Burrill Business Plan Competition This Friday!

(Written by Chris Meyer) – I get asked often where Sector67 came from and I have to give sole credit to my experiences through the University of Wisconsin’s various student competitions. I started competing in 2006 as a partner to Justin Beck (one of PerBlue‘s founders) pitching the idea for a dual screen laptop:

Schoof Dual Monitor Laptop

Dual screen laptop prototype, ignore the fingers holding up the second screen and the impossibly clean laptop (with the wireless pcmcia adapter – remember those?). We did eventually build a functional prototype before the competition and had it working – fake it until you make it.

Unsurprisingly, we got creamed and didn’t win a thing for our efforts – but definitely enjoyed the prototyping funds that let us test out a crazy concept (LCD screens were about $300 then and we immediately tore it apart to make it a smaller size). After 4 more years of competing in the Schoof and Tong Innovation Competition, the New Arts Venture Challenge, the Climate Leadership Challenge, the Hundred Hour Challenge, the WI Governor’s Business Plan Competition, and the Burrill Business Plan Competition I finally sorted out a reasonable approach and consistently placed in the top 10 from 2006 through 2010 during my undergraduate and graduate work with different partners each year.  This ultimately led me to present a bad idea in 2010 – Sector67.  I didn’t have any good concepts (read: something that was going to make a lot of money and be produce-able), and 2010 was my last year of graduate school so I was compelled to leave school pitching something as I had done for the last 4 years – the trouble was I didn’t have any good ideas and neither did anyone else who could potentially partner with me.  At the time I believed the business plan contest would only reward profitable enterprises, not ventures with social value or non-financial returns (which wasn’t true):

Chris Meyer, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, describes Sector67, his company proposal for a nonprofit, membership-based center to nurture electronics and mechanical prototyping and advanced manufacturing in Madison, to judges Dick Wilkey, center, founder of the Fisher-Barton Group, and John Neis, right, partner with Ventures Investors LLC, during the 2010 G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition held at Grainger Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on April 23, 2010. Meyer's plan was awarded second place and $7,000. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

A UW photographer captures a nice moment with Dick Wilkey and John Neis not looking very impressed during the Burrill Competition 🙂

I wrote up a 19 page business proposal and ultimately won 2nd place in the Burrill Business Plan Competition, 3rd place in the Governor’s Business Plan Competition in the business services category, and received a grant from the Kauffman Foundation through the UW Office of Corporate Relation’s student venture seed grant opportunity and a grant from the MG&E foundation to help with initial equipment acquisition.  Sector67 wouldn’t exist today without support from these programs and opportunities available to UW students – with this in mind, I’d like to ask you to consider attending the 2015 Burrill Business Plan Competition this Friday (5/1/2015) to see over 44 teams present ideas – this is the largest competition in the 18 years of the contest.

Presentations start at 7:30AM until 10:30AM, with 8 finalists from the morning tracks announced and re-presenting from 12:45PM until 2:30PM.  With presentations only lasting 15 minutes with questions I can guarantee some interesting variety and maybe you’ll be the first person to see in person the next big Madison business in the pipeline!  The entrepreneurial community in Madison has been seeded through the business plan competition, with alumni including Parallel Kingdom (PerBlue’s first offering – Justin Beck), Entrustet and Exchange Hut (both from Nate Lustig who you can read about his thoughts on the Burrill Competition here), Badger Bites (now EatStreet with Matt Howard), Student Spill (Heidi Allstop – now MeToo), TurboTap (through the Innovation Days competition with Matt Younkle), SnowShoe Stamp (Climate Leadership Challenge with Claus and Jami) and many many others.

You can read more about the event and the participating companies on the 2015 program here.

I have to thank John Surdyk for taking the time annually to run and manage this program – it’s a ton of extra work and yet he is willing to host year after year to encourage student entrepreneurship on campus and in Wisconsin.  Please consider dropping by to catch a presentation or two, or talking with students at their tradeshow-style booths for a quick pitch on their concept from 10:30-11:30AM.

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