A finalist from the Mason Wells BizStarts Collegiate Business Plan Competition will segue into the final round of the statewide Governor’s Business Plan Contest in 2011, organizers have announced.

Entering its second year, the BizStarts competition involves students from a number of Milwaukee-area colleges and universities who write business plans with the aim of moving their ideas beyond the concept stage.

The BizStarts competition, which last year included $15,000 in total prize money, will join three other regional or collegiate contests in feeding into the statewide competition. Those are the G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition at the UW-Madison, the Marquette University Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship Business Plan Contest, and the Northeast Wisconsin Business Plan Contest.

“It’s important to build a network of regional and college contests that can augment the Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which remains one of the premier statewide competitions for entrepreneurs working in the tech-based economy,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. The Tech Council produces the BPC, which is entering its eighth year.

“Like the Mark Zuckerbergs, Michael Dells and Bill Gates who came before them, this generation of college students is serious about starting companies,” said Dan Steininger, a Milwaukee investor and vice president of the BizStarts board of directors. “Tapping into the brainpower of those students is just what Wisconsin needs.”

The statewide contest and the BizStarts competition will be coordinated so that entrepreneurs can enter both if they wish – and that a winner from the BizStarts contest can move into the final round of the BPC, which begins in late April.

The BPC has attracted about 1,800 entries in its first seven years, with roughly 160 finalists sharing in $1 million in cash and other in-kind prizes. The contest begins with a 250-word abstract that is filed online at www.govsbizplancontest.com no later than 5 p.m. Jan. 31, 2011. The contest opens in mid-November and the grand prize is $50,000 in cash and services.

The contest has four categories: Advanced manufacturing, business services, information technology and life sciences. In the first stage, contestants cover four topics: Product or service description; customer definition: their needs – your solution; market description, size and sales strategy; and competition.

The contest is conducted in three written phases, culminating in oral presentations at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Milwaukee in June. Mentoring is available after the first phase, and participants will be eligible to take part in a late February “boot camp.” The contest is judged by more than 70 experienced entrepreneurs, investors and service professionals.

Contestants must be 18 or older and a resident of Wisconsin to enter, although out-of-state residents may enter upon demonstrating they intend to move their business to Wisconsin. The goal of the contest is to stimulate company creation and business growth, especially in tech sectors that are a part of Wisconsin’s “knowledge-based” economy.

Past BPC finalists have raised about $20 million in private equity.

The Tech Council is the non-profit, bipartisan science and technology adviser to the governor and the Legislature. Its programs include the Wisconsin Innovation Network, the Wisconsin Angel Network, the Wisconsin Security Research Consortium and the BPC. BizStarts Milwaukee works with entrepreneurs and start-up businesses in the Milwaukee 7 region.

Sponsors for the 2010 BPC were: 5Nines/Matador Consulting; Aberdean Consulting LLC; Alliant Energy; American Transmission Co.; Associated Bank; Earth Information Technologies; Epiphany Law; Fitchburg Technology Campus; Foley & Lardner LLP; Forte Research Systems; Frontier Airlines; The Gialamas Company; The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Journal Interactive; Kollath & Associates, CPAs; The Luminis Group, Ltd.; Madison Area Technical College; Madison Gas & Electric Co.; McAllen TECH Campus; Michael Best & Friedrich LLP; Murphy Desmond; Perkins Coie; Quarles & Brady LLP; Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c.; Ruedebusch Development & Construction; Rusk Prairie Group; Smith & Gesteland LLP; State of Wisconsin Investment Board; TDS Telecom; University Research Park; Wisconsin Department of Commerce; WisBusiness.com; Wisconsin Angel Network; Wisconsin Tech College System; Wisconsin Technology Council; WTN Media; and Xcel Energy.

Visit www.govsbizplancontest.com to learn more