A prestigious, nationwide venture capital group whose goal is to boost companies led by women will bring an audience of potential investors to Madison next week.

Springboard Enterprises will hold a two-day forum Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at the Fluno Center on the UW-Madison campus.

It will be Springboard's first presentation in Wisconsin, sandwiched between stops in California's Silicon Valley and in New York City.

"I think there are a lot of great companies in the Midwest that are women-led. We want them to have the training and the capital that they need," said Lauren Flanagan, who is on Springboard's board of directors. Flanagan, of Douglas, Mich., also is managing director of Phenomenelle Angels Fund, a Madison investment firm that focuses on early-stage companies run by women and minorities.

"We're positioning Madison as a life sciences major center in the middle of the country," Flanagan said.

Springboard, a nonprofit organization established in 1999, has showcased 380 companies that have raised a total of more than $4.5 billion in equity, corporate investments and grants.

More than 100 companies from around the U.S. and beyond applied to participate in the forum, called AllThingsLifeSciences 2009. Eighteen were chosen, about half of them from the Midwest, including four from the Madison area: EraGen BioSciences, Eso-Technologies, Quintessence Biosciences and Stemina Biomarker Discovery.

Laura Strong, president and chief executive of Quintessence, a Madison company working on drugs to fight cancer, said Springboard has been giving the companies chosen for the forum a headstart toward attracting potential investors, with mentoring sessions in Washington, D.C., and New York.

"We got quite a lot of feedback up front to make sure the presentations really are as good as they can be," she said. "It's been a very interesting experience."

Quintessence's lead drug candidate is in phase 1 clinical trials, looking at safe dosage issues. Phase 2 trials, which will test the drug's effectiveness on cancer patients, will cost about $20 million, Strong said.

Eso-Technologies, based partly in Middleton, has developed a medical device that it says is a safer, less invasive way to monitor heart function during surgery. The grand prize winner in the 2009 Governor's Business Plan contest, Eso-Technologies is working on its first round of private funding, and hopes to close on about $1 million within a few weeks, said Bonnie Reinke, president and chief executive.

"Springboard definitely can help," Reinke said. "Investors in the Springboard forum can become major players in our second round."

Eso-Technologies has developed a prototype probe and has tested it on dogs with "fantastic" results, Reinke said.

"We did not expect terrific results because dogs are not anatomically like humans," she said. "We were really pleased with what we saw."

Eso-Technologies is waiting for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin tests on humans, possibly before the end of 2009.

Flanagan said the four local companies were chosen for Springboard's road show because they have "very scalable" businesses.

"Each has the potential to be a large company, certainly $20 million to $25 million, or even the possibility of $100 million. And the women CEOs are experienced and good presenters," she said.

The panels on Sept. 30 will focus on what investors look for and how to take a company to the point of selling its stock on Wall Street. There will also be a "fast pitch session," in which entrepreneurs will give a short rundown on their companies. Presenters for that session have not yet been chosen, Flanagan said.

The meeting on Oct. 1 will highlight presentations by leaders of the 18 life sciences companies selected for more thorough descriptions of their products and their goals.

Springboard is presenting the forum in cooperation with Phenomenelle Angels and with the support of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and Department of Commerce.

For more information, go to www.springboardenterprises.org.