Wisconsin on the Prowl for VC Returns

The $56 billion State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB), which is responsible for investing the Wisconsin Retirement System’s assets, is hoping to hire one or more managers to invest approximately $100 million in Midwestern technology companies, with at least half the capital going to Wisconsin-based companies.

SWIB, which is using $100 million that from its alternative asset portfolio, expects the money to be fully-invested over a three- to five-year period.

In 1999, SWIB invested $45 million into two venture funds that were focused on Wisconsin-based and other Midwestern companies – its first initiative of this type.

“The [$45 million] been successfully committed,” says Vicki Hearing, spokeswoman for the plan. “There has been strong interest by the state, but this is not an economic development initiative.”

According to a report by Monica Jaehnig, portfolio manager in SWIB’s alternative investments group, several factors make focusing on venture investments in Wisconsin’s emerging technology companies attractive.

“The lack of interest in technology investment opportunities in Wisconsin from outside venture capital firms is a real opportunity. A pessimistic viewpoint would conclude that lack of interest’ means lack of good deals.’ However, a more optimistic interpretation is that the local’ nature of venture investing has limited the activities of most venture capital firms to the coasts,” the document states.

Contact Charles Fellers