Innovative life-vest startup from Elm Grove wins 2016 Governor’s Business Plan Contest

A Milwaukee-area startup whose flagship product aims to revolutionize water safety took home the grand prize in the 13th annual Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

Hyde, an outdoor sporting goods firm founded by Pat Hughes and Mike Fox in 2013, has patented “The Wingman,” a sleeker, technology-enhanced life vest that will be released this summer. The thin life jacket, which Hughes wore under his suit while presenting Tuesday at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference, is designed so that users pull a ripcord to puncture a CO2 canister, causing the gas to inflate a built-in bladder that make the life jacket buoyant.

Hyde has a partnership with a leading watersports manufacturer for an order that will be available for sale this summer. Hyde has also accumulated more than $75,000 in pre-orders and was named the Best Action Sports Safety Product at ISPO Munich, Europe’s largest tradeshow, in 2015.

Hughes presented along with 12 other finalists; winners were announced Wednesday. Hyde won the contest’s Advanced Manufacturing category. Other category winners were:

Business Services: Complete Phytochemical Solutions, Cambridge, provides intellectual and technical expertise in phytochemistry (plant chemistry) that enables clients to develop, manufacture and market high quality and efficacious nutritional supplements and food products for human and animal nutrition. Clients include natural product ingredient suppliers, dietary supplement manufactures and retailers. Presenter: Christian Krueger, Cambridge.

Information Technology: POLCO, Madison, delivers policy polling platform, analytics and engagement services to city, county and school board governments. POLCO also facilitates citizen-to-citizen policy interactions, promotes civic educational youth participation through classroom experiences and provides a mechanism for readers to take action in an easy and effective way. Presenter: Nick Mastronardi, Madison.

Life Sciences: Lynx Biosciences, Madison, is developing assay technologies enabling the prediction of clinical treatment response for multiple myeloma and other blood cancer patients. Currently, it is impossible to predict which cancer therapies will be successful for individual patients. LynxBio’s vision is individualized therapy tailored to treat patients’ unique cancer. Presenter: Chorom Pak, Madison.

Thirteen contestants emerged from three rounds of judging in the contest organized through the Wisconsin Technology Council, which produces the contest in conjunction with its partners and sponsors. The contest began in late January with more than 200 entries; more than 3,350 entries have been received since the contest began in 2004.

This year’s finalists delivered seven-minute pitches on their business ideas during the 14th annual Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference, which was held at Madison’s Alliant Energy Center. Second- and third-place category winners were:

Advanced Manufacturing: Linectra, Brandon Walker, Madison; and Xemex Static Mixer, Eric Ronning, Madison (tie); Mikroflot Technologies, Jose Ramirez, Milwaukee.

Business Services: Compost Crusader, Melissa Tashjian, Milwaukee; Iconac, Harrison Richarz, Milwaukee.

Information Technology: WeightUp Solutions, Daniel Litvak, Madison; Classmunity, Alana Platt, Whitefish Bay.

Life Sciences: Essential Biotechnology, Michael James, Big Bend; Asto CT, David Ergun, Madison.

Finalists submitted full business plans for review by a panel of more than 100 judges established by the Tech Council, which is the non-profit and non-partisan science and technology adviser to the governor and the Legislature. Each plan described the core product or service, defined the customer base, estimated the size of the market, identified competition, described the management team and provided key financial data.

Sponsors are contributing cash, office space, legal assistance, accounting, information technology consulting, marketing, prototyping, web design, event space and more. About $2.2 million in cash and in-kind prizes have been awarded since the inception of the contest in 2004.

Lead sponsors of the 2016 contest thus far include 3Rhino Media; American Family Insurance; American Transmission Co.; Ascendancy Advisors; AT&T; BizTimes; Madworks Co-working; Michael Best & Friedrich; Pieper Properties; Quarles & Brady; Racine Metal-Fab; Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren; SCORE Wisconsin; University Research Park; Vertz Marketing; Ward4; Whitewater University Technology Park; and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

Associate sponsors include 100state; Cresa Madison; Keane Consultants; Kinetic Compliance Solutions; Kollath CPA; Makin’ HEY Communications; Midwest Prototyping; Murphy Desmond; Neider & Boucher; Smith & Gesteland; and Wisconsin Public Radio. Additional sponsors are Aberdean Consulting; BizStarts; Bublrbikes; Evolution; EZ Office Supplies; Fine Point Consulting; Madison BCycle; Madison Gas & Electric; PowerBuy 4 You; Red Arrow Production; State of Wisconsin Investment Board; Summit Credit Union; UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations; Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; and the Wisconsin Technical College System.

To learn more about the contest, visit govsbizplancontest.com.

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