MADISON – Four young firms competing in the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium’s “Elevator Pitch Olympics” proved they know exactly which buttons to push when it comes to grabbing the attention of investors.


More than 25 companies competed in two rounds of the contest, held Oct. 30-31 during the symposium at Madison’s MononaTerraceCommunity & ConferenceCenter. The Olympics are a rapid-fire succession of 90-second pitches made by Wisconsin firms seeking private equity capital to a panel of venture capitalists and angel investors.


All companies were judged on how their pitches would have compelled the panel of investors to either take a meeting with them or read beyond the first page of their business plans if they arrived in their offices the next day. The highest scores were posted by:


  • Hirak Basu of Colby Pharmaceuticals (Madison)
  • Erik Bergman of Luminary Biosciences (Elm Grove)
  • Anthony Escarcega of Ratio Drug Delivery (Madison)
  • Bonnie Greenwood of Transitions Inc. (Verona)


Each of the top four won a “Rising Star” trophy. Other top-scoring presentations were made by Mitch Nick of Firesite LLC (Madison) and Danato Diorio of Broadlook Technologies (Pewaukee). 


The phrase “elevator pitch” describes a sales pitch that is delivered in a short amount of time – such as an elevator ride in a tall building, or some other place where the presenter has a captive audience.  Unlike most “elevator pitches,” however, all of the pitches made during the contest were followed by a period of personalized scoring and feedback from the investors. 


“Traditional venture conferences have much longer presentations and little or no feedback. The Elevator Pitch Olympics is built around quick pitches and immediate, customized feedback from active investors,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council.  “Overall, the Olympics reinforced the fact that Wisconsin has a deep bench of entrepreneurial talent.”


The Elevator Pitch Olympics has quickly become one of the hallmarks of the annual Early Stage Symposium, which is organized by the Tech Council.  This year’s conference attracted nearly three dozen investors from Wisconsin, Minnesota, California and Illinois.  Among the attendees at the conference and judges for the Elevator Pitch Olympics were investors from Baird Venture Partners, Mason Wells Private Equity, Venture Investors LLC, Peak Ridge Capital/Avolte Midwest Venture Fund, Kips Bay Partners, Khosla Ventures, Marquette Golden Angels, Wisconsin Investment Partners, Daycholah Capital, RPX Group, U.S. Bank, Continuum Investment, NEW Fund, Phenomenelle Angels, Silicon Pastures, Marshfield Investment Partners, Central Wisconsin Business Angels, SDWA Ventures, MDC Venture Debt Fund and Badger AgVest. 


Also occurring as a result of the presentations made at the Elevator Pitch Olympics were on-site meetings at the conference between entrepreneurs and investors.  “With such a high concentration of investors and high-quality entrepreneurs on hand, it’s only natural that such meetings would occur,” Still said.


Platinum level sponsors are: Foley & Lardner, LLP; Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.; Grant Thornton, LLP; Michael, Best & Friedrich, LLP; Quarles & Brady; the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; the Wisconsin Department of Commerce; the Wisconsin Education Association Council; and the Wisconsin Technology Network. Gold sponsors are: Aberdean Consulting, LLC; American Transmission Co.; AT&T; Baird Venture Partners; Madison Gas & Electric Co.; Park Printing; University Research Park; WEA Trust; Wipfli; Wisconsin Bankers Association; and the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.