Aurora Health Care is teaming up with a local venture capital firm to invest $5 million each to support startup companies in Milwaukee, where both organizations are located.

Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Venture Capital and the health system's InvestMKE initiative, an effort to invest dollars in tech and innovation, will each have independent investment criteria but will work in close collaboration to maximize the opportunities for funding, mentorship and technology development, says Craig Schedler, venture partner with Northwestern Mutual.  

“This is a natural intersection. Both [entities] want people to live well and have financial [security],” says Mike Rodgers, Aurora’s director of strategic innovations.

InvestMKE is looking to invest in startups in three specific areas:

  • Digital health transformation, creating integrated technologies to deliver personalized and precise care.
  • Next-generation innovation, such as artificial intelligence, automation and advanced analytics, which will provide solutions to make quality care more efficient.
  • Wellness beyond health, such as financial planning, transportation and safety.

Cream City will also focus on technology, but not on a specific industry, says Schedler.

The venture, launched Oct. 30, has already generated significant interest from local startups. “A lot of entrepreneurs think it’s great and purposeful. It will break down normal barriers. It’s energizing, and that’s infectious and very cool,” says Rodgers.

Aurora is one of Wisconsin’s most comprehensive health care providers, with 15 hospitals, more than 150 clinics,  70-plus pharmacies and more than 33,000 caregivers. Northwestern Mutual provides financial security in insurance, annuities and other services for more than 4.4 million people.

“We believe that Milwaukee has the talent and entrepreneurial spirit to be a premier city for startups. By providing access to capital, mentorship and support resources, we can transform Milwaukee to create a strong and thriving tech community,” Schedler says.

Rodgers recommends that other hospitals and health systems consider similar programs. “What if there’s a solution, a way to look outside the box and serve patients better, the board better and the community better?” he says.

Schedler agrees. “Our partnership with Aurora is focused on our shared goal of supporting and growing our local startup community. If hospitals are interested in starting their own venture fund, there are always opportunities to partner with other companies and co-invest alongside qualified investment professionals,” he says.