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Sheridan Start-Up Challenge Fills WTBC Incubator

June 13, 2017

Five local entrepreneurs, vying for access to a $50,000 seed fund, recently pitched their new business ideas to a panel of judges and 150 people in attendance at the WYO Theater in Sheridan. As a result, the Sheridan Start-Up Challenge helped launch six new high-growth-potential companies in Sheridan, filling the Wyoming Technology Business Center’s (WTBC) Sheridan incubator.

The Pitch Day event, which took place May 23, was the culmination of the WTBC’s Sheridan Start-Up Challenge, a program designed to encourage and stimulate more entrepreneurial activity in the Sheridan area. The event was sponsored by the Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority Joint Powers Board, the Homer A. and Mildred S. Scott Foundation, First Interstate Bank, Davis and Cannon, and the WTBC.

“As a local business owner, I am very encouraged by the work of the WTBC,” says Jesus Rios, COO of Ptolemy Data Systems. “I can’t think of a single resource in our community that has spawned this level of creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and flat-out risk-taking among Sheridan County entrepreneurs.”

Three of the five teams qualified for access to the $50,000; a $5,000 prize; a free year in WTBC’s Sheridan incubator; and pro bono legal counsel from Davis and Cannon.

-- K-Driven, founded by Justin Koltiska and Garrett Kron, has created the K-Drive, which is a new, patented oil field tool designed to make the process of raising and lowering rod strings much safer, less expensive and quicker for only a single person. Created by Koltiska and Kron, the K-Drive will significantly reduce the cost of maintaining and servicing wells while allowing companies to ensure maximum efficiency of the pump.

-- Oatware, founded by Anne Gunn and Mark Thoney, is a new platform designed for existing media companies that can reunify local advertising for both local classifieds and commercial advertisers. It marries free, categorized, searchable private ads, which drive traffic, with paid commercial advertising, providing value to sellers, buyers and the marketplace provider.

-- Old Army Records was founded by Kevin O’Dell and Jim Powers. Genealogy research in the U.S. is a $3 billion market, with annual growth of more than 12 percent. One of the current trends in the industry is to make new historical records available to the growing number of researchers. Old Army Records is developing a web platform that will allow users to easily search and access the immense government database of detailed records from the 19th century military.

Two other finalists and a third semifinalist from the Sheridan Start-Up Challenge also have taken space in the WTBC Sheridan incubator. These include:

-- Clinical Trials Project, founded by Lekan Ajayi, is developing a web-based platform that allows health care providers to easily connect cancer patients with available drug trials.

-- RS Water Drill, founded by Rick Shelton, is commercializing a machine for thawing frozen water pipes.

-- Cypher Software, founded by Steve Butler, is developing a new host and service-monitoring software solution for IT departments.

These additions have filled the incubator with 10 client companies. Existing incubator companies are Advanced Waterflooding Technology, Edge Exteriors, Jenae Neeson Creative and Sheridan Programmers Guild.

“As a Sheridan city councilman, I am extremely pleased to learn that the WTBC’s business incubator is at capacity,” Rios says. “The demand in services and the overwhelming response we saw from the Start-Up Challenge continue to emphasize that the city of Sheridan has made a good investment in our partnership with Sheridan County and the University of Wyoming.”

The WTBC is a business development program of UW that was launched to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Wyoming and encourage the development of more high-growth companies within the state. The program has business incubators in Laramie, Casper and Sheridan that offer comprehensive business consulting as well as programs designed to stimulate new business activity.

Administered by the University of Wyoming Office of Research and Economic Development, the WTBC is a not-for-profit business incubator that provides entrepreneurs with the expertise, networks and tools necessary for success.

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