Computing technology undergirds much of modern life, with increasingly sophisticated know-how emerging all the time. In the future, computing could be based on optics or even molecular biology.
But in Wyoming, computing technology has progressed slowly. In 2018, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association, only about 10,000 jobs in the state were related to computing technology, or about 3.5 percent of total net employment.
Marcus Rieker, along with his colleagues Clayton Alleman and Mason Johnson, hope to jump-start the local tech sector. Their company, Rieker Designs, is one of five finalists in this year’s Casper Start-Up Challenge hosted by the Wyoming Technology Business Center.
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Three winners in this year’s event 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.
“It’s a one-stop shop pretty much for anything tech-wise,” said Marcus, founder and CEO of Rieker Designs, but the firm intends to focus primarily on the development of mobile applications, or apps, and custom software packages.
“It’s no secret that Wyoming’s economy has been driven by mineral extraction and tourism for decades,” Marcus said, noting that when it comes to computing technology jobs, Wyoming ranks last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“We saw a huge lack there,” he said. “Our solution was to create a Wyoming born and bred software company that will help lead the way in diversifying Wyoming’s economy.”
The entrepreneurs of Rieker Designs studied at the University of Wyoming. Marcus earned a degree in computer engineering, while Mason is finishing up a doctorate in computer science, and Clayton is completing a business management degree.
Marcus noted that UW produces many tech-savvy graduates who often must leave the state to find employment in their fields.
“We think we can create a company that will have a lasting impact, and hopefully we’ll be able to hire a lot of Wyoming people,” he said. “A big part of why we wanted to create this company is we want to help Wyoming.”
So, even as Rieker Designs grows and takes on national and international clients, Marcus wants the company to remain rooted in Wyoming.
“There’s a lot of smart people here, and we want to create jobs here. We’re proud to be based out of Wyoming,” he said.
Currently, one challenge for Rieker Designs is simply getting the word out about its services, which a $5,000 prize and a possible share of $50,000 in Seed Fund money from the Start-Up Challenge could help address.
“We would use the money to help market and advertise ourselves further,” Marcus said, “building our client base and thus allowing us to expand the company. We are excited for the chance to create a Wyoming -based tech company that will provide above-national-average salaries, benefits, and learning opportunities.”
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, Hilltop Bank, First Interstate Bank, the Wyoming Business Council, Oil City News, WIDC Frontier CDC, and the University of Wyoming.