08 Jun Business plan contest kicks off Wisconsin Entrepreneurs' Conference
A start-up company that has developed a new technology which allows travelers to book itineraries in a matter of seconds is one of 12 finalists who will compete for the top prize this week in the sixth annual Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.
Scopia, which is headed by native-born Israeli Ophir Ben-Yitschak, will be one of 12 contestants presenting their business plan Tuesday morning at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference, which runs June 9-10 at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee.
Not only does Scopia’s computer algorithm save time in the booking process, but the fledgling company is looking to set up shop on the northwest side of Milwaukee to employ inner city residents to help with the time-consuming task of manually uploading and inserting travel data.
“We think we can hire people from the inner city and teach them how to do that,” says the 43-year-old Ben-Yitschak, who has a background in international corporate travel. “One of our goals is to erase the digital divide, and employ people from lower socioeconomic levels.”
The conference is designed to give fledgling entrepreneurs the strategies and tools they need to be successful, says Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which organizes the business plan contest.
“The recession has highlighted the renewed interest in entrepreneurial ventures,” Still says. “Historically, a number of companies in America sprang out of hard times. McDonald’s and Home Depot were launched during recessions, and this downturn is no different. We have seen renewed interest across a range of sectors, and this conference is about trying to tap into that.”
A series of workshops at the two-day conference will help entrepreneurs refine their dream. The seventh annual conference has a sales and marketing bent to it to help entrepreneurs get up and running, Still says.
“Regardless of the type of financial backing they are seeking or receiving, it is important for companies to ‘make the green’ and show revenues as quickly as possible,” Still says.
Wisconsin has lost nearly 140,000 jobs since the current recession began. Many were in traditional manufacturing sectors, and in many cases, the lost jobs won’t come back, Still says. What is needed to replace them are knowledge economy jobs, and that can happen in a variety of sectors that includes manufacturing, where technology is embedded in modern processes, and where workers get the most out of the tools at their disposal.
“This is one example where Wisconsin is expanding its economy,” Still says. “That extends to biotech, renewable energy, water technology, and clean tech industries. Here in Wisconsin, we are well positioned in terms of our research base, our workforce, and also where our private investors line up,” he said, adding that the biotech sector has doubled in size in the last eight years.
More than $200,000 in cash and in-kind prizes will be awarded, and winners will be announced at a Tuesday evening awards banquet sponsored by Michael Best & Friedrich LLP. Wisconsin Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel will speak at the event.
Keynote speakers at the conference include Robert Stephens, founder and chief inspector of Geek Squad; John Roach, an Emmy-winning film producer who creates effective communications for Fortune 500 companies; and Greg Meier, a serial entrepreneur and Milwaukee start-up catalyst. Additional highlights include workshops on Refining the Dream, Building the Team and Making the Green, “Entrepreneurs’ Edge” pitches to investors and peers, exclusive forums for investors, hands-on panel discussions and dozens of exhibits.
“I think the entrepreneur’s conference is a wonderful venue for bringing together entrepreneurs and investors – it’s a well organized two-day program,” says Bonnie Reinke, of Hartland-based Eso-Technologies, Inc. “It’s exciting to go and present [a business plan], and to see who the winner will be. Entrepreneurs don’t like to wait for anything, so that immediate feedback is wonderful.”
All finalists survived three rounds of judging in the contest organized through the Wisconsin Technology Council, which produces the contest in conjunction with the Wisconsin Innovation Network, the Wisconsin Angel Network and other statewide affiliates. The contest began in late January with a record 326 entries from about 100 communities across the state. The finalists include:
Scopia is a global travel network, developing innovative online software solutions in two main areas: intermodal itineraries, which integrate air, ground and sea transportation modes into a single trip, and multi-fare level pricing from multiple sources and programs.
FLEx has developed a patent portfolio around cost-effective methods of capturing and diffusing LED light over a wide area, with applications in backlighting (such LCD TV), general illumination, and specialty signage. The initial target is the LCD TV backlighting industry.
Innovative Sports Strategies has developed software, called Elevation, that will serve as a budgeting, accounting, reporting and benchmarking tool in the $1 billion college athletic financial management market.
Sandbox International LLC is a software-intensive firm within the marketing research industry. It has developed a properity Web application to help market researchers identify creative individuals to participate in consumer co-creation initiatives.
Orion Neuroceuticals has a first-in-class schizophrenia drug lead and a proprietary drug discovery and optimization technology for developing this and other central nervous system drugs.
Green 3 Organic Apparel designs, sources, markets and distributes environmentally friendly apparel and soft home products through a nationwide network of specialty stores, as well as global catalog retailers such as Sundance, the Discovery Channel and others.
NxtMile Custom Running Shoes are engineered and custom assembled to address the specific biomechanical and orthopedic needs of over-40 and experienced runners, helping them to prevent injury. NxtMile utilizes proprietary pressure-mapping technology.
AquaMost was formed to commercialize a novel, advanced water treatment technology called photoelectrocatalytic oxidation. The company has demonstrated the process efficiently and economically destroys numerous water-borne pathogens and pollutants.
PLEX Labs is a game development studio dedicated to creating next generation learning games that combine best practices in commercial game development with contemporary knowledge in the learning sciences.
Eso-Technologies’ goal is to launch an important new esophageal cardiac monitoring device for surgical and critical care applications within three years. The company aims to replace an existing product, which is an invasive pulmonary artery catheter.
Concrete Crack Reducer (FiberMX) will capitalize on a huge demand for a green fiber by offering a low cost blend of recycled cellulose and synthetic fiber. It is recovered from paper mill sludge, recycled paper and nylon from post-consumer carpet.
Flying Cart LLC is a complete solution for creating a successful small online retail business. Merchants get a store website with credit card processing, an administrative interface for managing products and orders, as well as marketing tools, community and business training.