Office space suitable for start-up companies will be among the prizes available to finalists in the 2012 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

The ninth annual contest is accepting entries online for the 2012 competition at until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31.

The following real-estate firms and office parks have pledged to provide up to one year’s free space to a finalist or finalists in the contest, which will culminate in June at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference.

  • University Research Park in Madison will provide up to two spaces: one laboratory suite at the MGE Innovation Center on the West Side and/or an office space at the Metro Innovation Center on East Washington Ave.
  • Urban Land Interests will provide up to two office suites on Madison’s Capitol Square, where it manages eight properties.
  • Compass Properties LLC will provide office space in downtown Milwaukee, where it manages City Center at 735 near the intersection of Water and Mason streets.
  • The Cornerstone Office Corp. will provide up to two suites in The Cornerstone Building just off Highway 151 in Sun Prairie.
  • The city of Waterloo, which has space in city-owned office parks or through other private landlords in that Jefferson County community, will provide up to two offices.
  • Park Towne Development Corp. in Madison will contribute office space in one of its commercial buildings.   

Other sponsors are contributing cash and services, such as legal assistance, accounting, information technology consulting, marketing and more. A major sponsor is the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. A description of other prizes, which will total more than $100,000, will be released soon.

The contest is designed to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into business plans, prepare them to launch a company, get feedback from mentors and to interact with investors and other professionals.

For their initial entries, contestants will submit 250-word idea abstracts online at Contestants who advance to subsequent contest rounds will have the opportunity to expand their plan in stages. More than 60 judges drawn from the finance, sales, marketing, research and technology sectors across Wisconsin will score the entries and provide feedback on submissions.

Since its inception in 2004, about 2,100 entries have been received and more than $1 million in cash and in-kind prizes has been awarded. Contest categories are Advanced Manufacturing, Business Services, Information Technology and Life Sciences.

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 provided there is intent to base their business in Wisconsin. Entrepreneurs may also enter multiple ideas, though each idea must be separate and distinct.

Companies or individuals that have raised less than $25,000 in private equity for their plans in a current form are eligible to enter. Generally speaking, private equity refers to angel and venture capital. As with past contests, the 2012 competition will take place in stages and culminate at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference, June 5-6 at Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel.

Past finalists have launched companies that have attracted tens of millions of dollars in grants, loans and private equity financing – all while creating jobs and economic value for Wisconsin.

The 2011 grand prize winner was WiRover, which won the Information Technology category with its end-to-end software platform to deliver high-bandwidth Internet services to moving vehicles, including buses, trains, emergency vehicles and automobiles.  Category winners in 2011 were Insulete (Life Sciences); Rapid Force/Kinetic Performance Systems (Advanced Manufacturing) and The Bugabees (Business Services).

To enter, become a judge or a sponsor, visit or contact Kari Fischer at 608-442-7557 ext. 27.