WisBusiness: Governor’s business contest back for round two

By Brian E. Clark

MIDDLETON – By this time next year, Scott Fulton hopes his start-up, BioSystems Development, will be selling products to at least one major drug firm.

“That’s our goal, anyway,” mused Fulton, whose company shared the grand prize with a fledgling Milwaukee firm, NovaScan, in the 2004 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest. NovaScan has a new breast-scanning technology and BioSystems makes tools for drug researchers.

The two life science companies split $55,000 and got reams of publicity for efforts, including mention in some national publications.

The Wisconsin Technology Council produces the contest with support from a number of partners. It is accepting submissions for the 2005 competition through Jan. 31. There are four categories: information technology, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and business services. For details, see http://govsbizplancontest.com.

“The money we won was great and we used it to get our prototype fully working to show its technical feasibility,” Fulton said. “Now we are in negotiations with a couple of funding groups. This should help us get some capital in the door.”

The honor also gave BioSystems what Fulton called “instant credibility.”

“Part of the problem with being a start-up is that nobody knows you from all the others out there,” he said.

When BioSystems, NovaScan and Nerites, a Sun Prairie start-up and business plan contest winner, presented at the recent Life Sciences Conference in Madison, they were known entities. Even if BioSystems hadn’t split top prize, Fulton said the process of having its business plan critiqued and refined was a huge benefit.

“I thought ours was pretty good before we started, but it got sharpened up a lot through the process because it made us focus.

“If you have an idea for a company, I’d recommend giving this contest a shot,” Fulton said. “It’s been a real boon for us. The process is invaluable.”

Tom Still, WTC president, said other states may soon copy the Wisconsin business plan contest model for to give emerging, technology-based companies a boost.

“The competition’s mission is to give entrepreneurs across the state a pathway to get them in the pipeline and on their way to being successfully launched,” he said.

“If everything goes as we’d like, they’ll have a better chance to grow up and create jobs,” he said.

Still said the 330 plans submitted came from 101 Wisconsin communities.

“That’s important,” he said. “We didn’t want this to be just a Madison and Milwaukee deal. We wanted geographic diversity and we got it. We’re hoping for a similar response this time around.”

Still said Wisconsin residents 18 years old and older are eligible, as are teams from Wisconsin-based businesses and organizations. Last year, 234 individuals or teams – people ranging in age from college students to retirees — entered the contest.

Here’s how the process works:

  • In the “Business Concepts” phase, which runs until 5 p.m., Jan. 31, 2005, the contest will accept IDEA Abstracts only 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 panel of judges. At least 50 IDEA
    Abstract presenters will be asked to write a Summary Business Plan. All 50 will receive a
    congratulatory letter from the governor and the Tech Council.

  • In the “Summary Business Plan” phase, which begins Feb. 16 and runs to 5 p.m. March 15,
    2005, the top 50 or more IDEA Abstract presenters post their five-page summaries (1,250 words)
    online for comments by the judges. Contestants may be encouraged to revise their plans based
    on judges’ comments. At least 20 plan summaries are selected for the final round. All 20
    receive a congratulatory award.

  • In the “Final Business Plan” phase, which runs from April 1 to 5 p.m. May 1, 2005, the top
    20 Summary Plan presenters prepare final plans for judging. Limited comments and mentoring
    continues. Judges will review the plans and pick up to three place winners in each category.

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 contestants, judges and sponsors. Contact Marlene Smith at 608-442-7557 or at [email protected] to sign on.