The Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest is now accepting initial entries for the 2021 competition. Contestants have until 5 p.m. on Sunday, January 31 to submit a 250-word idea abstract. Contestants who advance to subsequent contest rounds will expand on their plan in stages.

The contest is designed to encourage Wisconsin entrepreneurs in the startup stage of tech-based businesses in Wisconsin. It links up-and-coming entrepreneurs with a statewide network of community resources, expert advice and mentoring, management talent and possible sources of capital. In 2020, finalists shared in more than $125,000 in cash and service prizes.

Over the past 18 years, the contest has led to valuable public and media exposure for the top business plans and spurred economic growth in Wisconsin.

Interested entrepreneurs can get started by creating an account at to submit their idea abstract. There they can also find business plan templates, startup information, networking contacts and technical resources from a mix of state and national resources on the site.

Contest categories are Advanced Manufacturing, Business Services, Information Technology and Life Sciences. About 100 volunteer judges drawn from the finance, sales, marketing, research, and technology sectors across Wisconsin will score the entries and provide feedback on submissions.

Through the website, contestants will have access to mentors, as well as review the judges’ comments and feedback on their ideas as they advance through the competition.

In Phase 1, applicants have until January 31 to submit an idea abstract. Entries will be graded by a pool of judges, and the top 50 ideas will advance to Phase 2.

In Phase 2, advancing applicants have from February 19 to March 12 to submit an executive summary expanding on their idea. A mentored “boot camp” for contestants will be held during this phase, and top 20 executive summaries will advance to Phase 3.

In Phase 3, the top 20 entries will have until April 26 to 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.

Mentored practice sessions will be offered to the top 12 finalists in late May. This “Diligent Dozen” will then square off with oral presentations at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in June 2021.

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 or expand their business in Wisconsin. Entrepreneurs may also enter multiple ideas, though each idea must be separate and distinct. Businesses or ideas that have received angel or venture capital are not eligible. There is no fee to enter.

Since its inception in 2004, the contest has received nearly 4,100 entries and has awarded $2.4 million in cash and services. Past finalists have launched companies that have raised more than $220 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 Corporation.

The 2020 Life Sciences and grand prize winner was Plumb Pharmaceuticals, a Middleton-based company developing a drug delivery technology platform for extended-release medications used in the treatment of opioid addiction. Category winners in 2020 were Advanced Ionics (Advanced Manufacturing), Last Lock (Business Services) and My GenomeRX (Information Technologies).

To enter, become a judge or learn about sponsorship opportunities, visit