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Governor's Business Plan Contest: More than 300 ideas submitted for first Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest

Contact: Tom Still or Liz Katz at 608-442-7557
Web site: www.govsbizplancontest.com

MADISON – From innovative ways to improve business processes to ideas for enhancing everyday life, the first Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest has attracted more than 300 ideas from 234 individuals in more than 100 communities, it was announced Wednesday.

The deadline for entering the contest was 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31. Entries received since mid-November were spread over four contest categories aimed at capturing Wisconsin’s best technology-based ideas: Business services (approximately 31 percent of the total), information technology and e-Commerce (approx. 27 percent), advanced manufacturing (approx. 29 percent) and life sciences (approx. 13 percent).

The number of entries in the inaugural contest exceeded the estimates of contest organizers at the Wisconsin Technology Council and sent an encouraging message about the state’s untapped entrepreneurial talent.

“My ‘Grow Wisconsin’ plan called for the establishment of a positive entrepreneurial climate so that great ideas could turn into high-growth businesses for Wisconsin," Gov. Jim Doyle said. "Therefore, I am pleased that we have had a tremendous response to my Governor's Business Plan Contest.”

Wisconsin’s business plan contest is believed to be the only statewide contest in the United States. Major prize sponsors so far include the state Department of Commerce; Mason Wells, the private equity firm; American Transmission Co., which serves Wisconsin’s energy transmission needs; and J.P. Cullen & Sons, the construction firm.

Entries came from 101 communities, which contest organizers took as evidence that Wisconsin’s technology innovation and entrepreneurial spirit are not confined to a few high-tech hot spots. A breakdown of entries by community is attached.

“Entrepreneurs live everywhere in Wisconsin, and they are building businesses where they live,” said Mark Bugher, chairman of the Wisconsin Technology Council and director of the University Research Park in Madison. “Our goal at the Tech Council is to help them bring their ideas to the marketplace.”

The mission of the first-ever statewide contest is to encourage entrepreneurs in the creation, start-up and early-growth stages of high-growth businesses in Wisconsin. Participants have the chance to win seed capital and valuable services that will help them launch their businesses, as well as enhance the state’s economic development.

Wisconsin residents 18 years old and older were eligible, as were teams from Wisconsin-based businesses and organizations.

First-phase entries were 200-word abstracts submitted via the contest web site, www.govsbizplancontest.com. In this phase and throughout the contest, judges will pay special attention to innovation, relevant expertise, competitive advantage and market opportunity. Phases two and three will be completed in the spring, with winners announced in June.

The Governor’s Business Plan Contest is the result of thinking by members of the Tech Council, other tech-based organizations, individual entrepreneurs and even Gov. Jim Doyle himself, who talked about the importance of a statewide business plan competition during his 2002 campaign for governor. The idea was unveiled by Doyle with an announcement at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in June 2003.

The contest includes four categories that match up with Wisconsin’s core technology competencies, as well as technology “clusters” identified by the Tech Council in its report, “Vision 2020: A Model Wisconsin Economy.” Those categories are information technology and e-Commerce, advanced manufacturing, life sciences and business services. The common thread in all four categories is the use of cutting-edge technology to leverage the idea.

Here’s how the process will work:

n Initial entries, called “IDEA Abstracts,” will be graded on a scale of 1-10 (10 highest) by our judges. The top 50 IDEA Abstract presenters will be asked to write a Summary Business Plan. All 50 receive a congratulatory letter from the governor and the Tech Council.
n In the “Summary Business Plan” phase, which runs from late February through mid-March, the top 50 IDEA Abstract presenters post their five-page summaries online for comments by the judges. The top 20 plan summaries are selected for the final round. All 20 receive a congratulatory award.
n In the “Final Business Plan” phase, which runs from early April to May, 2004, the top 20 Summary Plan presenters prepare final plans for judging. Limited comments and mentoring continues. Judges will review the plans and pick three place winners in each category.
n The top four category winners will present their plans at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference, and a grand prize winner will be announced there.

The contest is seeking mentors to help advise contestants. To volunteer, call 608-442-7557 or register at www.govsbizplancontest.com

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