SHERIDAN — The local Wyoming Technology Business Center is gearing up to host its second startup challenge, which offers a cash prize and opportunities for further funding to developing businesses.
Sheridan’s WTBC director Scott Rendall said last year’s competition drew more than 60 applications and though only three won, applicants still had the chance to work with the WTBC after the competition ended.
“This is a good opportunity to meet new entrepreneurs in the community,” Rendall said.
Winning pitches are awarded $5,000 and have the opportunity to apply for more money out of the WTBC’s $50,000 seed fund to further develop their business.
Three startups received that prize last year. The first was K-Driven, proposed by Justin Koltiska and Garret Kron, which created a product that makes adjusting rod strings in oil fields safer and more efficient. The second was a company called Old Army Records, which created research software that could compile a digital database of 19th-century military records. And the third company was called Oatware, which created a platform that could act as a central hub for local re-sale markets and aggregate listings from places like eBay, Craigslist and Facebook.
The Sheridan WTBC’s first startup challenge was held in May 2017, and was modeled after similar long-standing competitions from around the state; Rendall said Laramie has been holding startup challenges for about 11 years and Casper has been holding them for about six years.
The competition is open to just about any original business idea. Rendall said the only limitations were companies could not be real estate syndicates, franchises or brick-and-mortar retail stores.
“We would like to have people develop ideas that would not only be applicable locally, but would be applicable regionally,” Rendall said. “One of the judging requirements is that the product or service can be offered for sale outside of Wyoming.”
Applications should include the business idea, a company name (if applicable), the target market for the business, a list of team members and an indication of how much development has gone into the start-up so far.
The WTBC evaluates the initial applications and winnows the field down to 10 to 15 semi-finalists. Those entrepreneurs are invited in for interviews with WTBC staff, who will select a group of five finalists. The finalists will publicly present their ideas to a panel of judges at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center Nov. 8 and three winners will again be selected.
This year’s judges have not been chosen yet, but Rendall said last year the panel included local entrepreneurs like Tim Barnes of Black Tooth Brewing Company and PJ Treide of Bighorn Design.
Applying to the challenge is free and Rendall said that even if a business that applies is not selected as a finalist, the applicants will have the opportunity to consult with the WTBC on their business after the competition is over.
“It’s nice to highlight that entrepreneurism is alive and well in Sheridan,” Rendall said.
Rendall said there are roughly 11 or 12 applications in progress, though last year most of the applications came in right before the deadline. Applications for this year’s startup challenge are open until Sept. 14.