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Coaching available for business-plan contest survivors

Organizers of the statewide Wisconsin business-plan contest this year intend to provide more mentorship to the entrepreneurial hopefuls who survive the first round than they did during the inaugural competition in 2004.

Now that the submission deadline for initial abstracts of business ideas has passed, a panel of dozens of judges will narrow the 200 entries to 50. The survivors, who must write extended summaries for a further round of elimination. Sometime in March they will be given a "boot camp" and some coaching on plan writing, said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which organizes the contest.

Mentors may include members of the Service Corps of Retired Executives or others drawn from the council and competition sponsors, who can advise competitors on how to get into the minds of venture capitalists.

"I think it really is a lot of first-time entrepreneurs," Still said. While they many have business experience, many may not have been exposed to the process of starting a company and winning investments.

The grand prize is $50,000, and runners-up will be given several tiers of awards after the final judging in June.
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Most regions of the state and industry sectors are represented. Still said the plans included approximately 70 in manufacturing, 50 each in business services and information technology and 25 in life sciences.

"I think's that's because a lot of [life science] plans tend to be so capital-intensive and research-oriented that they're following different pathways," he said. "But it'll be a strong category."

"Clearly we're a manufacturing state," he added. "It shows a lot of people are thinking about ways to leverage technology in that sector."

Jason Stitt is a WTN editor and can be reached at jason@wistechnology.com.

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