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UW Business Incubator Adjusts Plans for Startup Challenges

March 20, 2020

The University of Wyoming’s business incubator, the Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC), has announced that, amid the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the center’s startup challenge programs will continue, but with some changes.

“It’s very common that our startup companies have to pivot several times between their initial conception and launch,” says WTBC Laramie Director Dave Bohling. “Now, it falls to us to do the same. We’ve long believed that an incubation program is more important than an incubation space. The current situation is just letting us test that.”

Bohling says the immediate concern was with the Microbial Ecology Collaborative Startup Launchpad, which had a pitch day scheduled Thursday, March 26.

“That event is still going forward but will be entirely online. We’re practicing with our presenters and have our judges on board,” Bohling says. “The link that the public can use to access it will be on our website before next Thursday.

“Our plan for the Wind River Startup Challenge is going to take some more thought and input from our local partners at Central Wyoming College and with the Small Business Development Center before we have a solid plan for how we handle that event,” Bohling adds. “Right now, we’re continuing to support our nine finalists remotely as they work to develop their pitches. We’re also hoping that the COVID situation will be better understood by the end of May, when we are planning on Pitch Day for that event.”

The UW student-oriented Fisher Innovation Launchpad sees the most substantial changes, says WTBC Laramie Assistant Director Fred Schmechel.

“Typically, our marketing for Fisher works best in face-to-face conversations with students, and that’s not an option given the circumstances. We’re going to push the Fisher’s marketing period back to this fall but keep the eligibility date open for students and graduate students who would have qualified this semester,” Schmechel says. “This gives us an opportunity to collaborate with another UW program, the Ellbogen $50k Entrepreneurship Competition. We’re in early discussions with that program to see if collaboration can amplify the impact of both efforts.”

The Ellbogen $50k Entrepreneurship Competition, administered by the UW College of Business, is slated to wrap-up in early May. Patrick Kreiser, the program’s administrator and the College’s Rile Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship and Leadership, spoke to the plans for the Ellbogen program. 

“We have been monitoring  how the situation unfolds as we make any final decisions, and the WTBC’s startup challenges offer a test platform to see how we might go about holding the competition virtually,” Kreiser says. “We are committed to ensuring that our eight hard-working finalists in this year’s competition get the opportunity that they have earned through their hard work and creative approaches. The WTBC has been a great partner in helping to support the Ellbogen 50k Competition and we look forward to continuing to work with them to find collaborative and innovative ways to bring transformational applied opportunities to our students.”

The Microbial Ecology Startup Collaborative and Wind River Startup challenges are both in their first year of aiding Wyoming-based entrepreneurs with launching companies. These programs are both funded through a National Science Foundation grant managed by the Wyoming Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program.

The Fisher Innovation Launchpad, funded through an endowment by Donne and Sue Fisher, wrapped up its fourth year in late October. The WTBC reports that the most recent four winners are progressing quickly and have already created five jobs in addition to the entrepreneurs.

For more information on the university’s business incubation efforts, go to www.uwyo.edu/wtbc. For more information on the College of Business’s entrepreneurship programs, go to www.uwyo.edu/business/entrepreneurship/.

Contact Us

Institutional Communications

Bureau of Mines Building, Room 137

Laramie

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-2929

Email: cbaldwin@uwyo.edu

Find us on Facebook (Link opens a new window) Find us on Twitter (Link opens a new window)

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