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Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition, Business Summit Thursday at UW

April 18, 2017

Ten student-led finalists will compete for the chance to earn money for their startup business plans during the annual John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition at the University of Wyoming Thursday, April 20.

The entrepreneurial competition awards cash prizes to outstanding teams of student entrepreneurs who submit their business plans for new ventures showing significant business potential. The competition will be held at the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center, beginning with opening remarks from UW President Laurie Nichols. Student projects will be presented starting at 9 a.m. and will continue throughout the day.

The entrepreneurship competition is part of a daylong UW Entrepreneurship Summit. The UW College of Business hosts both the competition and summit. To view the schedule, click here.

The 10 John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition finalists, their projects, team members, majors and hometowns are:

-- Spifty, Neil Neuberger and Paul Bonifas, both dual MBA and petroleum engineering majors, from Casper. The founders have entered the peer-to-peer market with their Wyoming-based labor solutions company, which connects clients who want a job completed, with workers who would like to make extra income. The jobs completed can be anything ranging from house cleaning, to dog walking, to lawn care services. Spifty also offers an option in which workers, in lieu of being paid, can conveniently donate their earnings to a charity or nonprofit of their choice.

“Spifty is the only company that seamlessly translates excess volunteer labor into charitable donations.” Bonifas says.

-- Lev’sonic, Levente Pap, chemistry doctoral candidate, from Budapest, Hungary. The company’s product is a hardware and software platform that provides a solution for the tedious daily written documentation by a small mobile device that would directly convert speech to digital text via speech recognition. The product also is equipped with safety features such as a gas sensor, is and suitable to improve a safe working environment, save time for employees, improve managers’ efficiency and develop a company’s competitiveness.

-- Microflight, Shane Cornell, from Casper; Travis Dooley, from Powell; Chris Marcum, from Cheyenne; and Brian Potter, from Liberty Hill, Texas. All team members are mechanical engineering majors. Microgravity testing is a common exercise when preparing products for space travel, and companies tend to launch many expensive tests. The MicroFlight team has been developing a new method for microgravity testing that is unique to anywhere in the country, developing a product that provides the closest to space-like testing.

-- Photohound, Keegan Haukaas, MBA, from Evanston; and Jordan Bates, Cheyenne, Jack Murdock, Laramie, and Samuel Robertson, from Wheatland, all computer science majors. The company provides a platform in which users can post photographs called PhotoCaches and challenge other users to find these PhotoCaches and take an equivalent photo. The user is then rewarded in various ways, including discount codes, interesting factoids or a follow-up PhotoCache. The goal is to motivate people to get outside and explore the world around them through the discovery and creation of PhotoCaches.

“We are very excited about our app because we see its game and social aspects motivating people to get up, get outside and get moving, unlike today’s social media platforms. Users will also be able to more easily find the hidden gems in a new town or a vacation spot,” Haukaas says. “We envision our app having impact on the way that businesses advertise. In the future, we hope to create jobs in Wyoming and help foster more entrepreneurship through business partnerships with our company.”

-- Wyoming Wheels, Nicholas Reh, a dual engineering/MBA student from Aurora, Colo.; James Francis and Scott Ratliff, both from Gillette; Megan Richter, from Sheridan; and Tyler Kissell, from Palisade, Colo. All are mechanical engineering majors. The company’s plan will improve the mobility of wheelchair-bound individuals through a new wheel assembly for manual wheelchairs. The modified wheelchair assembly will reduce the likelihood of shoulder and wrist injuries that tend to occur with long-term wheelchair use.

“Wyoming Wheels was founded with a purpose: to provide people with life-improving innovations at an attainable price, while growing to positively impact the lives of all,” Reh says.

-- Valued Energy Platform, John Lee, energy management MBA, from Dubois, and Greyson Buckingham, dual energy management MBA and law student, from Jackson. The business plan seeks to deliver greater efficiencies in the oil and gas supply chain. The plan is to create an e-marketplace where operators submit RFPs (request for proposals) online and, then, power generation companies, in turn, submit bids. As a result, this open forum will transform the information provided from relevant stakeholders into a valuable asset and a currency for business.

“After working power generation sales throughout UW, it became clear to me that common sales methods for power generation providers -- making cold calls or relying on existing relationships -- was extremely antiquated and lacked transparency,” Buckingham says. “Additionally, it was obvious operators weren’t maximizing opportunities or recognizing cross-basin purchasing power.”

-- Calendar Connect, also a company headed by Buckingham and Lee. The concept seeks to maximize network “connectability” through an app that leverages location data and syncs with the calendar app on IOS devices to allow for networking and connections between contacts. The app will take user data inputted into the calendar app and sync through blockchain technology to connect peers when they enter the same area.

-- Atmosphere Marketing LLC, Dallin Cooper, business management, from Riverton, and Madison Cooley, dual art and computer science major, from Cheyenne. The company provides a wide variety of digital marketing services to all sizes of businesses, providing websites that fit within any budget. For businesses with low budgets, the company provides customization of premade template-based sites. For higher budget projects, all websites are custom-made and can be fitted with extensive functionalities to fit various industries.

-- AquaLux, Kyle Struna, from Cheyenne; Diego Fronza, from Big Piney; and Justin Oborny, from Oshkosh, Neb., energy systems engineering majors; and Jaimie Wages, from Omaha, Neb., dual energy systems engineering and mechanical engineering major. The team is developing a device that will revolutionize the water purification market. The portable purification system incorporates a dual purification system combining the proven reliability of carbon filtration and the enhanced disinfecting power of UVC light.

-- Harms Way Boarding Company, Tanner Harms, mechanical engineering, and Mason Harms, business management, both from Englewood, Colo.; and Laramie’s Jonah Henry and Eric Gunderson, both chemical engineering majors. The business is dedicated to creating high-quality, custom longboards (skateboards) from composite materials at an affordable price. The team has developed a vision to build premium quality longboards to distribute to Laramie and the surrounding communities, with three primary models to be designed and prepared for mass fabrication.

For more information about the student competition and the business summit, call Steve Russell, College of Business marketing and external relations director, at (307) 766-4112 or email

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