The Wisconsin Private Equity Program is primarily focused on venture capital
partnerships active in Wisconsin and the Midwest. The program is an outgrowth
of SWIB’s broader interest in private equity funds that began in the mid-1980s.
Currently, five venture capital firms have commitments from SWIB. They are three
Wisconsin-based firms: Venture Investors (Madison), Mason Wells (Milwaukee),
Baird Venture Partners (Milwaukee) along with Northgate, a California firm, and Frazier Technology, a Seattle firm.
The Wisconsin-based venture funds firms are operating in Wisconsin with
interests covering a range of technologies, including biomedical, life
science, business service and enterprise software and applied technology
(such as wireless devices, fuel cells). Together, these firms include
investments from providing seed money to new companies to providing
additional funds for growth.
The first initiative was approved in April
1999 with a proposal to invest up to $50 million in nonpublic healthcare and
biotechnology companies in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Out of the $50
million, $45 million was allocated to Mason Wells Biomedical Fund I in
Milwaukee and Venture Investors Early Stage Fund III, based in Madison.
second initiative, approved in 2002, was to invest up to $100 million in
venture capital funds active in Wisconsin. The investment focus was extended
to all emerging technologies. In April, 2003, a total of $90 million was
allocated to Baird Venture Partners Fund I (B) and Frazier Technology
Ventures II, a Seattle-based fund with a Madison office. In December 2005,
an investment of up to $50 million in nonpublic healthcare, biotechnology
and emerging technologies located in Wisconsin and the Midwest was approved.
Out of the $50 million, $30 million, including a side-by-side commitment,
was allocated to Venture Investors Early Stage Fund IV.
In 2008, SWIB invested $25 million in Baird Venture
Partners Fund III. Baird Venture Partners. In addition to the $25 million
commitment, $15 million was committed for direct co-investments in portfolio
companies in Wisconsin that have been financed or will be financed by
partnership funds SWIB has invested in over the past nine years.
In 2011, SWIB committed $80 million to Northgate
Capital, a fund-of-funds manager with access to top-performing venture
capital funds on the East and West coasts. The decision was made based on
the access to high quality venture funds that generate the predominant
amount of returns in the asset class but also to improve the changes for
high-growth companies in Wisconsin to raise venture capital with SWIB acting
as an intermediary (matching companies with capital).
In 2012, SWIB committed $25 million to Early Stage Fund V, bringing the
total amount allocated to the Wisconsin Venture Capital initiative to $305
Private Equity Investing
The State of Wisconsin Investment Board and Wisconsin Alumni Research
Foundation have created an early-stage venture capital fund focused on
information technology. Called 4490 Ventures, a reference to the 44ᴼ N
latitude and 90ᴼ W longitude lines that approximate the center of the state
of Wisconsin, the $30 million fund will focus on early-stage companies
primarily in Wisconsin. The private fund, capitalized jointly by SWIB and
WARF, is intended to generate attractive returns and build value for state
retirement fund participants and WARF’s primary beneficiary, the University
here to read more about 4490 Ventures.