December 23, 2014

Doyenne Retreat for Women-Led Start-Ups Set for Jan 29-31, 2015

The Doyenne Retreat is a weekend-long, strategic planning workshop for women-led startups that runs every four months. The next Doyenne Retreat is January 29-31, 2015.

Are you striving to take your business to the next level…

  • Are you just launching?
  • Are you trying to grow your venture…maybe expand your offerings or enter new markets?
  • Is it time to pivot and take your venture in a new direction?
  • Deadline to Apply to Attend is January 17, 2015.

The Doyenne Retreat is a weekend-long, strategic planning workshop for women-led startups. The Retreat is a opportunity for you and your team to escape the day-to-day routine and focus on developing your next strategic move.  And, you do this with intense feedback and guidance from mentors and peers who are experiencing similar challenges.  This is a unique opportunity to focus on your development as entrepreneur and your venture’s  future.  This is NOT a conference!  You and your team need to come prepared to work on your venture while you are here.  Please see the Doyenne Retreat schedule below.

At different points during the Doyenne Retreat, people from the entrepreneurial community will be visiting.  These will include entrepreneurs, representatives from accelerators and financing institutions in the area, and other supporters of our entrepreneurial ecosystem.  This is a fantastic chance to build your network.

In order to provide a personalized experience, we will be limiting participation to 10-15 women-led ventures. Once accepted, ventures can bring a team of up to 4 members (male and female) to the Doyenne Retreat. The cost of the retreat is $250 per venture and $100/each additional team member.

Apply to attend before January 17, 2015.

December 19, 2014

Madworks Seed Accelerator Accepting Applications for Spring 2015 Class

Madworks is a seed accelerator operating in Madison that provides grants, mentors, lean start-up, structure, access to next round finance, and more to selected early stage companies.

The mission of Madworks is to help companies succeed. Madworks provides capital, office space and access to fellow entrepreneurs, mentors, industry experts, service providers and anyone else needed to get off the ground and grow. This happens during a high-energy 10-week program.

Madworks accepts early stage companies created by UW-Madison faculty, staff, alumni and students as well as early stage companies from the greater Madison community.

Applications for the Spring 2015 class are being accepted through January 22, 2015.

Visit the Madworks website to learn more.

December 15, 2014

Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest open for entries through Jan 31, 2015

The 12th annual Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest is accepting entries online for the 2015 competition until 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015.

The contest is designed to encourage entrepreneurs in the seed, startup and early growth stages of high-tech businesses in Wisconsin. The contest links up-and-coming entrepreneurs with a statewide network of community resources, expert advice, high-quality education, management talent and possible sources of capital. It also leads to valuable public and media exposure for the top business plans and helps spur economic growth in the state. Finalists will share in more than $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.

For their initial entries, contestants will submit a 250-word (or 1,400-character) idea abstract online at That’s where contestants will also find business plan templates and other information, such as the Entrepreneurs’ Toolkit. The toolkit provides business startup information and assistance, networking contacts and technical resources.

Contestants who advance to subsequent contest rounds will expand their plan in stages. More than 70 judges drawn from the finance, sales, marketing, research and technology sectors across Wisconsin will score the entries and provide feedback on submissions.

To get started, contestants will need to create a simple account at  All entries are submitted through the website. Contestants use their account to gain access to mentors throughout the process, as well as review the judges’ comments and feedback.

Since its inception in 2004, more than 2,900 entries have been received and about $1.8 million in cash and services (such as legal, accounting, office space and marketing) have been awarded. Contest categories are Advanced Manufacturing, Business Services, Information Technology and Life Sciences.

Wisconsin residents 18 years old and older are eligible, as are teams from Wisconsin-based businesses and organizations. Businesses or teams from outside the state are also eligible to compete if they demonstrate intent to base their business in Wisconsin. Entrepreneurs may also enter multiple ideas, though each idea must be separate and distinct.

Companies or individuals that have raised less than $25,000 in private equity for their plans in a current form are eligible to enter. Generally speaking, private equity refers to angel and venture capital.

As with past contests, the 2015 competition will take place in stages:

  • In Phase 1, which is open until 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, the contest will accept idea abstracts on the website. Entries should be roughly 250 words (or no more than 1,400 characters, including spaces) and will be graded by the pool of BPC judges. The top 50 idea abstracts will advance to Phase 2. 
  • In Phase 2, which runs from Feb. 23 to 5 p.m. March 16, 2015, the top 50 idea abstracts will submit an executive summary. The top 20 executive summaries will advance to Phase 3.
  • In Phase 3, which runs from April 6 to 5 p.m. April 27, 2015, the top 20 executive summaries will prepare full business plans. Judges will review the plans and pick three finalists from each of the four categories to advance to the final presentation round. 
  • The top 12, or “Diligent Dozen,” will square off with oral presentations during the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference on June 2 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. 

