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WiSys names startup team with roots at UW-Eau Claire as 2022 Innovators of the Year

Logan Ickert, left, Sam Fitzhenry, left middle, Nick Hersperger, right middle, receive Innovator of the Year awards from WiSys President Arjun Sanga, right. (Photo: Sashi Popke, UW-La Crosse)

LA CROSSE—WiSys named a group of entrepreneurs with roots at UW-Eau Claire as Carl E. Gulbrandsen Innovators of the Year at the nonprofit’s WiSys SPARK Symposium on Aug. 1.

The team of UW-Eau Claire alums Sam Fitzhenry and Logan Ickert and UW-Madison alum Nick Hersperger received the awards for work around their Bluetooth solutions startup ParityBlu.

The award is bestowed upon UW System faculty, staff, students or community members who make exemplary contributions as a WiSys innovator. The award is named for the former managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation who supported WiSys throughout his tenure.

“Sam, Nick and Logan take every opportunity to learn and grow as they develop their innovative technology in the smart home sector,” said WiSys President Arjun Sanga. “We encourage them to continue to follow their entrepreneurial ambitions.”

Taking advantage of two WiSys entrepreneurship programs, the team advanced their startup that is focused on creating parity in wireless device ecosystems throughout the home.

The young entrepreneurs first pitched their idea for ParityBlu as part of the WiSys AppStart Challenge in the fall of 2020. Their idea stood out among the 73 ideas submitted from across Wisconsin, and the team was named one of three finalists in the challenge.

As a finalist, the team received initial app development support and business mentorship over the course of several months from WiSys partners. The team ultimately won the challenge and a prize package totaling more than $10,000 in cash and services to help launch their business.

Building on their experience with the WiSys APPStart Challenge, the ParityBlu team applied to participate in another WiSys program designed to help startups get off the ground. In February 2021, ParityBlu was accepted into the Level Up!™ mentorship program at WiSys VentureHome®-Eau Claire.

Level Up!™ is a five month action-oriented program to take scalable businesses or ideas to the next level. Participants learn to validate customer needs, identify go-to-market strategy, find early adopters, and demonstrate market traction, among other important steps of launching a successful technology startup.

The team received the award at a special Innovation Awards Banquet during the WiSys SPARK Symposium, the organization’s annual celebration of the best and brightest researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs working in or with the UW System’s 11 regional universities.

WiSys is a nonprofit organization that works with faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the UW System to facilitate cutting-edge research programs, develop and commercialize discoveries, and foster a spirit of innovative and entrepreneurial thinking across the state.