Northwestern Mutual Launches VC Fund to Support Milwaukee Startups

The insurer has joined with Aurora Health Care’s InvestMKE to create a $10 million fund to support local Milwaukee startups and foster a culture that attracts and retains top technology talent.  

(Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo credit: Sulfur.)

Northwestern Mutual has announced that it has launched Cream City Venture Capital and partnered with Aurora Health Care’s InvestMKE to support local Milwaukee startups. Each company will invest $5 million through a multiyear funding commitment, business resources and mentorship. While the new fund will not be focused on a specific industry, Northwestern Mutual sees the investment as fitting in with a broader strategy focused on InsurTech investment.

John E. Schlifske, Chairman and CEO, Northwestern Mutual.

Northwestern Mutual presents the news of Cream City Venture Capital (VC) and Aurora Health Care’s InvestMKE as the latest examples of both companies’ commitment to growing the local startup community. Cream City VC and InvestMKE will each have independent investment criteria, but will be run in close collaboration to maximize the opportunities for funding, mentorship and technology development, according Northwestern Mutual’s announcemtn.

“We recognize technology is a key driver of Milwaukee’s future and the private sector needs to play a lead role in getting us there,” comments John E. Schlifske, chairman and CEO, Northwestern Mutual. “Cream City Venture Capital demonstrates our commitment to advancing the startup community to create a vibrant tech ecosystem in Milwaukee that attracts and retains top technology talent.”

Northwestern notes that it has extensive experience with startups, citing its 2015 acquisition of LearnVest. Northwestern Mutual says it has been accelerating its business strategy and increasing strategic investments in innovation. In Jan. 2017, the company launched Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, a $50 million venture capital fund focused on startups with technologies with potential to transform customer experience and reshape the way pursue financial security.

Fostering Technology Culture in Milwaukee

A Northwestern Mutual source says that the company recognizes that technology and innovation will drive the future of its city, and that in order to attract and retain top technology talent the company has an interest in acting in ways that encourage a vibrant tech and startup community. The company reports that it has been increasing its involvement and investment in the local start up community by supporting events such as a Milwaukee startup Week and fintech Meetups.

Craig Schedler, Venture Partner, Northwestern Mutual Venture Partners.

Through Northwestern Mutual’s partnership with Aurora Health Care/InvestMKE, Cream City VC, led by Northwestern Mutual venture partner Craig Schedler, will provide early stage funding for startups ranging from $100,000 to $250,000. Beyond providing early stage capital, Cream City VC will offer its portfolio of companies access to additional Northwestern Mutual resources, including advisors, mentors, co-working space and technology resources. Cream City VC investments will not be focused on a specific industry. The fund will look to partner with local entrepreneurs that are leveraging technology solutions to address significant problems and have a clear vision of the business they are trying to create.

“Technology is rapidly changing not only how we experience health care, but how we live our lives,” comments Nick Turkal, MD, president and CEO of Aurora Health Care. “Entrepreneurs right here in southeastern Wisconsin are at the forefront of this revolution, developing and implementing ideas today that will make a difference tomorrow. Investment through the InvestMKE fund will help us deliver high-quality, cost-effective health care, ultimately helping people live well here at home.”

Through InvestMKE, Aurora will co-invest, with Cream City VC and other qualified investment professionals, up to $1 million in early-stage companies that make health easier, more efficient, and more personalized, according to Northwestern Mutual. In addition to providing investment capital, Aurora plans to link companies with its vast network of health professionals and patient insights that can shape, refine and provide validation efforts for the most promising solutions, according to Northwestern Mutual.

Northwestern Mutual Dedicates $50 Million to InsurTech VC Arm

Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For over a decade he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at AnthODonnell@IIReporter.com or (503) 936-2803.

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