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11 Finalists Announced for Fisher Innovation Challenge

June 14, 2016

Sometimes, it’s not easy to make a decision -- especially when the quality is so close.

That was the case in the recent announcement that 11 semifinalists in the Fisher Innovation Challenge (FIC) were all named as finalists. The FIC is a new competition launched this past spring and supported through a financial gift from Donne Fisher, and matched by the University of Wyoming Office of Research and Economic Development.

The FIC seeks to catalyze Wyoming technology startup businesses and provide the opportunity to apply for seed money to take the business past concept stage and into real-world first article builds and initial sales. The competition will identify finalists who will be eligible to apply to a $100,000 seed fund.

“The original plan was to have five to seven finalists and we found, after the semifinalists’ interviews, one of the judges said, ‘Gosh, I wish we could take them all,’” says Christine Langley, chief operating officer of the Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC). “That began a discussion of how we could make that happen because they were all interesting business concepts, and our ultimate goal of this competition is to develop as many new businesses as possible.”

As a result, the WTBC was able to raise an additional $25,000 to add to the original $100,000 seed fund, and the judges believe the seed fund can accommodate more qualifiers in the future.  

“We met with the judges again, and the determination was made to include all 11 semifinalists as finalists, and the overall seed fund was officially increased to $125,000,” Langley says.

An initial day for the businesses to pitch their concepts will take place in September, with a final pitch day scheduled Nov. 10, Langley says.

During the pitch days, the judges will determine whether a company is “qualified” to apply for seed funding. This means the company is far enough along, and its business idea is impressive enough that business representatives will be allowed to approach the $125,000 seed fund for capital, she says. Additionally, all qualifiers will be awarded $2,500. The businesses also will be offered space in the WTBC.

The FIC is for new, independent businesses in the seed, startup or early growth stages that are focused on technology and/or innovation. The following are generally excluded from eligibility: buy-outs, expansions of existing companies, real estate syndications, franchises, online retail, brick and mortar retail, licensing agreements for distribution in a different geographical area, and spin-outs from existing corporations.

The finalists -- listed by company name, a brief company description and team member(s) -- are:

-- Aktzin Systems, control systems technology for renewable energy sources; Dakota Roberson, a doctoral student from Rock Springs majoring in electrical engineering.

-- Aseman, next-generation composite materials modeling software; Seyed Hamid Reza Senei, a doctoral student from Mashhad, Iran, majoring in mechanical engineering.

-- Cowboy Performance and Manufacturing, high-performance material parts for the power sports industry; Kyle Kuhn, a master’s student in mechanical engineering from Laramie.

-- Faryna Fodder Farm, production of high-quality livestock feed year-round; Matthew Faryna, a sophomore from Nunn, Colo., majoring in biomedical engineering.

-- Lev’Sonic, real-time medical transcription hardware; Levente Pap, a master’s student from Budapest, Hungary, majoring in inorganic chemistry.

-- M-Physics, created a device that allows companies exploring water-based, enhanced oil recovery techniques to foresee their performance in oil recovery; Paulo Hoyer, a doctoral student from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, majoring in petroleum engineering.

-- Pralee Hatchery and Aviary, a new artificial insemination method for use in avian farms; Jaycey Lindsey, a junior from Wright, majoring in pre-veterinary medicine.

-- Resono Pressure Systems, innovative measurement techniques and instrumentation systems in fluid dynamics and aerodynamics; Pourya Nikoueeyan, a master’s student from Mashhad, Iran, majoring in mechanical engineering. Others involved include Michael Hind, a loads and control engineer at Siemens Wind Power who received his master’s degree from UW; John Strike, a tunnel test engineer at the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion who received his master’s degree from UW; Stephan Whitmore, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Utah State University; and Jonathan Naughton, a UW professor of mechanical engineering.

-- Business name to be determined, a novel catalyst for Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells; Shibely Saha, a doctoral student from Khulna, Bangladesh, majoring in chemical engineering; and Dongmei Li, a UW assistant professor of chemical engineering.

-- Hydro Power (temporary business name), a compact catalytic membrane reactor for producing hydrogen; Shuai Tan, a doctoral student from Henan, China, majoring in chemical engineering; and Li.

-- Torre Roasts, commercial grade coffee roasters for home; Emily Beagle, a doctoral student from Sheridan majoring in mechanical engineering; Roberson; and Erica Belmont, a UW assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

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