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Tech and Biotech: New funding for Madison area techs and biotechs

Tech and Biotech: New funding for Madison area techs and biotechs


Several young Madison companies are coming into money and opportunities.

Centrose, a biotechnology company working on cancer-fighting drugs, got a $224,734 grant from the National Cancer Institute. The six-month, Small Business Innovation Research grant will help Centrose conduct tests to see if its prospective drug compound, EDC1, will work on renal cell carcinoma, a prevalent type of kidney cancer.

“Renal cancer is obviously a significant unmet need” in terms of effective treatment, said James Prudent, Centrose president and chief executive. The illness kills nearly 14,000 people in the U.S. each year, the cancer institute says.

Centrose is working on a half-dozen potential drugs and EDC1 is at the top of the list. It also is under study as a possible foe against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and pancreatic cancer, among other ailments, Prudent said. EDC1 binds two proteins and signals cancer cells to die, according to Centrose.

Prudent said the cancer institute funding will let the company hire two more employees; he won’t say how many people already work for the company, founded in 2007.

Investors fork up funds for Forkforce

Forkforce opened shop online in March and just closed on $250,000 from investors — on top of an initial $100,000 the company received since it was established last September.

Forkforce is a job matchup service for the restaurant industry. “It’s about the quality of the hire, not the quantity,” said CEO Mike Wagner. “It’s a way employers and employees can find the right fit.”

For now, the most prominent eateries on Forkforce’s website are those of Food Fight, Madison’s biggest local restaurant company, including such stalwarts as Monty’s Blue Plate Diner and Eldorado Grill.

Investors include KSFI Partners and individuals such as Marc Vaccaro, a cofounder of The Great Lakes Cos., a precursor of Great Wolf Resorts, Madison.

OpenHomes closes funding round

OpenHomes, a graduate of the gener8tor tech accelerator program in Madison and Milwaukee, is looking to hire two full-time software developers to its current staff of two full-timers and one part-timer.

Founded by former Democratic state representative Kelda Helen Roys, OpenHomes offers a new, online way to connect home buyers and sellers. Roys said the funds are going toward marketing as well as for “developing our technology ... and creating tools for home buyers and sellers, as well as our mobile app.”

The company landed $180,000 in December 2013. Investors include gener8tor, the CSA Partners venture fund in Milwaukee and the Angels on the Water investment group in Oshkosh.

Bankmybiz competes for big prize

Bankmybiz, founded in March 2013 and live online for about seven months, will be one of 25 semifinalists in a competition sponsored by Miller Lite that features a celebrity investor from ABC’s “Shark Tank” TV program and offers a whopping $200,000 grand prize.

“We’re really honored,” said Michael Adam, CEO and founder of the company, which helps small businesses find lenders.

The Miller Lite Tap the Future business plan competition will hold five live-pitch presentations around the country, each with five contenders. Bankmybiz, which will face off against its four competitors in Atlanta on June 10. Judges there will include Daymond John, an entrepreneur and “Shark Tank” investor.

“Those (judges) are pretty rigorous. It will be great to get their feedback, and hear what they’ve got to say,” Adam said.

The audience will also include potential investors, and that opportunity alone will be a bonus, he said.

This is the second shot at national recognition this year for Bankmybiz. In March, it was one of 20 young tech companies from around the U.S. picked to make presentations at the SXSW Startup Spotlight in Austin, Texas.

Contact Judy Newman at with tips and story suggestions.

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