#wyostrong: Bison Kings and the power of competitions
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(Sheridan, Wyo.) – It wasn’t that long ago that Casper-based entrepreneurs Bison Kings considered maybe, just maybe, entering a Wyoming Technology Business Center entrepreneurship competition to jump-start their video game business.
For them, it wasn’t about the $50,000 seed money. It was about the chance to learn how to start a business.
“We had been making video games as a hobby for about five years,” Bison Kings co-founder Brad Erickson said. “The real appeal (of the start-up competition) for us was—well, we didn’t think we would win at all. We were less in it for the funding, but we were going there because they said they would help coach us about running a business.”
But win they did, and this spring, Sheridan entrepreneurs will have the same chance.
The Sheridan Start-Up Challenge is designed for anybody in Sheridan who has recently started a business or is interested in launching one, and is sponsored by the Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority Joint Powers Board, the Homer A. and Mildred S. Scott Foundation, First Interstate Bank, and Davis & Cannon.
These days, Erickson and his partner Eric Lewis each spend 20-25 and 30-35 hours each working in their incubator space, also a perk for winning the 2016 Casper Challenge, in addition to their day jobs. They hope to sell their first game soon, and to keep growing.
“Currently we are working on a medieval fantasy game, and the next game is going to have some virtual reality stuff in it,” Erickson said. “The Bison Kings name—we feel it kind of helps us stand out. Our market is bigger than the state of Wyoming, and we plan to release the games in places like Russia, China, France … but we think the name and logo gives us a unique look as far as our brand goes.”
Registration for the 2017 Sheridan Start-Up competition is open until March 8.
“This is a great opportunity for someone who has been thinking about starting a business or has a technology they would like to commercialize,” said John Dick, Sheridan area director of the WTBC. “If you’ve been daydreaming about this or wondering the best way to start, I encourage you to contact me and enter the competition.”
There is no cost to enter the Sheridan Start-Up. Three businesses will be awarded $5,000 prizes and then have access to a $50,000 seed fund for working capital, and one free year in WTBC’s incubator space.
WTBC staff will narrow all submittals to 10 semifinalists, and a local judging panel will interview the semifinalists and determine the top five finalists to move on in the competition. Finalists will work closely with WTBC staff to develop business models and a final pitch.
During the final competition at the WYO Theater May 23, the local judging panel will choose the three finalists to be awarded $5,000 each, a free year in WTBC’s business incubator program, pro bono legal counsel from Davis & Cannon, and access to a $50,000 seed fund for working capital.
“I am thrilled that SEEDA has elected to participate as a funding partner in the WTBC’s Sheridan Start-Up Challenge,” Jesus Rios, a SEEDA board member and member of the Sheridan City Council said in a press release. “SEEDA’s core focus is economic development, and I can’t imagine a better use of SEEDA’s resources than to help inspire entrepreneurs to take the next step with an idea, invention or business venture that has been lying in wait.”
Erickson said working with the WTBC has been an excellent experience.
“We got into the meetings with the director … and all the questions that we had were about getting business licenses with the state,” Erickson said. “He taught us that that was all the simple stuff. Not only did they help with the few questions we had that were small, minor things, but they expanded our knowledge all together about where we needed to be as a business.”
h/t Carrie Haderlie