Wyoming gets its ‘Shark Tank’ as Business Council rolls out grant programs including ‘Kickstart:Wyoming’ for early stage startups

It may not have the sizzle of the hit television series, but the Wyoming Business Council aims to inspire entrepreneurs to go for it with new Kickstart:Wyoming and SBIR matching programs.

The programs are an outcome of economic diversification legislation passed in the 2018 Wyoming legislature, one of several bills proposed based on recommendations of the ENDOW (Economically Needed Diversification Opportunities for Wyoming) executive council. They aim to build Wyoming’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and achieve goals 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-$50,000 grants to Wyoming startups with less than 50 employees who have committed to maintaining a meaningful nexus to 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 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 are the best job creators out there – they employ more than 50 percent of the private workforce, and generate more than half of the nation’s GDP. Developing Wyoming’s entrepreneurs is key to moving our economy forward, and these new programs will have a significant impact on the very earliest stage of entrepreneurs – to get them ‘out of their garage’ and help them start real business.” said Jerad Stack, a serial entrepreneur and ENDOW Executive Council member.

“Wyoming has a lot of room to gain on our surrounding states in terms of support for entrepreneurs, but these programs are a great step in the right direction,” he added.

“Supporting entrepreneurship is a crucial element to diversifying and strengthening the Wyoming economy,” added Erin Moore, Partner and CEO of Gannet Peak Technical Services and WBC board member.

“These grants are a powerful new piece of a broader ongoing effort by the Business Council and our partners statewide to serve every Wyoming entrepreneur as effectively as possible,” she said. The Business Council Board of Directors adopted rules for the programs at its quarterly meeting in September.

The programs are being launched in beta and the Business Council welcomes suggestions for improvements to the applications or programs as they are being implemented. The first deadline for applications for both programs November 1, 2018.

For more information or to apply, visit wyomingbusiness.org/startup.