From a better way to incorporate pockets into women’s sportswear, to more effective heart monitoring during surgery, and from one-stop power conversion software to a pick-up composting service, the top 12 of the 2021 Governor of Wisconsin Business Plan Competition represents a deep well of innovation.
Literally…there is also a finalist who has developed a way to remotely monitor a water well without opening it.
This range of business plans will take center stage June 2-3 at the virtual Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Conference, where the “Diligent Dozen” – survivors of a competition that began with more than 250 qualified entries at the end of January – will compete for prizes and, more importantly, the exhibition. People can register with the Wisconsin Technology Council to watch the competition.
Organized in the categories of advanced manufacturing, business services, information technology and life sciences, the competition is broad enough to attract entries that reflect how technology has become a staple in almost all industries.
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It is wide in other ways as well. The more than 250 entries came from people from 32 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. About 100 women submitted plans in the first round; six of the 12 finalists are women. Nearly 20 participants were veterans. Seventy-nine contestants were people of various racial or ethnic backgrounds.
It’s emblematic of the fact that entrepreneurship isn’t just for white, urban men in their twenties (although there are plenty of those too), but for people from all geographies and more.
Advanced crafting ideas include a way to monitor water wells from a cell phone; women’s clothing specifically designed to allow users to carry items comfortably, securely and out of sight during exercise, errands and more; and power conversion software that can work in many industries.
Entrances focused on business services include a system for direct access to certified court reporters and videographers for court proceedings held outside of courthouses; a subscription model for women who want to write and publish their own books; and a company that works with businesses and residents to divert food scraps and yard waste from the landfill year-round.
Information technology plans include a platform to bridge the digital divide in healthcare by bringing simple, cost-effective technologies to “resource deserts”; a “creativity arcade” to keep children away from video games by gamifying their reading, writing and drawing; and a scalable clinical platform to deliver high quality healthcare in “home” urgent care settings.
Plans for life sciences include a device that allows surgeons and operating teams to better monitor the treatment of atrial arrhythmias during cardiac procedures; a small molecule drug that acts like estrogen to ease the side effects of menopause; and a virtual pharmaceutical company developing drugs that alleviate diseases related to the brain and lungs.
Over time, approximately 4,300 plans from 330 different Wisconsin communities have been entered into the competition. Finalists 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 EatStreet, the founders of BadgerBites built what has become one of the nation’s largest online and mobile food ordering and delivery services.
Some moon-sized craters have also been left behind by promising finalists, but that’s not unusual in the emerging business world. A more striking fact is that former BPC finalists have enjoyed a high survival rate, especially compared to the overall death rate of US startups. Collectively, the former nominees have raised at least $225 million in angel and venture capital and venture debt, while creating jobs and economic value in Wisconsin.
The Entrepreneur Conference will provide a mix of top speakers, panelists and more. A highlight is always the pitches of those whose business plans have emerged after review by volunteer judges who know what to look for. It’s worth the virtual trip to see the start-ups that will make a difference tomorrow.
Tom Still is the president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.