When to start your own company.

Where to find potential customers.

How to approach investors for money.

Those were among the topics tackled at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Madison on Tuesday.

two-day event, held at the Alliant Energy Center’s Exhibition Hall, is
expected to draw as many as 500 people — current and future
entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers and more.

At a session Tuesday on pursuing investors, what to do — and what not to do — became clear:

Read this story in the Wisconsin State Journal here

Take advantage of any opportunity to speak to investors, even if you are not ready for funding, yet.

“You never know what it’s going to lead to,” said Matt Howard, chief executive of EatStreet,
a Madison online restaurant ordering business. Howard said he made a
pitch to a group that declined to invest, but one member of the group
introduced him to others who put $2 million into the company.

Investors want more than a vague concept.

are looking for a good management team and a keen idea — a person, a
team and how they articulate,” said David J. Ward, CEO of NorthStar Consulting, Madison, and co-founder of the Angels on the Water investment group, based in Oshkosh.

Put the idea into context.

should be able to explain why this is the right time to move forward
with a company, said Dan Reed, who manages early stage investments for American Family Insurance. “It’s a really strong indicator of how sophisticated the rest of the presentation will be,” he said.

Be realistic about your competition.

be shy about telling potential investors about the other companies in
your field and about possible hurdles to success, said Carmine Durham,
CEO of Zurex Pharma. That shows “you really do have a good grasp of what’s ahead of you,” he said.

whose EatStreet finalized a $6 million funding round in April, said
when he pitched to West Coast investors early on, they were interested
in his company but wanted it moved to the Bay area.

“It is a challenge to be located in the Midwest. There is no doubt about it,” Durham agreed. “But it is getting better.”

At a noon luncheon Tuesday, Craig and Lea Culver, co-founders of the Culver’s restaurant chain, received the annual “Seize the Day” award for their innovative leadership.

Also highlighting the day’s events were presentations by the 13 finalists in the Governor’s Business Plan contest.

The conference, presented by the Wisconsin Technology Council, continues Wednesday. Winners of the Business Plan Contest will be announced at Wednesday’s luncheon.