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UW Students Gear Up for $30K Entrepreneurship Finals Competition

December 7, 2016

A record-breaking 76 student-led teams have been whittled down to the 10 finalists for the chance to earn funds for their startup business plans in the annual John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition at the University of Wyoming.

This is the most entrants in the program’s 15-year history, and those teams represent each college within the UW campus. The finalists are now working with mentors through the final pitch competition that will take place during a large-scale entrepreneurship conference April 20 at the College of Business, the competition’s sponsor.

Known as the UW $10K Competition until 2011, the John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition encourages students to act on their talents, ideas and energy to produce tomorrow’s leading businesses. The competition awards cash prizes to outstanding teams of student entrepreneurs who submit their business plans for new ventures that show significant business potential.

The business competition is open to UW undergraduates and graduate students in all disciplines.

The first-place business proposal will win $15,000, with half awarded after the competition and the balance given after submitting a satisfactory progress report. Second-prize funds are $7,500, and third place will receive $5,000. Second- and third-place winners will receive half their prize winnings after the competition and the remaining after submitting progress reports. Additional prizes will be given following the final competition.

“That event will be open to all students, faculty, staff and community members who are interested in hearing the student pitches as well as listening to a keynote speaker on entrepreneurship,” says Steve Russell, College of Business marketing and external relations director.

He says the competition has grown, especially the last three years.

“The last three years, we have taken the competition from having 14 applicants to having 47 last year, to 76 this year,” he says.

For more information about the competition, visit the website at, or call Russell at (307) 766-4112 or email

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

-- IruKleanji, Neil Neuberger and Paul Bonifas, both dual MBA and petroleum engineering majors, from Casper. The company is a peer-to-peer cleaning service delivered via an app or website.  A “client” who needs part of his/her house cleaned simply posts a short description of the cleaning project on the platform and attaches a photograph. This post is then available for all “cleaners” to view on the IruKleanji platform and can bid on each individual project.

-- 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, 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, and Samuel Robertson, from Wheatland, both computer science majors. The company provides a platform where 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.

-- Wyoming Wheels, 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.

-- Value Energy Forum, 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.

-- 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, 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., all are 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.

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