Rich Bendis, an entrepreneur and investor who leads Innovation America and is known as one of the nation’s leading experts on the innovation economy, will speak Nov. 2 to open the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium at Madison’s Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.

Bendis will speak during breakfast on Wednesday, Nov. 2, the first of two days for the annual conference. The 2011 conference theme is “Pulling Together for Success,” which highlights the importance of building an innovation economy through a mix of strategies.

“Innovation America, which Rich Bendis founded and still runs, is devoted to building a more entrepreneurial economy,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which produces the conference. “As an entrepreneur, investor, corporate executive and communicator, Bendis will provide a national perspective on what works in states and cities – and what doesn’t work.”

Bendis has served on White House task forces related to innovation and the Small Business Innovation Research grant program, and on boards or committees for: the State Science and Technology Institute, the National Association of State Venture Funds, the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership the National Academies of Science committee on “Competing in the 21st Century: Best Practices in State and Regional Innovation Initiatives.

The Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium traces its roots to the Madison Venture Fair in the mid-1980s, and has been held continuously under different names for more than 25 years. Last year’s conference drew more than 500 attendees.

Other highlights of the conference opportunities for selected companies to present their company profiles to venture capitalists and other investors. For many firms, participation in the conference has been a key factor for significant business growth. Company applications are requested by 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011.

Like the 2010 conference, this year’s conference is open to early stage companies representing an array of industries: biotechnology, biofuels and products, “cleantech,” advanced manufacturing, information technology, nanotechnology and business services. There are two separate presentation levels at the Early Stage Symposium: the Wisconsin Angel Network Investors’ Track and the Elevator Pitch Olympics.

Companies selected for the WAN track will have many opportunities to interest investors: networking receptions; a seven-minute presentation, an executive summary published in the investor-only program, and an exhibit area where investors may speak directly to presenting companies. Investors representing millions of dollars in investment capital attend this event.

Companies selected for the Elevator Pitch Olympics, a crowd favorite, will have the opportunity to give a 90-second pitch to a panel of six to eight investors and receive immediate feedback.  The investors will score the presenter on a scale of 1 to 5, focusing on whether the pitch was compelling enough to arrange a follow-up meeting.

  • About 20 early stage companies seeking capital will be selected to make seven-minute presentations to investors in the Wisconsin Angel Network track. These company presentations will take place the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 2.
  • About 15 companies will be selected for the Elevator Pitch Olympics. In past years, these have been companies seeking a smaller investment round or planning to do so within the next year. All presenters will make 90-second pitches to a panel of investors. The Elevator Pitch Olympics will take place Thursday, Nov. 3.

Companies pay no fee to apply or to present. However, companies must first register to attend the full conference in order to be considered by our steering committee for a presentation slot. 

Register here

Other elements of the conference include an investors’ seminar hosted by the Wisconsin Angel Network, more than a dozen panel discussions, a “First Look” forum for university-based discoveries, receptions, luncheons and other networking events.