Inside Wis: Biz Plan Contest finalists reflect market trends, startup teamwork

By Tom Still

MADISON – By the time the annual Governor’s Business Plan Contest boils down to its “Diligent Dozen” live presenters, a result of five months of judging and mentoring, a series of tough cuts throughout the competition has yielded the best of the best.

This year’s contest, the 11th annual, is no exception. The companies slated to pitch to a crowd June 3 at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Madison have survived three rounds of honing their plans, a process that began with nearly 300 entrants early this year.

What makes the finalists’ business plans special? For starters, each finalist has identified a problem or inefficiency someplace in the marketplace and come up with a solution that can make money for them and any investors or partners they attract along the way.

Their plans often stand out, as well, because they reflect larger market or even societal trends – and because they have built a credible team. As it turns out, entrepreneurism is rarely an individual sport.

This year’s 13 finalists (the Diligent Dozen became a “baker’s dozen” thanks to a numerical tie in scoring) fall into four broad categories: advanced manufacturing, business services, information technology and life sciences.

Within those categories are plans that reflect trends in health care information, recreation and leisure time, social media, water technologies, composite materials, 3-D printing and the challenges of an aging society. Here’s a bit about each plan:

–  “Find My Spot,” a pre-screened database of rentals that can be matched with the needs and timing of relocating professionals.

–  “65 Inc.,” a service to help people 65 and older make solid personal decisions about Medicare.

–  “MobCraft,” a craft brewery that uses social media and crowdsourcing to brew unique specialty beers.

–  “Organic Research Corp.,” which uses advanced algorithms, machine learning and image processing techniques to aid pathologists in diagnosing and staging Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

–  “Roving Blue,” a portable water purification system that utilizes a combination of microfiltration cartridges and a water sanitation technology using ozone gas.

–  “Elucent Medical,” which has developed a wireless marker tag and detection system that helps locate breast cancer and show the surgeon tumor margins during surgical excision.

–  “Spectrom,” which has created a device to precisely bring variable color to fused deposition modeling 3-D printers.

–  “TAI Diagnostics,” which provides an early, non-invasive and highly sensitive test to monitor the health of all solid organ transplant recipients.

–  “Kaliber Imaging Inc.,” which has developed a diagnostic tool to provide 3-D quantitative measurements for mobility, including balance, gait and range-of-motion.

–  “Little Green Pencil,” which provides a social platform for golfers to feel connected to the larger event through pictures and messages.

–  “Intelligent Composites,” which builds lightweight composite transportation components, starting with aluminum alloy heads, composite cylinder liners and air-brake compressors for heavy trucks.

–  “WebRacing LLC,” which offers a virtual reality fitness system designed for home, club or internet-based training and racing.

–  “Digsite,” which uses social media to provide a fast, economical alternative to focus groups often used in testing public opinion.

The plans vary widely in target market and scope, but a common theme is the quality of the team behind each entry.

For most entrants, this is not their first rodeo. Many have previous startup experience, either reflected by the founder – who may be the core “idea” person or technical expert – or by other team members who are well-versed in operations, sales, regulatory affairs or marketing.

While that may challenge the image of the lone-wolf entrepreneur, the reality is that most startups involve multiple people who bring different strengths to the enterprise – vision, technical depth, company building skills, or the ability to market and sell to customers. While one entrepreneur may take the lead role, he or she rarely stands alone.

Only 13 people will make live pitches June 3, but they will represent teams that represent the full range of talents necessary to make a startup company successful.

Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which produces the Governor’s Business Plan Contest. Visit www.witrepsconference.com to learn more.

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