The Wyoming Business Council announced the first group of awardees today for two new grant programs aimed at helping startups in Wyoming thrive.
Ten startup companies with high-growth potential and industry-disrupting products and services received about $730,000.
The awardees will hire seven full-time employees as a direct result of Kickstart:Wyoming and SBIR matching dollars, and have the potential to create 45-55 additional full-time equivalent jobs in the short term as a result of growth enabled by state dollars.
The two new grant programs are an outcome of economic diversification legislation passed in the 2018 Wyoming Legislature. This is one of several bills proposed based on recommendations of the ENDOW (Economically Needed Diversification Opportunities for Wyoming) executive council. The programs aim to build Wyoming’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and achieve aspirations established in ENDOW’s 20-year diversification plan, specifically:
• For $1 billion in follow-on private venture funding to be invested in Wyoming-based startups
• To create 5,000 new jobs in Wyoming-based startups
• To originate more than 1,000 businesses in Wyoming accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces or maker spaces with a 75 percent in-state retention rate
• To close venture capital deals at a rate of 15 or more per year
The first program is Kickstart:Wyoming, which provides $5,000 to $50,000 grants to Wyoming startups with fewer than 50 employees. Startups must commit to maintaining a meaningful nexus in Wyoming. Companies must also have potential to provide an economic return to the state of Wyoming through job creation, expanded tax base and diversification of the state's economy.
The second program is the SBIR Phase I and II matching program, which provides matching funds for Wyoming companies who receive federal funds through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, intended to help small businesses conduct research and development (R&D) in specific areas defined by federal agencies with potential for commercialization.
Both programs are targeted toward high-growth-potential companies with a globally unique concept, scalable product and business model, and a large market.
“Entrepreneurs employ more than half of the private workforce in the U.S. and generate more than half of the nation’s GDP. These new programs ensure we capture as many entrepreneurs—and the jobs and GDP they create—as possible in Wyoming,” said Jerad Stack, a serial entrepreneur and ENDOW Executive Council member.
There were 45 applications for the Kickstart:Wyoming program and five applications for the SBIR Matching Program in December, making the first round extremely competitive. The Business Council awarded six Kickstart:Wyoming grants, totaling $290,000, and four SBIR matching grants, totaling $439,927.
SBIR Matching Program Awardees:
Disa is one of the awardees of the Kickstart:Wyoming grant. Founded by two UW graduates and headquartered in Casper, Disa is a mineral separation company using novel technology to provide energy and mining companies low-cost solutions to common problems.
Disa plans to use Kickstart:Wyoming money to start pilot projects in mines in Wyoming and surrounding states. After that pilot phase, the company will seek $500,000 in venture capital.
“Disa is just one great example of the potential for entrepreneurship in Wyoming. By supporting this company, we are working to keep UW innovators here, encouraging innovation in one of the state’s stronghold industries, helping bring significant private investment to Wyoming, and opening the door to creating new jobs,” said Shawn Reese, CEO of the Business Council.
Reese added, “One of the best outcomes of this program is creating awareness among entrepreneurs about the local and state resources available to them. It is our mission to help all Wyoming startups find success, so we are working hard to connect the applicants, both those who were funded and those who were not, to the resources that will help them.”
Business Council regional directors are working with individual applicants—both those who were funded and those who were not— to connect them with the resources they need. These resources may include local economic developers, the business resource network, USDA, and many others.
An important role of these programs is providing a mechanism to introduce entrepreneurs to the resources available to them.