UW-Madison: Student Entrepreneurs Preparing for Competition

CONTACT: Anne Miner, (608) 233-6406, [email protected]

MADISON – A competition showcasing student entrepreneurs’ innovative business ideas – ranging from devices that can save firefighters’ lives in blazing buildings to making online transactions more secure – will kick off on Friday, April 15.

Fourteen teams of enterprising University of Wisconsin-Madison students will compete in the G. Steven Burrill Technology Business Plan Competition in Grainger Hall, 975 University Ave., for a chance to win a total of $22,000 in prize money.

Business Professor Anne Miner, who directs the competition and specializes in entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, says she is impressed by the number of teams participating.

“Taking an idea into the real world is very appealing to young, bright, action-oriented people,” she says. “Each year, this competition gets better at helping them do that.”

Nearly 200 students have participated in the competition since it started in 1998. Hundreds more have connected with area professionals and faculty through seminars on topics such as marketing research, financial projections and intellectual property management.

Teams from across campus will present business plans to a panel of judges consisting of entrepreneurs, technology innovators and professionals financing startups.

Prior teams have leveraged the knowledge, experience and exposure gained from the competition to form successful new business ventures.

“Interestingly enough, it isn’t always the winners who get the most out of the competition,” says Miner. “Former participants tell us it is the learning experience and the expert advice that gave them the most value as they actively pursue entrepreneurial goals in different ways and settings. Many want to create social value in addition to economic value.”

Past teams have pitched plans to market and sell products including energy-saving fuels, medical devices, plastic picnic ware, sports equipment, food products, software, Web sites and more.

Judges for the event are Monica Jaehnig, portfolio manager, State of Wisconsin Investment Board; John Neis, senior partner, Venture Investors, LLC; Terry Gerhardt, vice president of Corporate Technology, Sonoco Products; Pehr Anderson, managing director, Silicon Pastures and Richard “Dick” Wilkey, founder, Fisher Barton, Inc.

The April 15 competition is free and open to the public.

Students, especially, are encouraged to attend, with drawings for iPod shuffles among the door prizes. Team presentations run from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. in 3070 Grainger Hall. The celebration of the student visions and energy will include free food and a band beginning at 5:15 p.m.

Top prizes of $10,000, $7,000, $4,000 and $1,000 will be awarded at 5:45 p.m. Door prizes also will be awarded at that time.

– Helen Capellaro, (608) 262-9213; John Surdyk, (608) 262-9041