Wisconsin Technology Council: Past business plan contest finalists still in business, have raised money and are hiring

Contact: Tom Still or Kari Fischer at 608-442-7557
To learn more, visit: www.govsbizplancontest.com

MADISON – Finalists in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest since its inception in 2004 have performed well over time, with 76.7 percent remaining in business today. Those same finalists have raised at least $52 million in private equity and other financing, and they plan to hire more workers in the year ahead.

Those results are from a survey of 136 finalists in the statewide contest from 2004 through 2011, as well as data from public sources.

The ninth annual contest is accepting entries online for the 2012 competition at www.govsbizplancontest.com until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31. It is free to enter and begins with a 250-word outline.

Of the 136 finalists between 2004 and 2011, 102 are still in business – a high survival rate for start-up companies. However, a handful of those 102 companies have left Wisconsin.

Survey results and other data show the companies have raised at least $52 million from private equity investors and other sources, such as grants and loans. Nearly one in six finalists (57.9 percent) said they have raised money since taking part in the contest – but an almost identical number (58 percent) said they’re seeking funding this year.

Nearly one in four finalists (73.5 percent) said the Governor’s Business Plan Contest led to an increase in public exposure for their companies.

More than seven in 10 respondents (70.6 percent) said they plan to expand staff in the coming year – and those who plan to expand would collectively create more than 200 jobs.

“The high survival rate of companies that reached the finals of the contest says a lot about the power of a strong business plan, networking and mentoring, all of which the contest and its judges provide,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which produces the contest.

“It also suggests that national studies on entrepreneurism are right – young companies tend to grow quickly and produce jobs,” he said.

While the contest finalists did well in attracting investors, Still said, those same companies report needing to raise more money to hit their goals. “That confirms the need for a more vigorous early stage investment climate in Wisconsin,” he said.

For their initial entries, contestants will submit 250-word idea abstracts online at www.govsbizplancontest.com by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31. Contestants who advance to subsequent contest rounds will have the opportunity to expand their plan in stages. More than 60 judges drawn from the finance, sales, marketing, research and technology sectors across Wisconsin will score the entries and provide feedback on submissions.

Since its inception in 2004, about 2,100 entries have been received and more than $1 million in cash and in-kind prizes has been awarded. Contest categories are Advanced Manufacturing, Business Services, Information Technology and Life Sciences.

Wisconsin residents 18 years old and older are eligible, as are teams from Wisconsin-based businesses and organizations. Businesses or teams from outside the state are also eligible to compete provided there is intent to base their business in Wisconsin. Entrepreneurs may also enter multiple ideas, though each idea must be separate and distinct.

Companies or individuals that have raised less than $25,000 in private equity for their plans in a current form are eligible to enter. Generally speaking, private equity refers to angel and venture capital. As with past contests, the 2012 competition will take place in stages and culminate at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference, June 5-6 at Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel.

Major sponsors are contributing cash, office space, legal assistance, accounting, information technology consulting, marketing and advertising and more. A major sponsor is the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

To enter or become a sponsor, visit www.govsbizplancontest.com or contact Kari Fischer at 608-442-7557 ext. 27.