WisBusiness: Entrepreneurs’ Conference to Reveal Winner of Gov’s Biz Plan Contest

By Brian E. Clark

Organizers are set to unveil the winners of the Governor’s Business Plan Contest during the state Entrepreneurs’ Conference next Tuesday and Wednesday in Milwaukee.

After taking 200 entries, contest organizers narrowed that down to 49 semi-finalists before selecting 20 plans in four categories for the finals. More than $100,000 in prize money and "in-kind" prizes are at stake, including the $50,000 grand prize. Wisconsin Technology Council president Tom Still said the “Seize the Day” award, the first Governor’s Technology Transfer Award and the inaugural Young Entrepreneurs Award will also be handed during next week’s conference.

The two-day event, which is being co-produced by the Wisconsin Technology Council, will be held at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, 333 W. Kilbourn. It will run from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Futurist Joel Kotkin and Milwaukee-native Kay Koplovitz – who founded USA Networks – will headline the third annual conference.

The conference will celebrate the state’s emerging high-growth, knowledge-based economy and offer hands-on workshops. The gathering also aims to expose entrepreneurs to the best business practices and the brightest ideas. Still said more 400 people are expected at the conference, including Gov. Jim Doyle and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker.

Titles from some of the conference workshops include “Grow: How To Change Tires On A Moving Car,” “Trends In Federal Funding: Where Uncle Sam Is Investing His Money,” and “Exploding The Myth: Bankers Who Like Entrepreneurs.”

E. Kelly Hansen, co-chairwoman of the conference and CEO of Neohapsis, said the conference is designed to give entrepreneurs of all stripes a road map to success. Neohapsis is an information security consultancy and enterprise IT product-testing lab.

“It is a short course in the tactical strategies necessary to navigate the inevitable pitfalls and roadblocks of entrepreneurship,” she said.

Hansen said attendees will hear stories of “stunning successes and humbling failures – which often led to successes at a later date.

“Our hope is that participants will leave this conference inspired and recharged, and ready to leap over the next hurdle,” said Hansen.

Conference co-chairman Ken Wanek, president/CEO of Datatrac Corp., said the conference is part of Wisconsin’s continuing efforts to grow an economy that encourages innovation, risk-taking and formation of new businesses. Milwaukee-based Datatrac is a leading provider of competitive interest rate information.

“Wisconsin is on the move. We will maintain our momentum by presenting strategies, tactics and tools to entrepreneurs – the people who will create the knowledge-based businesses of tomorrow,” he said.

In addition to Kotkin and Koplovitz, other nationally known speakers will include author Grace Bulger and marketing gurus Jorian Clarke and Richard Kerndt.

Here’s a rundown on the speakers:

Koplovitz, who founded USA Networks and co-founded Springboard Enterprises and other ventures, will speak during Tuesday’s luncheon.

Koplovitz served as chairwoman and CEO of USA Networks, which included the Sci-Fi Channel and USA Networks International. Having built the firm into a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, Koplovitz left the company when it was sold in 1998.

She is a former chairwoman of the National Woman’s Business Council, a bi-partisan commission to advance opportunities for women entrepreneurs. She also is the co-founder of Springboard Enterprises, a national organization that has raised nearly $2 billion in equity for women-led firms. She also co-founded Boldcap Ventures, a venture capital fund based in New York.

She co-authored her first book, Bold Women, Big Ideas, to inform and inspire women entrepreneurs. The book includes a chapter on the Wisconsin entrepreneurs behind the start-up of ioGenetics and Gala Design.

Kotkin, who recently praised Wisconsin’s entrepreneurial economy in a national business magazine, will speak during Wednesday’s luncheon.

Kotkin is the author of the May article in Inc. magazine on "The Best Places For Doing Business in America 2005," which examined 274 population centers and ranked their economies.

Wisconsin placed three metro areas in the Top 40, more than the rest of the Midwest combined. An internationally-recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends, Kotkin is the author of the newly published “The City: A Global History” from Modern Library. He is also author of the best-selling book, “The New Geography, How the Digital Revolution is Reshaping the American Landscape.". Kotkin is an Irvine Fellow at the New America Foundation. Bulger, who speak at Tuesday’s breakfast, is author of “The Enlightened Entrepreneur,” a book that is frequently used to instruct and inspire students.

As the founder and principal of Lyric Productions Inc., Bulger develops and implements marketing plans and integrated marketing communications programs for large and small clients in a variety of industries.

Clarke is founder and CEO of SpectraCom, which provides global, online marketing strategies including strategic planning, research, content design and production for global markets. She will speak during breakfast on Wednesday.

Headquartered in Milwaukee, its clients include Pfizer, Kimberly-Clark, Kellogg’s, Harley-Davidson, Roche Diagnostics, Siemens, and Kohler.

Clarke has been involved in setting industry direction for the U.S. Commerce Department and the Federal Trade Commission on Internet safety and privacy.

Kerndt is a member of the Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame. He is president of the Richmark Group, a marketing firm with offices in Chicago, London, and Houston.

During his career, he has advised IBM, 3M, FedEx, ExxonMobil and Xerox, among other Fortune 400 clients. He will speak during the Entrepreneurs’ Boot Camp on Tuesday morning from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

The conference also will feature:

— Winners of the Governor’s Business Plan Contest, a statewide effort that attracted 200-plus entries. Winners will share more than $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes. Gov. Doyle has been invited to present the awards at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

– The second annual “Seize the Day” award, the first annual “Governor’s Tech Transfer” award, and the first “Young Entrepreneurs’’ award. All are designed to focus attention on Wisconsin’s emerging high-growth economy. A session for school-age entrepreneurs is also planned.

– More than 20 panel discussions aimed at giving entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed.

The Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference is being co-produced by the Tech Council, which is the non-profit science and technology adviser to the governor and the Legislature, and a number of statewide and regional partners.

A core sponsor of the conference is the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, which has made entrepreneurism a major priority.

Other major sponsors include Mason Wells Private Equity, American Transmission Co., Michael Best and Friedrich, Godfrey & Kahn, The Business Journal, Small Business Times, SBC, WEAC, Alliant Energy, Madison Gas & Electric, J.P. Cullen & Sons and the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

For more information, go to www.wisconsintechnologycouncil.com