Past finalists have launched companies that have raised $160 million in angel, venture, grants and venture debt over time – all while creating jobs and economic value for Wisconsin. The contest’s major sponsors include the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

The 2014 grand prize winner was Elucent Medical, a Madison-based firm that is commercializing a wireless marker tag and detections system that helps show surgeons tumor margins during surgical excision. The device eliminates current pre-surgical hook-wire localization procedures that are invasive, costly and highly inefficient. Category winners in 2014 were MobCraft Beer (Advanced Manufacturing), Find My Spot (Business Services), Organic Research Corp. (Information Technology), and Elucent Medical (Life Sciences).

To enter, become a judge or a sponsor, visit

December 9, 2014

Business Incubation in Watertown: Supporting Innovation

Guest post written by Kim John Erdmann, Executive Director, Watertown Economic Development Organization

Watertown is a great place to launch a business, thanks in large part to the Watertown Economic Development Organization's (WEDO) efforts to help businesses start in the city. One of the many ways the organization supports start-ups is through the WEDO Business Incubator.

Business incubators are facilities designed to accelerate the growth and success of entrepreneurs and start-up companies by providing an array of business support resources and services, including physical space, capital, coaching and mentoring, common services and networking connections. A company will typically spend about two years in an incubator setting – during a company’s start-up phase, when a new business is most vulnerable. Incubators provide business support services, where companies can often share telephone, office and production equipment expenses with other start-up companies in an effort to reduce costs.

The primary goal of business incubation is to graduate successful, financially stable companies that continue to grow. These companies will create jobs, revitalize communities, commercialize new technologies and strengthen local economies.

Business Incubation Works

Business incubators reduce the risk of failure for early-stage companies. According to the National Business Incubator Association, 70% of small startup businesses outside incubators fail in the first three years while 87% of incubator graduates succeed and flourish.

By providing affordable space, support and business development services, incubators can play a key role in helping young businesses survive and grow during the early stages, when they are the most financially vulnerable.

Business Incubators in Watertown

According to the Wisconsin Business Incubation Association, there are currently 35 operating incubators in the state, more than 1,400 incubators in North America and 5,000 worldwide. One such incubator is the WEDO Business Incubator, operated by the Watertown Economic Development Organization. Built in 1993, the Incubator has seen an array of businesses successfully transition to their own facilities and continue to grow, including:
Current tenants include Idle Free Systems, whose story of innovation in the manufacturing industry demonstrates how successful business incubation can be. The payback to the City of Watertown has been great. Collectively, the five businesses that have graduated from the WEDO Business Incubator have paid millions of dollars in property taxes to the City. This does not include income taxes paid by the employees.

Business Incubation Benefits the Community

Nationwide, business incubators are strong community assets. Eighty-four percent of business incubator graduates stay in their communities. Many incubators receive public funding, the return on which is great. In fact, research has shown that for every $1 of estimated public operating subsidy provided the incubator, clients and graduates of incubators generate approximately $30 in local tax revenue alone.  Without a doubt, business incubation works – both in Watertown and across the country.

Watertown Business Incubation Success Story: Idle Free Systems

Guest post written by Kim John Erdmann, Executive Director, Watertown Economic Development Organization

Entrepreneurs and innovators are important to the Wisconsin economy, and in Watertown, they are vital to the manufacturing industry. Take Idle Free Systems as a case in point.

Idle Free Systems is a current tenant of the WEDO Business Incubator in Watertown. Robert Jordan, founder and Chief Technology Officer of Idle Free Systems, knows first-hand how startup companies can benefit from the services and advantages offered by business incubation.

Before founding Idle Free Systems, Robert Jordan had a 20-year career as a truck driver. But Jordan wasn't only driving a truck. He was inventing. It began with the questions: Why do we need a 600 hp motor to control the environment when the truck is not running down the road? Why can't we substitute a smaller motor?

Those questions led to Jordan inventing a system for truck engine idle elimination. Idle Free manufactures auxiliary power units for diesel trucks, which allows drivers to eliminate idling when loading, unloading and sleeping in their trucks. This not only cuts down on carbon monoxide and greenhouse gas emissions, but saves fuel as well.

What began as a one-employee venture is now a growing company that employs 25 people. In July of this year, Idle Free was acquired by Phillips & Temro Industries of Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Phillips and Temro Industries is a leading global supplier of engineered thermal solutions, systems and controls, with facilities in North America, Europe and Asia. With this acquisition, Idle Free is poised for aggressive growth and continued innovation.