The ninth annual Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest is accepting entries online for the 2012 competition until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012.

The contest is designed to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into business plans, to prepare them to launch a company, to get feedback from mentors and to interact with investors and other professionals. Finalists will share in more than $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.

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, more than 2,000 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 three stages:

  • In the “Business Concepts” phase, which is open until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, 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 ideas plus ties will advance to the Executive Summary stage.        
  • In the “Executive Summary” phase, which runs from Feb. 24 to March 19, 2012, 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 9 to April 30, 2012, the top 20 Executive Summary presenters, plus ties, prepare plans of up to 20 pages for judging. Limited comments and mentoring continues. Judges will review the plans and pick three place winners in each category to advance as the “Diligent Dozen.”
  • The “Diligent Dozen” will present orally and compete in front of live judging for the contest’s grand prize at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference, to be held June 5-6 in Milwaukee.

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 contest’s major sponsors include the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

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