19 Apr Students compete for $22,000 in Tech Business Plan Competition
MADISON – University of Wisconsin-Madison students will compete for $22,000 in awards this Friday as part of the seventh-annual G. Steve Burrill Technology Business Plan Competition. Fourteen teams of aspiring student entrepreneurs, representing business, engineering and various other disciplines, will pitch their plans for technology-based businesses to a panel of experts as part of the competition.
“Within the UW System, this competition is the only activity on campus that completely focuses on student entrepreneurs and it’s cross-campus. That’s completely novel,” said Anne Miner, professor at the UW-Madison School of Business. “It’s rare to have communications, computer science, chemistry, biology and medical school students working together.”
Although participating students’ work with technology, the goal of the competition is not necessarily to invent new technologies. “What’s original is the plan … the technology may or may not be new to the world,” Miner said.
During the competition, the teams will have 20 minutes to present their ideas to the panel of judges. According to Miner, the teams’ business plans will be judged in terms of the chances their business will survive and prosper. Exhibits explaining teams’ business concepts and products will be on display in the Grainger Hall atrium starting at 7:45 a.m. and are open to the public. Winners will be announced at 4 p.m. The winning team will walk away with $10,000. Second, third and fourth prizes are $7,000, $4,000 and $1,000, respectively.
But the competition’s impact on students extends beyond a cash prize.
“The real long-term impact of this may or may not be in terms of actual companies. The big transformation is that [students] come to see themselves as entrepreneurs,” Miner added.
This year’s business plans range from a medical diagnosis device and lighted ice in hockey rinks to hearing diagnosis software and a process to develop hydrogen fuels for cars. However, Burrill competition planners have noticed a trend among participating students to gravitate toward socially aware technologies and services, Miner said.
“We didn’t plan the competition this way, but students are drawn to socially valuable projects like the hearing software plan and the delivery service plan. The keynote speaker [Rockwell Mackie] is going to talk about issues regarding high-tech business that want to do social good,” Miner said. “The competition is consistent with that part of UW – students want both business value but they also see themselves as contributing to social good. This is the first time our main speaker going to address whether or not you can do that. It’s a very important topic.”
Judges for 2004 include John Neis of Venture Investors of Wisconsin, Madison; Dick Wilkey of Fisher-Barton, Watertown; Patricia Lipton, former executive director of the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, Madison; and Terry Gerhardt of Sonoco, Hartsville, S.C.
Previous Burrill participants have gone on to work in many areas of entrepreneurship including creating their own businesses, as well as working to enhance the entrepreneurs’ opportunities for success.
The G. Steven Burrill Technology Business Plan Competition is held each spring in the UW-Madison School of Business. The UW Technology Enterprise Cooperative, a cross-campus effort led by deans of the School of Business, College of Engineering and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Within the business school, it is a joint venture of the Erdman Center for Operations and Technology Management, the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship, the program for Strategic Management in the Life and Engineering Sciences and the Initiative for Studies in Technology Entrepreneurship. Other UW Technology Enterprise Cooperative programs include Innovation Day, the Schoofs Prize for Creativity and the Tong Prototype Prizes.