More than 90 judges have volunteered to judge entries and provide feedback in the 2016 Governor’s Business Plan Contest, a record number that includes a cross-section of disciplines that help define Wisconsin’s startup culture.

This year’s judging pool will also feature the strongest representation from early stage investors since the contest’s inception. About 40 percent of the judging list includes individuals from some of the Upper Midwest’s most active investment groups, including Wisconsin Investment Partners, Golden Angels Investors, American Family Ventures, BrightStar Wisconsin, Capital Midwest, 4490 Ventures, HealthX Ventures, Venture Management, Inventure Capital, Angels on the Water, Wisconsin River Business Angels, Wisconsin Super Angels Fund, Northwoods Angels, Stateline Angels, NEW Capital Management, Symphony Corp. and Vue Ventures.

Contestants have until 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, to enter their 250-word business ideas at

Other major categories of judges include veteran entrepreneurs; advisors from accelerators and incubators; executives in larger businesses that often do business with startups and emerging companies; professionals from financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions; and experienced service providers working in the trenches with startups on a daily basis.

The list also includes judges with a background in higher education or research and development, often serving as direct points of contact for entrepreneurial programs on their respective campuses. Many of Wisconsin’s major research institutions – the UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the Medical College of Wisconsin – are represented, as well as Edgewood College, Madison College, Marian University and UW System campuses around the state.

Judges provide feedback to contestants throughout the contest’s four phases. A separate group of contest mentors includes experts from the UW-Extension’s Center for Technology Commercialization and SCORE. Mentors are available for questions from contestants throughout the contest.

“This talented cross-section of judges and mentors allows for a thorough review of contest entries – as well as valuable feedback to contestants from people who know their way around technology, investing and business,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. The Tech Council is producing the 13th annual contest.

Designed to encourage entrepreneurs in the startup stage of tech-bases businesses in Wisconsin, the contest leads to valuable public and media exposure for the top business plans and helps spur economic growth in the state. Once again, finalists will share in more than $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.

Since the contest’s inception in 2004, more than 3,100 entries have been received from 300 communities across Wisconsin. Finalists have shared in $2 million in cash and service prizes (such as legal, accounting, office space and marketing).

Past finalists have launched companies that have raised $200 million in grants, loans and private equity financing – all while creating jobs and economic value for Wisconsin.

The contest’s major sponsor is the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Additional sponsors to date include Aberdean; American Family Insurance; American Transmission Co.; AT&T; Madison Gas & Electric; PowerBuy 4 You; Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren; SCORE; Smith & Gesteland; UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations; and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

To enter or become a sponsor, visit