2019 Casper Start-Challenge offers 'spark' to entrepreneurs - Casper, WY Oil City News
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2019 Casper Start-Challenge offers ‘spark’ to entrepreneurs

John Lee, a previous participant of the Casper Start-Up Challenge and vice president of operations at Disa, LLC., poses at the Wyoming Technology Business Center in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. – Some rewards of the 2019 Casper Start-Up Challenge are obvious.

Three finalists in this year’s competition will each receive $5,000 and will be eligible to receive a share of $50,000 in start-up seed money. They also will receive free office space for a year and professional mentoring.

But the very act of participation also yields benefits. It’s an opportunity for start-up entrepreneurs to meet and receive advice from the staff of the Wyoming Technology Business Center-Casper – which runs the event — and to meet and network with people across the spectrum of Casper’s business community. 

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Entering the competition is easy. John Lee, a previous participant and vice president of operations at Disa, LLC, suggests a couple of simple steps people can take to get started in this year’s Start-Up Challenge.

“My biggest advice would be to write down your idea on a piece of paper, just flesh it out in an elementary stage,” he said.

Next, he recommends calling the WTBC and discussing your idea with either Director Jerad Stack, (307) 315-6401, or Assistant Director John Glassburn, (307) 315-6404.

The final step, of course, is to enter the competition. Full details are available at the Casper Start-Up Challenge website, casperstartupchallenge.com. The application process takes only a few minutes.

Disa focuses on innovative and highly efficient mining and reclamation technologies. John Lee and his associates were winners in the 2017 Casper Start-Up Challenge with an idea unrelated to Disa. But through contacts made at the WTBC and within the Casper business community, they decided to shift focus — with the full backing and support of WTBC staff.

“It takes just one little idea to spark maybe something bigger,” John said.
He added that throughout his business journey, WTBC has been ready to help: “More than anything, it provided us space and the mentors to take the business from just a concept to actually putting it into practice and start testing it.”

The goal of the Casper Start-Up Challenge is to inspire, then provide guidance and support, as entrepreneurs take good ideas and turn them into viable businesses – especially firms that have a potential to create a significant number of jobs in the area.

Matt Kull, owner and developer of Simple Injection, mingles after winning the Casper Start-Up Challenge in 2018. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)

Challenge organizers especially want to encourage entries from people who are in the “idea” stage of business development.

Registration for the Start-Up Challenge began Aug. 12 and will end Sept. 12. Interviews with semi-finalists will be Sept. 18 and 19.

An entrepreneurial “Boot Camp” will be held Oct. 4 and 5, during which time business experts will explore with participants such important matters as legal and financial issues, marketing, product design, competitive analysis, intellectual property, and team development. For more information on the Boot Camp, visit the website https://www.caeda.net/boot-camp/.

Semi-finalists will work with WTBC staff to develop their business ideas and thus will benefit from staff expertise throughout the competition process.

The Start-Up Challenge “Pitch Day” will be held on Nov. 7 at the Lyric in downtown Casper. This year’s semi-finalists will be allotted 20 minutes each to sell their business ideas to a panel of judges. Judges will have 10 minutes after each presentation to ask questions. A reception will follow the announcement of this year’s winners. Pitch Day is free and open to the public.

The Casper Start-Up Challenge is sponsored by CAEDA/Forward Casper, First Interstate Bank, the Wyoming Business Council, Oil City News, and WIDC Frontier CDC.