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Biofuels developer Virent, of Madison, is No. 1 among the 40 Hottest Small Companies for 2015-2016 by BioFuels Digest. Pictured above are Lee Edwards, chief executive, (left) and Randy Cortright, chief technology officer and cofounder. 

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Companies touting a new type of sports helmet and a device to prevent hearing loss won wows from the judges and the audience at the Elevator Pitch Olympics on Thursday.

Always a highlight of the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium, the Elevator Pitch Olympics features very young startups, and each leader has 90 seconds to sum up why the company’s product or service has gangbuster potential.

Fifteen startups gave their spiel, eight of them from the Madison area.

And the winners were: Whitcomb Technologies, of Elm Grove, the favorite of both the judges and the crowd, and IotaMotion, of Iowa City, Iowa, which earned second place from the judges.

Whitcomb has developed a prototype for a helmet to reduce impact force and the potential for concussions, especially in sports.

IotaMotion’s product is aimed at people with cochlear implants — electronic devices that are surgically implanted to let deaf people hear.

IotaMotion lets electrodes from the implants be repositioned after some time without damaging any natural hearing. Currently, up to 50 percent of patients with cochlear implants lose some of their hearing because the electrodes can’t be adjusted, the company says.

Winners of the competition receive a trophy but no cash ... unless investors come calling later.

The Elevator Pitch Olympics marked the end of the two-day Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium at Monona Terrace.

The conference, aimed at connecting entrepreneurs with potential investors, business people and others in the startup community, drew a record 575 people, said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which puts on the event.

At least 64 investors attended, many from the Chicago area and upper Midwest, but some from as far as Cincinnati, Houston, Albuquerque and San Diego, Still said.

PEGASUS RISES: Pegasus Sustainability Solutions, Fitchburg, is hardly a startup now that it has finalized its second $1.5 million investment round.

The company, founded in August 2012, connects clients that need environmental services with those who provide the services.

But first, Pegasus’ software platform evaluates each request to determine such factors as the size and immediacy of the job and what type of waste disposal or environmental cleanup is needed, said founder, president and CEO Mark Hope.

He thinks of Pegasus as “Uber for environmental services.”

It is aimed at small and medium-sized companies across the U.S. — “from Seattle to Miami,” Hope said.

Pegasus is growing quickly, he said. In early 2013, it had 11 employees; now it is up to 28.

Revenues are expected to top $6 million in 2015 and $13 million in 2016, said Hope.

So far, Pegasus has raised $3 million from angel, or individual, investors and Hope wants to go after another $1.5 milion to grow even more.

VIRENT HONORS: Virent is No. 1 on the list of the 40 Hottest Small Companies by BioFuels Digest.

The annual rankings, based on votes by a panel of judges and subscribers of BioFuels Digest, honor companies for innovation and achievement in bio-based fuels, chemicals and materials by emerging companies.

Virent, 3571 Anderson St., is developing gasoline and other fuels from plant-based sugars and, in an effort with the Coca-Cola Co., is making chemicals that can be turned into resin and formed into recyclable plastic bottles.

EPIC VS. CERNER: Opening pathways for your electronic health records to communicate with each other will be a major topic at the Disruptive Healthcare Conference in Madison on Tuesday.

Leaders of Epic Systems Corp., Verona, and chief rival Cerner Corp., of Kansas City, Missouri, will go head-to-head on the topic of interoperability, or the ability of one company’s electronic health records system to share information with another.

The conference will be held at the Fluno Center, 601 University Ave., on the UW-Madison campus.

Contact Judy Newman at jdnewman@madison.com with tips and story suggestions.

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Judy Newman is a business reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.