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Four very young Wisconsin companies are just coming out of the gate but, already, a couple of them have achieved some impressive wins:

The U.S. Olympic Speedskating team plans to use workout clothes developed by Seiva Technologies, with embedded sensors, to train for the 2018 Olympic games.

“It’s the next wave of wearables,” said Seiva CEO and co-founder Andrew Hampel.

The UW Housing Division and the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King have installed Emonix’s device on their water softeners to monitor water hardness and determine more precisely when salt is needed.

“Both are saving hundreds of dollars in salt costs per month and reducing the amount of salt pollution they return to local water systems,” Emonix CEO Neil Klingensmith said.

The technologies may sound as if they came from big companies with years of industry experience. But, in fact, Seiva and Emonix were two of four startups, dreamed up by Wisconsin college students, that just completed gener8tor’s gBETA mentorship program.

The four teams had six weeks of individualized coaching, at sessions held in Madison, and made their final presentations on Tuesday night.

  • Emonix installs a small box of equipment onto a commercial water softener. Its sensors check the mineral content of water and tell the softener when to add salt. Klingensmith said the device can cut salt costs by 30 percent, saving commercial customers a few thousand dollars a year.
  • Exis makes it easier to write computer code by standardizing some repetitive coding. “Our tools make writing software simpler and more accessible than ever before,” said CEO Dale Willis. The company also provides secure communication between mobile and web applications and servers in the computer cloud.
  • Seiva’s fitness clothes have sensors that track muscle activity and a gyroscope that follows movement patterns. Used for training, they can tell runners “which muscle-firing patterns yield their fastest speeds,” Hampel said. “They redefine the way athletes measure performance.”
  • 23Vivi is an online marketplace for digital and fine art. Artists can each display up to 23 of their works. Launched Monday with two art designs, the company had $500 in sales by Friday morning, CEO QuHarrison Terry said. A more elaborate launch is planned in early 2016.

Emonix, Exis and 23Viva are the products of UW-Madison students and are based in Madison. Seiva was created by Marquette University students and is based in Milwaukee.

About 120 people attended their final pitch party at The Brink Lounge on Tuesday night.

“They really did an excellent job,” said Michael Falk, general counsel for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). “They were so hip and interesting and spoke to economics of their companies (in a way) that was really credible.”

It is the second class for gBETA; the first was held this summer. The gener8tor accelerator operates in Madison and Milwaukee and alternates its regular 12-week program between the two cities.

Jon Eckhardt, executive director of the UW-Madison Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship and a co-founder of gener8tor, said he thinks programs like gener8tor are spurring more cooperation between Madison and Milwaukee.

“The cities have different capabilities,” Eckhardt said. “It created more resources for everybody ... And investment capital is definitely moving between the cities.”

Frank Staniszewski said he thinks some of the companies have a lot of potential. Staniszewski, president of the Madison Development Corp. for the past 30 years, said he’s amazed at the recent growth in entrepreneurship.

“It’s a new model. We’re glad to see it,” he said.

A fifth company, Visual Bioscience, offering eye cells from pigs for use in research on human eyes, could not complete the program because of “unforeseen personal commitments,” Sara Woldt, gener8tor’s director of business development, said.


Judy Newman is a business reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.