WisBusiness: Entrepreneurs conference should draw 400

By Brian E. Clark

Eric Antonson, who runs a 2-year-old business dubbed U.S. TrailMaps Inc., has attended numerous conferences to help give his Wausau-based interactive software company a leg-up.

Among them are the Wisconsin Technology Council’s Early Stage Symposium and the Entrepreneurs Conference, both of which gave him valuable contacts. The early stage symposium even led to financial backing from a group of angel investors.

Antonson will be back at next week’s entrepreneurs’ gathering, this time participating in a panel on how to obtain financing. Antonson’s session will be moderated by Deven McGlenn, CEO of NeoClone. The other panelist is Pinstripe CEO Sue Marks.

The conference is expected to attract more than 400. It will run Tuesday and Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Milwaukee.

“Last year, I attended all the sessions I could and we ended up hiring the company that one of the marketing panelists worked for. It was time well spent and I certainly recomnend going,” said Antonson, whose company was a finalist in last year’s Governor’s Business Plan Contest. The winners of the competition– eligible for $200,000 in prizes and services – will be announced Tuesday.

Antonson said his company, which uses utilizes computer and global positioning technology, is doing well and has four full-time and two part-time employees.

“We are still very young company, but we have a good technology and are doing projects for large government organizations. We’re also supplying a large GPS maker with data,” said Antonson, who was in the heavy truck business before going out on his own.

Though U.S. TrailMaps is not yet profitable, he said it should be by the first quarter of 2008.

“Sales in 2006 tripled over 2005 and we are right on the brink of making a profit,” he said. “Going to these kinds of conferences has helped get us there.”

Tom Still, president of the Tech Council, said the conference is a good place for investors and entrepreneurs to rub shoulders. He also said there will be numerous exhibits and attendees will receive The 2007 Entrepreneurs’ Toolkit CD, which Still described as a “storehouse” of information.

In addition to Antonson’s session on financing, the conference will have 20 other panels covering a variety of topics, plus several nationally known speakers. Two of them are Jason Fried, founder of Chicago-based 37Signals; and John May, the Virginia-based “angel networks father.” For details and registration information, go to www.wisconsintechnologycouncil.com/events/ent_conf