Looking for a self-directed project this semester that can lead to prizes, mentoring and live connections to the business world? The 17th annual Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest will accept entries online for the 2020 competition until 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31.

The contest is designed to encourage entrepreneurs in the startup stage of tech-enabled businesses in Wisconsin. It links up-and-coming entrepreneurs with a statewide network of community resources, expert advice, management talent and possible sources of capital.

It also leads to valuable public and media exposure for the top business plans and helps spur economic growth in the state. Plans submitted by students or recent graduates in the past have included BadgerBites, which is known today as EatStreet; Hyde Sportswear; NovoMoto; Pyran; NanoRed and many more. 

Finalists will share in more than $150,000 in cash and service prizes. There is no cost to enter.

For their initial entries, contestants will submit a 250-word (or 2,000-character) idea abstract online at govsbizplancontest.com. That’s where contestants will also find business plan templates and other information, such as the Entrepreneurs’ Toolkit. The toolkit provides business startup information and assistance, networking contacts and technical resources.

Contestants who advance to subsequent contest rounds will expand their plan in stages. About 90 judges drawn from the finance, sales, marketing, research and technology sectors across Wisconsin will score the entries and provide feedback on submissions.

To get started, contestants will need to create a simple account at govsbizplancontest.com. All entries are submitted through the website. Contestants use their account to gain access to mentors throughout the process, as well as review the judges’ comments and feedback.

Since its inception in 2004, more than 3,900 entries have been received and about $2.4 million in cash and services (such as legal, accounting, office space and marketing) have been awarded. Contest categories are Advanced Manufacturing, Business Services, Information Technology and Life Sciences. About 77% of the finalists from 2012-2019 are still in business.

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 if they demonstrate 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 not received angel or venture capital in the current form are eligible to enter.

As with past contests, the 2020 competition will take place in stages ending at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference on June 4 at Northwestern Mutual in Milwaukee.

Past finalists have launched companies that have raised more than $200 million in angel, venture, grants and venture debt over time – all while creating jobs and economic value for Wisconsin. The contest’s major sponsors include the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

The 2019 grand prize winner was GrowthChart Records, a Stoughton-based company. Category winners in 2019 were Templar Industries (Advanced Manufacturing) Blexx Technologies (Business Services), GrowthChart Records (Information Technologies) and Otologic Technologies (Life Sciences).

Produced by the Wisconsin Technology Council, the contest’s major sponsor is the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. To enter, become a judge or learn about sponsorship opportunities, visit govsbizplancontest.com.

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