MADISON – The Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest – the nation’s first statewide, tech-based business plan competition – is accepting entries online for the 2008 competition.  Entries will be accepted now through 5 p.m. Jan. 31, 2008.  The contest’s Grand Prize is worth $50,000 in cash and services.

For their initial entry, 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 1,000 entries have been received and nearly $650,000 in cash and in-kind prizes has been awarded.  In 2007, 12 finalists won cash prizes.

Surveys by the Tech Council have shown that more than 60 percent of finalists have received financing totaling since competing in the contest. That includes a reported $11 million in private equity (angel and venture capital). More than 80 percent of finalists reported that the contest led to contacts from potential investors and 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 best part of the Business Plan Contest experience was also the most difficult part and that was writing the business plan. It was a rigorous process. It forced me to think about the most important component parts of (our) business plan and weed out all the other stuff. I didn’t enter to win a contest. I entered to accomplish something useful for my business and that’s the best reason to enter,” said Dave Rasmussen of Extract Systems, the winner of the Information Technology category in the 2007 contest.

As with past contests, the 2008 competition will take place in three stages:

-    In the “Business Concepts” phase, which is open until Jan. 31, 2008 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. 21 to March 13, 2008, 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 3 to April 24, 2008, 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.

Janet Phillips of Vector Surgical, a start-up company from Oconomowoc, was the grand prize winner in the 2007 contest. The company markets medical devices that drive precision, efficiency and safety in surgical procedures. It was Vector Surgical’s third year in the contest.

To enter, become a judge or a sponsor, visit
Sponsors of the 2007 contest were: Aberdean Consulting LLC, American Transmission Co., Associated Bank; Axley Brynelson LLP, The Boldt Company, CG Schmidt, Fitchburg Technology Campus, Foley & Lardner LLP, J.P. Cullen & Sons, Johnson Block CPAs, Loughrin Accounting & Tax Service, Madison Gas & Electric Co., Makin’ HEY! Communications, Marshfield Clinic Applied Sciences, McAllen TEC Campus, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Quarles & Brady LLP, Ruedebusch Development and Construction, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, s.c., Smith & Gesteland LLP, State of Wisconsin Investment Board, T Wall Properties, University Research Park, Wisconsin Department of Commerce,, Wisconsin Angel Network, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, the Wisconsin Angel Network, the Wisconsin Realtors Association, and the Wisconsin Technology Council.