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City Dictionary takes top prize at Burrill busness plan contest

MADISON — City Dictionary, a Madison Web site that provides a user-guided tour of individual cities' colloquialisms, won the top prize today at the G. Stephen Burrill Business Plan Competition. A record 18 business plans were presented by 30 student entrepreneurs at the 11th annual contest, held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business.

As first prize winner, City Dictionary walked away with $10,000. The $7,000 second prize went to Add the Flavor, $4,000 third place to Ecostream, and a $1,000 fourth place to Cultured Kids Immersion Schools. Special prizes of $1,000 were awarded to A+ Mission for best social impact, Ecostream from the Nelson Institute for the most sustainable plan, PosiPair the competition's $250 mini prize, and VirtuWill which was judged a student favorite netting $100.

City Dictionary co-founder Tom Carmona said the company signed a syndication deal yesterday with Broadcast Interactive Media, a Madison company that manages Web sites for 130 news broadcasters across the country. The agreement will, in essence, place City Dictionary in more than half of the media markets in the next year and give it an opportunity to capture search engine traffic which the firm will monetize in advertising and syndication revenue projected to reach $1.4 million in 2011.

"We'll have brand awareness hundreds of markets with thousands of business listings that get good search results," Carmona explained in his presentation.

City Dictionary now lists 5,500 definitions generated by 750 active users and draws its biggest usage from local media audiences. But the site also generates much of its content from local business listings, such as restaurants, bars and movie theaters.
Other business plans at this year’s competition included ideas for high-tech flavored plastics, eco-friendly vending machines, micro-gifting services and medical devices for emerging countries. Presentations online at the contest’s Web site.

"When you start to interview or move on in life, someone is going to look at your resume and say, 'Tell me about this competition.' That differentiates you from anyone on this campus," said Scott Button, a managing partner with Venture Investors and contest judge, in presenting this year's prizes. "It's as educational for the judges as it is for anyone else."

Last year, Sky Vegetables, a company that uses aquaponics to grow vegetables in greenhouses on top of grocery stores, got its start after winning the $10,000 Burrill top prize. It then placed second in the category of business services in the 2008 Wisconsin Governor's Business Plan Contest .

Since it began in 1998, more than 300 students have participated in the Burrill competition, while thousands others have attended skill-building seminars during the event. Stephen Burrill, a longtime supporter of student innovation and entrepreneurship, is CEO of Burrill & Co., a life sciences merchant bank with more than $950 million under management. He earned a BBA degree from the Wisconsin School of Business in 1966 and is the main sponsor of the competition.

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