May 8, 201812:23 PMInside Wisconsin
with Tom Still
Badger Fund of Funds putting down markers across Wisconsin
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Ken Johnson, the veteran Wisconsin investor who is a partner in the Badger Fund of Funds, has held true to his vision from the start.
Even before the Badger Fund of Funds was officially seeded in 2014 with a $25-million investment from the state of Wisconsin, Johnson described the early stage fund as “money for minnows” to be led by young, regionally focused managers.
In time, Johnson predicted, those 30-something managers would be seasoned enough to raise second and third funds — boosting return on investment for everyone, including the communities in which the funds were rooted.
Four years later, the vision shared by Johnson, of Fitchburg-based Kegonsa Capital Partners, and his business partner, Brian Birk of New Mexico-based Sun Mountain Capital, is very much alive.
Both the regional and “young guns” aspect of the Badger Fund of Funds will be on display June 5–6 at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Madison, where each of the umbrella funds’ managers will be formally introduced to a statewide crowd.
It comes at a time when Wisconsin needs to attract more capital across the financing spectrum, from later-stage venture capital to angel and other early stage funding for young firms just starting out.
The Idea Fund of La Crosse was the first “recipient” fund to be announced and is operational. It is being managed by Jonathon Horne, a La Crosse native who previously worked in investment banking at J.P. Morgan in New York.
The Winnebago Seed Fund was the second recipient fund to be announced. It is managed by David Trotter, a northeastern Wisconsin native who most recently was a portfolio manager at Legacy Private Trust Co. in Neenah. He is a chartered financial analyst and a graduate of Marquette University's Applied Investment Management Program.
Also poised to invest is Rock River Capital Partners, led by Andy Walker and Christopher Eckstrom. Walker brings a background in data science, analytics, and engineering, as well as a decade of entrepreneurial experience. Eckstrom’s background is institutional investing and turn-around strategies that help young companies grow.
Ross Leinweber of Whitefish Bay is launching the Milwaukee market’s first Badger Fund of Funds, Bold Coast Capital. Leinweber, who previously operated Cedar Road Capital in Port Washington, has been a trader, real-estate investor, and an angel investor, having invested in a half-dozen startups.