UW Student Wins $15,000 Startup Contest

A doctoral candidate’s idea for saving chemists, engineers and surgeons hours of time and their employers tens of thousands of dollars won the top prize of $15,000 Thursday at the University of Wyoming’s startup competition.

Levente Pap, a Hungarian chemist, pitched a wearable dictation device and software catered to specialized scientific fields in front of a crowd of nearly 100 during the John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition. His startup company, Lev’sonic, won over a judges panel of seven influential Wyoming business leaders.

The competition drew 76 contestants, the most in its nearly 20-year history. Participants ranged from undergraduates to doctoral candidates and hailed from nearly every college on the Laramie campus.

The preliminary entries were whittled down to 10 finalists who received personal mentorship from chief executive officers, business experts and tech startup founders. Pap’s winnings include a one-year membership to the Wyoming Technology Business Center, an incubator designed to launch fast-growth tech companies. The Technology Business Center is a partner of the Wyoming Business Council, the state’s economic development agency.

Valued Energy Platform, an internet marketplace for the oil and gas industry envisioned by cofounders Greyson Buckingham and John Lee, earned a second-place finish and $10,000. Dallin Cooper and Madison Cooley won $5,000 to pursue their startup, Atmosphere Marketing.

The once small startup event hosted in a College of Business classroom transformed this year into an all-day University of Wyoming Entrepreneurship Summit held in a ballroom in the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center. Multiple panels and guest speakers, including Wyoming Business Council CEO Shawn Reese, provided information and insight throughout the day, and the entire event was streamed live online.

Summit officials announced next year’s contestants would compete for a prize pool of $50,000.

The Entrepreneurship Summit has inspired several startup competitions across Wyoming in the last few years, including Technology Business Center events in Casper and Sheridan, the Fisher Innovation Challenge in Laramie and Pitch Day, a Jackson event hosted by nonprofit Silicon Couloir.

Entrepreneurship education is also on the rise in the Cowboy State. Central Wyoming College provides a Startup Intensive curriculum school officials liken to earning a Master’s in Business Administration degree in 10 weeks. Nonprofit Powell Makerspace is nearing the end of its first Innovention class, a nine-month course in entrepreneurship skills. In the opposite corner of the state, Eastern Wyoming College offers an Entrepreneurship Certificate program to get people started toward business ownership.

All of these efforts coincide with the Business Council’s goal of increasing the five-year survival rate of Wyoming startups to 50 percent. In any given month, about 280 of every 100,000 adults in Wyoming starts a small business. Those businesses are the state’s economic engine, comprising 80 percent of Wyoming’s 34,000 firms.

Check out our video about the event here: http://tinyurl.com/Ellbogen30K.

Subscribe to the Business Council’s monthly e-newsletter to stay informed about entrepreneurship in Wyoming and other state business news: http://wyomingbusiness.org/content/newsletter.

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