MADISON – The first prize winner in the Governor’s Business Plan Contest will receive $50,000 from the Department of Commerce, Secretary Cory L. Nettles announced today.

The department’s pledge brings to $105,000 the amount already raised for prizes in the statewide business plan contest, which is accepting first-round applications from contestants through Jan. 31. Private donors so far include Mason Wells Private Equity, American Transmission Co. and J.P. Cullen & Sons.

“Gov. Jim Doyle said during his 2002 campaign that he wanted to create a better entrepreneurial climate in Wisconsin, and he specifically mentioned a statewide Business Plan Contest as one way to do so,” said Secretary Nettles. “This first-ever contest is reaching out to entrepreneurs across Wisconsin – and tapping into ideas that can grow into businesses. The Governor’s Business Plan Contest is an opportunity to compete for cash and in-kind prizes – but it’s also a chance to get constructive feedback on a business plan and to help move it from ‘virtual business’ to reality.”

Through Jan. 20, 60 business plan summaries have been submitted through the contest web site at . Nearly 200 people from 68 communities have registered their intent to file at least one plan. The general deadline for submission of these 200-word summaries is Jan. 31, 2004.

“This is the first statewide contest in Wisconsin history and the first of its kind in the nation,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council and the Wisconsin Innovation Network (WIN) Foundation. “The Governor’s contest draws from the experience of corporate and academic contests around the country, as well as existing contests run through UW-Madison, Marquette University and Momentum Chippewa Valley.”

The mission of the contest is to encourage entrepreneurs in the creation, start-up and early-growth stages of high-growth businesses in Wisconsin. Participants have the chance to win seed capital and valuable services that will help them launch their businesses. Wisconsin residents 18 years old and older are eligible, as are teams from Wisconsin-based businesses and organizations. The contest will cover four categories: Information technology and e-Commerce, advanced manufacturing, life sciences and financial services. The common thread in all four categories is the use of cutting-edge technology.

Gov. Doyle unveiled the contest at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in June. It has since been launched through public events and a web site that will serve as a portal for contest activities through June 2004.

Here’s how the process works:

  • In the “Business Concepts” phase, which runs until Jan. 31, 2004, the contest will accept IDEA Abstracts on the web site. The top 50 IDEA Abstract presenters will be asked to write a Summary Business Plan. All 50 receive a congratulatory letter from the governor and the Tech Council.
  • In the “Summary Business Plan” phase, which runs from Feb. 1 to Feb. 29, 2004, the top 50 IDEA Abstract presenters post their five-page 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. All 20 receive a congratulatory award.
  • In the “Final Business Plan” phase, which runs from March 1 to April 30, 2004, the top 20 Summary Plan presenters prepare final plans for judging. Limited comments and mentoring continues. Judges will review the plans and pick up to three place winners in each category.
  • The top four category winners will present their plans at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference, and a grand prizewinner will be announced there.

The Wisconsin Technology Council and its WIN chapters are producing the contest along with an impressive list of partners. For more information, contact or Allen Veak of Makin-Hey! Communications at 608/848-5831 or