Ten innovative businesses — that range from a company that has created a digital assistant to track workouts and diet, to a virtual reality system to help children learn music instruments — are finalists in a University of Wyoming entrepreneurship competition.
The finalists are UW graduate and undergraduate students, alumni and faculty who will compete for $125,000 in seed funding to grow their businesses. Teams will make their presentations during the Fisher Innovation Launchpad Pitch Day Thursday, Oct. 24, from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Wyoming Union Ballroom.
“We’re very pleased to have 10 teams presenting for our $125,000 seed fund. Each team has worked very hard over the past several months validating their concepts and getting their companies up and running,” says Fred Schmechel, assistant director of UW’s Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC). “We hope you are able to join us for as much of the day as you are able, but certainly understand if you need to duck out. Each team will present for about 15 minutes, with 10 additional minutes for judges’ questions. Should time allow, we will open questions to the audience.”
The Fisher Innovation Launchpad, which began in 2016 as the Fisher Innovation Challenge, is for new, independent businesses — in the seed, startup or early-growth stages — focused on technology and/or innovation. The seed fund was made possible through the financial gift of Donne Fisher, the Launchpad’s namesake, and was matched by the UW Office of Research and Economic Development.
The WTBC, a business development program of UW that has business incubators in Laramie, Casper and Sheridan, is administered by the UW Office of Research and Economic Development. The WTBC is a not-for-profit business incubator that provides entrepreneurs with the expertise, networks and tools necessary for success.
The qualifying businesses named finalists are as follows:
— CellSight, founded by Hayden Moritz, a senior from Longmont, Colo., majoring in computer science. This company uses existing cellphone unique identifiers that are publicly transmitted to show how shoppers enter business establishments; where they go within the establishment (approximately); and how long they stay. This will provide business owners with market validation for their inventory and store placement, and seeming “telemetry” for restaurateurs.
— Computherap, founded by Mohammad Mehri, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering from Tehran, Iran. The company models cardiac and general artery blockages (stenosis) by using complex computational fluid dynamics models to assist doctors and surgeons in choosing the best patient options, including stent (size and shape), angioplasty and surgery. Medical outcomes for patients would be improved.
— Fitter, founded by Marcus Cantu, a senior from Pinedale majoring in computer science. Fitter is a digital assistant to track workouts, diet and other factors to enhance the overall fitness experience by both users and trainers. Additionally, the goal is to specifically enhance the trainer-client interaction and feedback cycle between them.
— Gear Guarantee, founded by Dawson Osborn, of Sheridan, who graduated from UW this past spring with a law degree and has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and physics; and Ian Smith, of Jackson, who also received a law degree from UW last semester. Smith also has an undergraduate degree in business and finance from UW. Gear Guarantee is developing risk-analysis tools for insuring outdoor equipment, ranging from skis and snowboards to bicycles.
— GridBuddy, founded by Slade Sheaffer, a UW graduate in architectural engineering from Laramie; Jon Gardzelewski, a UW lecturer in civil and architectural engineering; and Anthony Denzer, an associate professor and department head of civil and architectural engineering. Renewable energy credits are currently not traded on any open market for many reasons. It is the intention of this team to design a methodology where both buyers and sellers can exchange demand for capacity while bypassing the need to become a legally defined “utility” themselves.
— JarrowTech, founded by Carlton Wilcox, of Laramie; and James Schuchardt, of Cheyenne, both of whom are computer science majors. JarrowTech is targeting secure tracking of hemp seed and products in the recently legalized hemp markets in Wyoming and Colorado. Legally, accurate tracking is very important. The team will look outside the states of Wyoming and Colorado for secondary markets after launching.
— Kopia, founded by Connor Leyshon, a senior from Parker, Colo., majoring in computer science and mechanical engineering; and Kevin Medders, a senior from Buffalo majoring in mechanical engineering. Kopia’s originally submitted solution to provide enhanced aquaponics artificial intelligence to indoor greenhouse applications has already been launched. The company has pivoted to a second product, which is an actively cooled, indoor LED lighting system that takes up a much smaller volume and allows for higher plant densities, increasing greenhouse productivity.
— NextStepData, founded by Vladimar Ulyanov, a senior from Zheleznodorozhny, Russia, majoring in economics and finance; Brandon Gomes, a graduate student from Georgetown, Guyana, majoring in economics; and Sheldon Chen, a senior from Yangon, Myanmar, majoring in statistics. Using big-data analysis methods and artificial intelligence, this company builds a financial model that is predictive in addressing both small and large trends in financial markets. This model would be made available, after validation, to mainly small investors on a subscription basis.
— SLD Photonics, founded by Joseph Murphy, a postdoctoral researcher from Buffalo, N.Y.; Subash Kattel, a Ph.D. candidate in physics and astronomy from Jhapa, Nepal; and William Rice, a UW assistant professor of physics and astronomy. SLD Photonics has discovered a material/device structure that effectively has a flat response across an extremely wide light frequency region — from UV through infrared. This, perhaps, can then be used to eliminate redundancy and improve accuracy in detectors commonly employed by researchers throughout the world.
— VosoKey, founded by Matthew Poremba, a computer science major from Bedford, N.H. Recognizing that many people want their kids to learn music but, at the same time, might be unwilling to make a big investment in a piano or other musical instrument, and also recognizing that kids respond to gamification in teaching, VosoKey was conceived. VosoKey is an at-home, teacher solution accomplished through virtual reality. A game-like nature would help capture people’s interest, and users could track their progression through scoring mechanisms. Initial target development would be at piano or keyboard lessons.
Approximately six teams will receive business counseling, one year of free rental space in the incubator and seed funding to launch their businesses through the Fisher Innovation Fund. The four teams not funded by the fund will still receive space, rent-free, in the incubator for a year, and business counseling.