Six months before state officials announced Foxconn had selected Mount Pleasant as the site for a huge factory, a tiny startup in Madison had an inkling of what was to come.
Curate collects early information on potential construction projects. Using artificial intelligence, its software mines the data from municipal agendas and meeting minutes and provides it to contractors who might be interested in working on the projects.
Last April, Curate founders Taralinda and Dale Willis started noticing proposals for infrastructure improvements in southeastern Wisconsin.
“We saw huge wastewater improvements being discussed in Sturtevant and Mount Pleasant,” Taralinda Willis said.
It wasn’t until June that the Associated Press reported Wisconsin was in the running for the $10 billion flat-screen display plant that Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn plans to build, and in October, Mount Pleasant was named as the site for the factory.
“We kept looking at the data. ... We knew that it would likely be in Sturtevant or Mount Pleasant. Combined with the tour buses and jets (flying over the area) and everything going in the rumor mill, we would have been surprised if it was something else,” Willis said. “We knew if it was going to be in Wisconsin, it would be in Racine County.”
For Curate’s contractor customers, it is not just the factory but the development the plant could spur that they want to get in on. “There’s going to be a huge amount of housing and retail associated with this project,” Willis said.
Figuring out the Foxconn site may have been one important step for Curate, but now, the young company — founded in May 2016 — is getting ready for growth.
Curate has raised $450,000 from investors led by Idea Fund of La Crosse. That will help the startup add a software developer, provide more tools through the technology, and expand the territory it serves.
Initially focused on Wisconsin projects, Curate already is collecting building project data in Minnesota, and is checking on infrastructure projects for engineering firms in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, Willis said.
“My goal is to continue building this out throughout the Midwest and then expand nationally, to be the local expert in all markets for our customers,” she said. Willis said Curate also is working with several associations to track ordinances at the municipal level that could impact their members.
Taralinda Willis, 31, has a bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison in kinesiology — the study of human movement — and a master’s in business administration from UW-Whitewater. She is Curate’s CEO.
Her husband, Dale Willis, 28, the company’s chief technical officer, was pursuing his doctorate in computer science at UW-Madison until he set aside his studies to devote his energy to the company.
In addition to the couple, Curate has two other full-time employees and a third who will move from part time to full time in May.
Curate is the first investment of the Idea Fund of La Crosse, one of several venture capital funds set up in Wisconsin through the Badger Fund of Funds. The Badger Fund of Funds was established in 2015 with $30 million from the state of Wisconsin and other investors with the goal of investing in promising local startups to create jobs.
Jon Horne, managing director of the Idea Fund of La Crosse, said he was impressed with Taralinda’s knowledge and experience in the construction industry — she was a project manager for the Union South construction in 2011 — and Curate’s technology.
“Their product is sophisticated and addresses a problem faced by anybody involved in a construction project. I look forward to the opportunities ahead as they accelerate their vision,” Horne said.
Curate also has moved into new offices at 16 N. Carroll St., the Churchill building.
The company is a graduate of the gener8tor accelerator and has raised a total of $540,000 so far.