Wisconsin business leaders form new investment group

Eight business leaders and investors have joined together to create the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, a new nonprofit vehicle for investing in early-stage companies.

The eight have pledged to contribute a total of nearly $6 million to set up the philanthropic foundation, and they expect it to raise another $60 million over the next three years.

Donors will not get any return on their investment; the nonprofit organization will pump nearly all of its earnings and returns back into young companies to create more jobs and grow the economy.

“Our unique approach with BrightStar is focused on creating high-paying jobs,” said co-founder Tom Shannon, who will lead the foundation. “BrightStar will go a long way to help fill the significant gap of more than $250 million in Wisconsin between the need for and the availability of early-stage capital that supports job creation.”

Shannon was chief executive of Prodesse, a Waukesha company that developed molecular diagnostic tests for flu. Prodesse was purchased in 2009 for $72 million by Gen-Probe, of San Diego, which is now part of Massachusetts-based Hologic.

Other BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation co-founders include Mark Burish, partner with the Hurley, Burish & Stanton law firm in Madison and board chairman of Sonic Foundry, and Mike Shannon, a UW alumnus and managing director of KSL Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Denver and New York. KSL unsuccessfully bid against Apollo Global Management to buy Great Wolf Resorts of Madison last year.

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