The Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest – the nation’s first statewide, tech-based business plan competition – is accepting entries online for the 2009 competition.  Entries will be accepted now through 5 p.m. Jan. 31, 2009.  The contest’s Grand Prize is worth $50,000 in cash and services.

For their initial entries, contestants will submit 250-word idea abstracts online at  Contestants who advance to subsequent contest rounds will have the opportunity to expand their plan or idea.   More than 60 judges drawn from the finance, sales, marketing, research and specific technology sectors will score the entries and provide feedback.

Managed by the Wisconsin Technology Council, the contest sprang out of conversations with Gov. Jim Doyle shortly after he was first elected in 2002.  Doyle had talked about the value of a statewide business plan contest during his campaign, and it meshed with similar plans underway within the Tech Council.   The mission of the contest is to encourage entrepreneurs in the creation, start-up and early-growth stages of high-tech businesses in Wisconsin. 

Since its inception in 2004, more than 1,300 entries have been received and nearly $850,000 in cash and in-kind prizes has been awarded.  In 2008, 17 finalists won cash prizes.

According to results of a fall 2008 survey of 2004-2008 finalists, more than half of those who responded have received financing for their plan through a variety of sources including angel and venture capital; and 75 percent of those who responded reported the contest led to an increase in public exposure for the company.

Wisconsin residents 18 years old and older are eligible, as are teams from Wisconsin-based businesses and organizations.  Businesses or teams from outside the state are also eligible to compete so long as they plan to base their business in Wisconsin.  Entrepreneurs may enter multiple ideas, so long as each idea is separate and distinct.

Teams and individuals alike who have participated in the contest have found the process to be a rewarding one. (See our web site for information on past winners.)

“….The [GBPC] took us through a process of increasingly detailed planning, and the comments we received helped us focus even more. Our presentations sparked interest from venture capital, further refining the business plan,” said Daniel van der Weide of Optametra, the winner of the Information Technology category in the 2008 contest. “…Participation in the GBPC will help a young company raise capital in challenging times, and the advice, though free of charge, was priceless.”
“The GBPC was an exceptional opportunity to gain invaluable visibility,” said Jeff Williams, the winner of the Life Sciences category in 2008. “We were contacted by groups outside of the state because of the press associated with the contest.”

As with past contests, the 2009 competition will take place in three stages:

•      In the “Business Concepts” phase, which is open until Jan. 31, 2009 at 5 p.m., the contest will accept IDEA Abstracts on the web site. IDEA abstracts are 250-word business concepts that will be graded on a scale of 1-10 (10 highest) by our judges. The top 50 IDEA Abstract presenters will be asked to write a Summary Business Plan.
•      In the “Summary Business Plan” phase, which runs from Feb. 23 to March 12, 2009, the top 50 IDEA Abstract presenters, plus ties, post their 1,000-word summaries online for comments by the judges. Contestants may be encouraged to revise their plans based on judges’ comments. The top 20 plan summaries are selected for the final round.

•      In the “Final Business Plan” phase, which runs from April 2 to April 27, 2009, the top 20 Summary Plan presenters, plus ties, prepare final plans for judging. Limited comments and mentoring continues. Judges will review the plans and pick three place winners in each category.

•      The four category winners will present at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference, June 9-10 in Milwaukee; all prize winners will be announced there.

James Hamilton of Graphene Solutions, a nanotechnology company that featured a 17-year-old student on its scientific team, was the grand prize winner in the 2008 contest.  The company has patent-pending technology that could transform electronics, optics and materials science. It was Graphene Solution’s first year in the contest.

To enter, become a judge or a sponsor, visit
Sponsors of the 2008 contest were: Aberdean Consulting LLC; American Transmission Co.;  API Software; Associated Bank; The Boldt Company; CG Schmidt Co.; EarthIT; Fitchburg Technology Campus; Foley & Lardner LLP; The Gialamas Company; J.P. Cullen & Sons; Johnson Block CPAs; Journal Interactive, the digital media division of Journal Communications, Inc.; Loughrin Accounting & Tax Service; Marshfield Clinic Applied Sciences; Madison Gas & Electric Co.; McAllen TEC Campus; Michael Best & Friedrich LLP; Midwest Airlines; Palo Alto Software, Inc.; Quarles & Brady LLP; Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c.; Ruedebusch Development & Construction; Smith & Gesteland LLP; State of Wisconsin Investment Board; TDS Telecom; University Research Park; Wisconsin Department of Commerce;; Wisconsin Angel Network; Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C.; and the Wisconsin Technology Council.