes that Milwaukee has strengths.
One is being a large city that is small enough that people often know each other. Another is its varied industries.
“There’s an interesting cross-section of companies in Milwaukee,” Rodgers said.