Nonprofit startup funder BrightStar lands donated office space in Empire Building

Zilber Property Group has provided office space in downtown Milwaukee to house BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation Inc., a new organization seeking nonprofit status that will collect donations to fund startups and job creation statewide.

BrightStar will operate in Zilber’s Empire Building, 710 N. Plankinton Ave., at the corner of Plankinton and Wisconsin avenues, according to an announcement Tuesday.

“This contribution by the Zilber Property Group will allow us to direct an even higher percentage of donor dollars to our mission of investing in early-stage companies to fuel job creation,” said Jeff Harris, BrightStar Wisconsin’s co-founder and chairman. “With the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s grant commitment to us for staffing and Zilber’s contribution of significant office space, the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation will be able to invest nearly all of our assets in job creation across Wisconsin.”

WEDC pledged $300,000 for BrightStar operating expenses. BrightStar has also received a $1 million pledge from Ab Nicholas, founder and chairman of Milwaukee-based investment management firm Nicholas Co.

BrightStar said Tuesday that it has hired its first two employees.

Todd Sobotka, previously BizStarts Milwaukee Inc.’s venture track program director, will serve as BrightStar’s portfolio manager. He is the co-founder and owner of multiple companies.

Fred Raasch, most recently a self-employed marketing consultant, will serve as business manager.
Sobotka and Raasch join BrightStar’s volunteer CEO Tom Shannon.

The foundation plans to hire additional staff once the Internal Revenue Service makes a formal decision regarding BrightStar’s tax-exempt status, the crucial piece in making the foundation’s model work. BrightStar applied for tax-exempt status on Aug. 6.

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