MADISON (WKOW) — From breast cancer treatment to beer making, Wisconsin entrepreneurs with novel ideas, and research to back them up, vie to win the annual Governor’s Business Plan Contest, and it’s $25,000 first prize.
A baker’s dozen of finalists who emerged from three hundred entries made their last pitches to a panel of judges at the Alliant Energy Center Tuesday.
Laura King of Madison’s Elucent Medical touted a wand reader to allow a physician to receive real-time information on the size and position of breast cancer tumors. King says current practice involves the painful insertion of a hoop-wire in a patient’s breast. “We completely eliminate that procedure.”
Melinda Caughill of Mequon’s 65 Inc. said her company’s online app could help millions navigate Medicare and avoid mistakes that could cost recipients thousands of dollars. “These mistakes will follow a person for the rest of their lives,” Caughill said.
For some finalist entrepreneurs, the stakes involved with their business concepts were less lofty, and more slice of life.
Or tip of the cup.
MobCraft Beer of Madison uses crowd-sourcing by having online visitors submit ideas for a beer style, and after the company’s brewer distills the suggestions into recipes, carry out an online vote to dictate beer production, and pledge a purchase.
MobCraft’s Henry Schwartz is relaxed about whether his firm will prevail in the contest.
“Well, I think we’ve already won,” Schwartz says. “To get this far in the process is amazing. It means that our business plan has been awesome, something we can present to investors.”
The success of these entrepreneurs and their ilk could be critical to Wisconsin creating future jobs and attracting investment capital, as recent surveys show the state lagging other states in entrepreneurial activity.
Contest judge and angel-stage investor Bob Wood of Wisconsin Investment Partners believes the Badger State is becoming more competitive in the new business arena.
“There’s something going on here bringing capital to our area now, not having to export our talent out to get the funding,” Wood tells 27 News. “I think we’re seeing a shift.”
Finalist Roving Blue’s Marianna DeMyer says her Lena firm’s small, portable water purification system is unique in its concept, and uses filters and sanitizers to make even sewer water drinkable. DeMyer says Roving Blue has a patent pending, pre-orders, and a large, potential market in Alaska.
She says winning the Governor’s Contest could put her firm over the top.
“It would gives us some seed money so we can complete independent laboratory certification we need, because if we obtain the certification, we’ll be able to sell to the military,” DeMyer says.
Wood’s advice to these stand-out, start-up companies and their staffs? “Be flexible, be persistent, and stay focused.”
The contest winner will be announced Wednesday. In addition to the monetary prize, participation in the contest provides company with mentoring, networking, and the chance to refine business approaches.