The University of Wyoming College of Business invites the public to attend the 21st annual entrepreneurship competition, now the John P. Ellbogen $50K Entrepreneurship Competition, with webinar presentations scheduled Friday and Saturday, April 23-24.

This year’s competition will be moderated by Angela Ver Ploeg, UW Foundation director of development for the College of Business. It will be judged by five noted panelists and will feature nine student teams competing for $50,000 in seed money to grow their businesses.

Each team will compete in Round 1, which kicks off April 23 at 8:40 a.m. Round 1 will consist of a 10- to 11-minute presentation and 10-12 minutes of questions from the judging panelists. The top two teams from each track (Nascent and Established) from day one will advance to the Round 2 presentations April 24 beginning at 12:15 p.m. The four teams that advance to Round 2 will be announced at 4 p.m. April 23.

Round 2 will feature 25-minute interactive discussions between teams and judges, who will play the role of potential customers of each business. The final winner(s) and award amounts will be announced at 4 p.m. April 24.

“The Ellbogen $50K Entrepreneurship Competition is one of the premier venues for experiential learning at the University of Wyoming. It provides a fantastic opportunity for our student teams to learn about the entrepreneurial process while being paired with real-world mentors and learning from an outstanding panel of judges,” says Patrick Kreiser, the Rile Chair of Entrepreneurship and Leadership in the UW College of Business. “Entrepreneurs thrive in times of uncertainty, and the current economic climate shows why innovative business models are so critical to Wyoming’s future. 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 provide support for the competition award winners in perpetuity.

An important goal of UW’s College of Business is to support the vitality of the state. In support of such efforts, the college has expanded the event to include various types of businesses and industry contexts.

“Our state faces a critical need to diversify its economy, and the Ellbogen $50K Entrepreneurship Competition is exactly what we need at this time,” says UW College of Business Dean Dave Sprott. “The College of Business is proud to direct these efforts with the gracious support of the Ellbogen Foundation. What a wonderful opportunity for our students to take their business ideas to the next level.”

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

“The nine finalist teams in this year’s competition represent a wide variety of business types,” Kreiser says. “We are confident that these startups represent viable and sustainable business approaches, which also will create new jobs for the Wyoming economy. We are thrilled by the hard work and dedication shown by each of these nine teams, and we look forward to watching these teams turn their dreams into reality during the competition and beyond.”

For more information, email Josie Voight at voight@uwyo.edu.

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