WISC-TV3’s ‘For the Record’ looks at 2015 Biz Plan Contest; reasons to enter

Neil Heinen, of WISC-TV3’s “For the Record,” talks with Tech Council President Tom Still and MobCraft Beer CEO Henry Schwartz about the upcoming 2015 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest. Schwartz was last year’s Advanced Manufacturing category winner. Watch the show here. For more information on the contest, visit www.govsbizplancontest.com.

Contestants have access to veteran mentors during 2015 Biz Plan Contest

MADISON – Experienced mentors from across Wisconsin will be available to offer advice to contestants during the 12th annual Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

Initial entries of 250 words are due by 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. There is no cost to enter. Visitwww.govsbizplancontest.com for more information and to get started.

At any point during the competition, contestants may submit their questions to veteran business mentors who have volunteered their time and expertise to assist entrepreneurs who enter by Jan. 31. Mentors will respond directly to contestants to offer one-on-one consultation.

This year’s group of volunteers includes representatives from the Milwaukee-area Service Corps of Retired Executives and the Center for Technology Commercialization.

With more than 70 members, SCORE’s Southeast Wisconsin chapter offers free business consulting, business mentoring and business resources, plus low-cost business trainings. The Center for Technology Commercialization provides support and resources as companies bring their innovations to market, particularly with applications for grants from the federal Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

In addition to access to mentors, contestants will receive feedback from more than 70 judges as the contest progresses. The judges, from around the state, the Upper Midwest and Silicon Valley, represent a cross-section of disciplines that help define Wisconsin’s startup culture.

Since its inception in 2004, more than 2,900 entries have been received and about $1.8 million in cash and in-kind services have been awarded. Contest categories are advanced manufacturing, business services, information technology and life sciences.

Past finalists have launched companies that have raised $160 million in angel, venture, grants and venture debt over time – all while creating jobs and economic value for Wisconsin. Produced by the Wisconsin Technology Council, the contest’s major sponsor is the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Additional sponsors to date include Aberdean; American Family Insurance; Exact Sciences; Kollath & Associates; Madison Gas & Electric; Michael Best & Friedrich; Nordic, UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations; and Wisconsin Technical College System.

To enter, become a judge or a sponsor, visit www.govsbizplancontest.com.

Learn more about the 2015 Biz Plan Contest at Jan. 14 event in Madison

Join us on Wednesday, Jan. 14, to learn more about the 2015 Business Plan Contest from Tom Still, Tech Council president, and Jonathan Fritz, 11-time contest judge, in a relaxed atmosphere at Genna’s Lounge in Madison.

This business plan competition provides an opportunity to summarize your ideas on paper, obtain valuable feedback from experienced judges, as well as possibly win cash and other prizes. The informal presentation will include an overview of what it means to be a competitor, the benefits you will receive from participating, as well as answer your questions on how to present your idea as a winner!

6 p.m. – Networking
6:30 p.m. – Informational presentation
7 p.m. – Q & A

There is no cost to attend and a cash bar will be available.

Please register here by 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14.

For more information on the contest, visit www.govsbizplancontest.com.

BTN LiveBIG: Wisconsin grads bring color to 3-D printing

The 3-D printing industry has a great deal of financial, scientific and technological potential. And a group of former University of Wisconsin students are trying to tap some of that by adding a little color to the finished products. Spectrom won second place in the advanced manufacturing category of the 2014 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest. Read the full story here.

Inside Wis: BPC offers ‘treps pathway to grow – even if plan changes over time”

By Tom Still

MADISON – RevolutionEHR, a Madison-based provider of electronic health records software for eye doctors, employs about 70 people, has grown to $5.5 million in annual revenue and will continue to expand in Wisconsin even after a San Francisco investor bought a majority stake in the company.

Vector Surgical is an Oconomowoc producer of tools and kits to help surgeons more accurately define the margins of excised tissue. It sells three industry-leading operating room products in all 50 states and internationally.

BioSystem Development was acquired by Agilent Technologies about three years ago, a deal that gave the publically traded California firm a foothold in Wisconsin while rewarding BioSystem’s early investors.

What do these three companies have in common? They’re all past finalists in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, a multi-stage competition that has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs since its inception in 2004. The 12th annual contest is open for entries through 5 p.m. Jan. 31 at www.govsbizplancontest.com.

The contest will again offer more than $100,000 in cash and service prizes, courtesy of its sponsors, but many past contestants say the real “prize” is the plan-writing process itself.  Here are reasons to enter:

–  You can walk before you run. The first phase entry is about 250 words (or 1,400 characters with spaces) spread among four criteria – product or service description; customer definition; market description, size and sales strategy; and competition. There’s no need to submit financials right away.

–  The four contest categories are deliberately broad – advanced manufacturing, business services, information technology and life sciences. It’s rare that an entry cannot find a logical home.

–  Entrepreneurs may enter multiple ideas, so long as each idea is separate and distinct. It is free to enter.

–  All entries are accepted through www.govsbizplancontest.com. The second and third stages of the contest also take place through that website, culminating in a 15- to 20-page plan. Up to 12 finalists will present live at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in early June.

–  Your chances of winning something are pretty good. If past contests are any indicator, roughly one in 14 entrants will reach the top 25.

–  Contestants meet some interesting people. The 50 semi-finalists are invited to attend a half-day “boot camp,” where they’ll meet mentors, potential investors, successful entrepreneurs and others with startup experience.

–  The judges offer years of valuable experience. More than 70 judges drawn from the finance, sales, marketing, research and technology sectors across Wisconsin – and beyond – will score the entries and provide feedback on submissions.

–  Your idea will get some valuable exposure. Semi-finalists may post their executive summaries on the Wisconsin Angel Network web site for secured review by accredited investors. Also, leaders in Wisconsin’s business press may see news value in your story.

–  Finally, and most important, many past winners have been successful. About three-quarters of finalists over the history of the contest report they’re still in business and attracting investors, partners and clients to their ideas.

In addition to RevolutionEHR, Vector Surgical and BioSystem Development, “graduates” of past contests include WiRover, NitricGen, RoWheels, Eso-Technologies, My Health Direct, Platypus, Green 3, Elucent Medical, MobCraft Beer, Find My Spot and scores of other finalists. Collectively, those finalists have raised about $160 million in grant awards and private investments over time.

Since its inception in 2004, more than 2,900 entries have been received and about $1.8 million in cash and services (such as legal, accounting, office space and marketing) have been awarded. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is among the major prize sponsors.

What about those entrepreneurs who believe they don’t really need a business plan to get started? After all, they argue, building a “Minimum Viable Product” may test the market as well as anything. True enough, but even experts who like lean startups find merit in writing a plan.

A recent New York Times story on the evolution of business plans noted that such documents help startups and even older businesses make their mistakes on paper rather than real life. They help to set goals and serve as a platform for action, even if the plan changes even before the ink is dry.

Most small businesses need a business plan to get a bank loan, and the U.S. Small Business Administration considers them critical. Private investors usually require business plans, too, because they want to know how ‘treps arrive at their numbers and assumptions.

For a growing list of emerging companies in Wisconsin, it all started with an idea and a plan. Take your idea from cocktail napkin notes to reality. Resolve to start your new year by entering the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.