While a path to success for a new business might well run through the 2019 Casper Start-Up Challenge, there could be surprising twists and turns along the way.
Chad McNutt was one of five finalists in the 2018 Start-Up Challenge. But his project, called Livestock Wx, was not among the winners.
That might have been the end of the story. Instead, it was just the beginning.
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The basic concept of Livestock Wx is to provide useful weather information to livestock producers with a deep dive into market analytics and economics. And even though Livestock Wx wasn’t a winner in last year’s Start-Up Challenge, the judges and staff at the Wyoming Technology Business Center-Casper – which hosts the event – were still impressed enough to offer Chad free office space at the Casper Business Incubator.
WTBC staff also introduced Chad to the Wyoming Business Council’s “Kickstart: Wyoming” program.
“They encouraged me to apply,” Chad said. “They helped me sort of think through some of the spots where I got dinged in the Start-Up Challenge, trying to shore those up, and really worked with me to improve the pitch, improve the business model, and think things through better.”
As a result, Chad was able to present a convincing proposal to the Wyoming Business Council, and Livestock Wx received about $48,000 in Kickstart seed money. Thus, the Casper Start-Up Challenge had become an unexpected stepping stone for success in a completely different program.
With support from the WTBC, Livestock Wx continues to evolve and grow. Chad is now exploring ways to expand his audience and increase advertising revenue. He also is focused on improving editorial content.
Jen Livsey, an owner/agent of the Denver-based EastCo Group, called Livestock Wx “absolutely the best ranching weather information I’ve found.” EastCo Group provides pasture and livestock insurance to ranchers across the American West.
Jen noted that while weather information services often focus on the needs of crop farmers in the Midwest, Chad’s effort targets livestock producers. “It’s actionable data for cattle ranchers,” she said.
Chad urges anyone with a good start-up idea to participate in the 2019 Casper Start-Up Challenge. After all, who knows where the road might eventually lead?
“I highly recommend anyone who has a good idea to give it a shot,” Chad said.
Registration for the 2019 Casper Start-Up Challenge will end Sept. 12. Interviews with semi-finalists will be Sept. 18 and 19.
Full details are available at the Casper Start-Up Challenge website, casperstartupchallenge.com. The application process is easy, taking only a few minutes.
Before entering the competition, interested persons are encouraged to call the WTBC’s Jerad Stack at (307) 315-6401, or John Glassburn at (307) 315-6404 for a preliminary discussion about their ideas.
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.
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/.
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 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.