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Dec 27, 201810:59 AMInside Wisconsin

with Tom Still

Business Plan Contest attracting more quality entries from across Wisconsin

(page 1 of 2)

In its earlier years, the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest tended to have more entries from the Madison area and, as a result, more Dane County finalists.

It’s a testimony to progress of Wisconsin’s startup support system that the contest has steadily become more statewide in its geographic mix of entries, as well as those who advance to the final rounds.

As the Jan. 31, 2019, deadline approaches for entering the 16th annual contest, those trends are worth noting by those entrepreneurs across Wisconsin who think they can’t compete with the “gee-whiz” plans entered by ’treps in Madison and Milwaukee.

In 2018, seven of 12 finalists in the contest hailed from outside Dane County. Eight of 12 finalists in 2016 were from outside the Madison area, and half of the 24 finalists in 2014 and 2015 were non-Dane County entries. In the early 2000s, it wasn’t unusual to find Madison-area finalists in most of the top spots.

The improved out-state mix isn’t because Madison-area entries were weaker. It’s because entrepreneurs around the state came up with more competitive ideas.

Over time, more than 3,700 plans from more than 310 Wisconsin communities have been entered in the contest. Finalists have included companies such as RevolutionEHR, Vector Surgical, Nerites, Elucent Medical, Fishidy, Lynx Biosciences, Hyde, bluDiagnostics, Strategic Fishing Systems, Optametra, Platypus Technologies, Reza Band, RoWheels, MobCraft Beer, Sector67, and BadgerBites.

Known today as Eat Street, the founders of BadgerBites built what has become one of the nation’s largest online and mobile food ordering and delivery services.

Some lunar-sized craters were left by promising finalists, too, but that’s not unusual in the world of emerging companies. A more striking fact is that past BPC finalists have enjoyed a high survival rate, especially compared to the U.S. startup mortality rate overall. Collectively, past contestants have raised at least $200 million in angel and venture capital and venture debt — all while creating jobs and economic value in Wisconsin. 

As the 16th version of the contest heads toward a Jan. 31 deadline at, it’s time for another edition of entrants to make their bids for success.

The contest links up-and-coming entrepreneurs with a statewide network of community resources, expert advice and mentoring, management talent, and possible sources of capital. Two workshops are scheduled for people who would like to learn more about entering:

  • 6 p.m., Jan. 9 at the Coliseum Bar, 232 E. Olin Ave., Madison, where 2018 grand prize winner Mehrdad Arjmand of NovoMoto will talk about how his company won.
  • 1:30 p.m., Jan. 10 at the UW–Milwaukee Accelerator, 1225 Discovery Pkwy., Wauwatosa. Loren Forsythe of Shockray Self-Defense will talk about his 2018 category winner.


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About This Blog

Tom Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.



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