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Several activities took place in Laramie between August and October 2018 which served to bolster the tech and entrepreneurship climate in Laramie. “This fall was marked not just with the typical back-to-school frenzy and Cowboy football we expect in Laramie, but a strong showing of the momentum we’re gaining toward becoming a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Steve Russell, Assistant Dean, University of Wyoming College of Business.
In August, the Wyoming Technology Business Center and the City of Laramie partnered to pursue a Rural Innovation Strategies grant from the Economic Development Administration. If awarded, funds will be used to establish a mentor network for entrepreneurs. Inspired by a successful model in Fort Collins and Boulder, CO, Laramie’s mentor network will pair early-stage or transitioning companies with seasoned advisors to increase the chances of success and to forge a culture of collaboration. In early September, the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition hosted the WyoHackathon in Laramie, drawing 400 participants and nearly 30 software teams. A few weeks later, Laramie’s inaugural Start-Up Weekend, led by the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance’s Business Retention and Expansion Committee, drew a regional crowd of 40 participants. After an intense 54 hours of teamwork to build a viable business plan, Blue Box Fox, a company dedicated to making allergen-free vending machines, was selected by a panel of judges as the top business. The momentum continued into October with the Laramie Regional Airport’s announcement of its partnership with Infinity Development Partners to become the nation’s second private drone hub. Later, the Wyoming Technology Business Center welcomed two new clients, Language I/O—a women-owned software company, and Beefchain—a company that uses blockchain technology to help ranchers track cattle from birth to market. The month concluded with UW’s Fisher Innovation Launchpad competition through which $125,000 was distributed to businesses ranging from ag-tech to gaming. Awardees were selected from a pool of nine other businesses and included Brass Genes, CS3, Deep Winter Games, TABI, and VisibleFlow.
Data prepared by the Wyoming Technology Business Center indicated Laramie’s tech sector grew from an estimated 16 tech businesses in 2005 to 85 as of this past spring. By the end of October, that estimate hovered just under 100 tech companies according to Wyoming Technology Business Center, Assistant Director Fred Schmechel. Laramie City Manager Janine Jordan noted, “recognizing that harnessing local brainpower is Laramie’s best chance at economic vitality, the City Council endeavored to pursue initiatives and activities to poise the community to grow its tech sector and bolster its start-up culture in 2018. This is a timely goal, because as we’ve celebrated Laramie’s 150th Anniversary this year, we’ve had a tremendous opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been as a community and to lay the groundwork for a prosperous future. Our end-game is to encourage start-ups churning out of the University of Wyoming to take root in Laramie, while at the same time working to assure our existing businesses can flourish.” Newly appointed director of the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance, Brad Enzi, added, “Wyoming is on the cusp of a tremendous renaissance and the sheer volume and diversity of tech and entrepreneur-oriented activities that have taken place this fall, shows that Laramie is leading the way.”