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UW $50K Entrepreneurship Competition Moves to Virtual Event May 8-9

April 22, 2020
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The University of Wyoming College of Business invites the public to participate in the 20th annual entrepreneurship competition, now the John P. Ellbogen $50K Entrepreneurship Competition, with virtual presentations scheduled May 8-9.

In response to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 situation, the event has been modified to be a public event, hosted by the College of Business via Zoom. Moderated by Leadership Wyoming Executive Director Mandy Fabel, it will be judged by five prestigious panelists and feature eight student teams competing for $50,000 in seed money to pursue their businesses.

Each team will compete in Round 1 Friday, May 8, beginning at 9 a.m. Round 1 will consist of a 10- to 12-minute presentation and 10-12 minutes of interactive discussion between judging panelists and each team.

The top four teams from day one will advance to the Round 2 presentations Saturday, May 9, beginning at 12:20 p.m., when they will have 25-minute interactive discussions with judges who will play the role of potential customers of each business. The four teams advancing to Round 2 will be announced at 4:30 p.m. Friday, and the final winner(s) and award amounts will be announced at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

“This event is a great opportunity for our students to showcase their entrepreneurial skill sets while simultaneously learning from our extraordinary panel of successful judges,” says Patrick Kreiser, the Rile Chair of Entrepreneurship and Leadership in the College of Business. “Entrepreneurs thrive in times of uncertainty, and the relentlessness of our teams in adjusting and pivoting their business concepts amid the COVID crisis has been inspirational. Positive change comes from educating the citizens of Wyoming and helping students to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset.”

The winner of the first competition in 2001 was Rocky Mountaineering Inc., with team members Marvin Perry (M.S. ’01, mechanical engineering); Joe Pawlicki (MBA ’01 and B.S. ’97, finance); and Lacey (Songer) Mercil (MBA ’01 and B.S. ’98, agriculture). Their business idea focused on manufacturing rock-climbing and mountaineering products in Laramie.

With private support from the First Interstate Bank Foundation, the John P. Ellbogen Foundation and individual donors, UW’s entrepreneurship competition continued to grow and flourish. In 2011, the competition prize money grew from $10,000 to $30,000, and it became a $50,000 competition in 2017.

In 2010, the John P. Ellbogen Foundation created an endowment that was matched by the state of Wyoming to support the competition award winners in perpetuity.

With ongoing efforts throughout the state to increase economic diversification, the College of Business has expanded the event to include a variety of business types and industry contexts.

“The Ellbogen $50K Entrepreneurship Competition is exactly what is needed at this critical time for our state as we look to diversify Wyoming’s economy, and the College of Business is proud to support these efforts,” College of Business Dean Dave Sprott says. “I can think of nothing better than to provide students the opportunity to take their business ideas to the next level.”

Notable companies that have launched successful businesses after competing in the UW entrepreneurship competition are Table Mountain Vineyards, 2004; Bright Agrotech, 2011; GlycoBac LLC, 2011; and Valued Energy Platform, now Disa LLC, 2017.

“The diversity in business types exhibited by this year’s eight finalists is outstanding,” Kreiser says. “These new businesses are built upon well-researched ideas that offer innovative business models and customer markets to the Wyoming economy, while also creating new jobs. As I always tell our students, anything in life is possible with a positive attitude and a lot of hard work. The Ellbogen $50K Entrepreneurship Competition is one of the finest venues that we have at the University of Wyoming for students to learn how to turn their dreams into reality.”

To register for the free May 8-9 event, go to

For more information, email Josie Voight at

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