December 12, 2022
A gift of $1 million to the University of Wyoming from the TW Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in Casper, supports Wyoming businesses through the university’s IMPACT 307 business launchpad.
“My grandfather, Neil McMurry, was a smart businessman and dedicated philanthropist,” says Tiffany Gamble, president of the TW Foundation. “I feel so grateful to be able to continue his legacy. I think he would be proud to see the impact of this philanthropy. IMPACT 307 is doing important work that will help carry the state forward into the future. He cared deeply about small Wyoming businesses. This bequest is a perfect fit to honor Neil McMurry.”
The gift honors the late Neil “Hurry” McMurry and supports entrepreneurship in Casper. As an entrepreneur, McMurry knew that creating and running a business meant he had to work hard, take smart risks and apply grit and integrity in all of his dealings. This gift reflects this passion.
McMurry had profound success in his business ventures, and he felt that it was important to give back to his community. The TW Foundation wishes to continue honoring his legacy by supporting the next generation of Wyoming entrepreneurs.
This is where IMPACT 307 comes in. Founded in 2005, IMPACT 307 — formerly the Wyoming Technology Business Center, or WTBC — is a UW program designed to work as a statewide entrepreneurial support network. IMPACT 307’s goal is economic development across Wyoming.
Since its founding, IMPACT 307 has assisted in the launch of more than 200 Wyoming businesses that range in size from small businesses to companies that have raised millions in investment funds.
“This program is invaluable to our students as well as to entrepreneurs and creative thinkers all across the state, who are working to enhance their communities in Wyoming and beyond,” says UW President Ed Seidel. “It provides a strong boost to our efforts to support economic development across the state.”
The program offers business mentoring, business incubators and startup challenges. In recent years, IMPACT 307 has expanded from its home base in Laramie by adding locations in Sheridan, Casper and beyond. To improve its reach, IMPACT 307 also offers virtual mentoring, serving all 23 counties in Wyoming.
“We are truly humbled by the TW Foundation’s generosity to help support the good work IMPACT 307 is doing throughout the state,” says Derrek Jerred, senior director of IMPACT 307. “Eric (Schlidt) and his team have deep roots in the community, and this is a testament to the high level of commitment and support around our program in Casper.”
Some of IMPACT 307’s most valuable and effective programs are its startup challenges. These challenges began in 2016 with the Fisher Innovation Challenge, now rebranded as the Fisher Innovation Launchpad. Initially, the challenge was available to UW students and focused on launching UW student companies with startup capital, as opposed to a purely monetary prize.
The challenge saw major success, which led to the creation of two more challenges — the Casper Start-Up Challenge and the Sheridan Start-Up Challenge. These challenges had the same goal as the initial challenge but were focused on hopeful entrepreneurs in other Wyoming communities.
“I am so grateful for this gift from the TW Foundation to support the entrepreneurs and their work here in Casper,” says Schlidt, director of IMPACT 307 Casper. “This incredibly generous gift will help support the companies and take the program to an even greater level.”
Each year, the startup challenges invite individuals starting businesses or other early-stage entrepreneurs to participate. Finalists for the challenges are chosen by a panel of judges.
The finalists work closely with IMPACT 307 staff to develop their business knowledge so that, regardless of the outcomes of the challenges, the finalists will be more prepared and ready to launch and grow their businesses. Winners of the challenges receive a free year in the IMPACT 307 incubators located in Casper, Laramie and Sheridan, and they also are eligible for additional funding.
Brian Deurloo is one of the Casper Start-Up Challenge’s most recent winners. Deurloo’s company, Frog Creek Partners, manufactures and promotes technological environmental solutions to protect and restore local watersheds through community involvement.
“After moving into the business incubator, I used the business resources offered to me by IMPACT 307,” Deurloo says. “I firmly believe that the Casper Start-Up Challenge and IMPACT 307 helped me get my business off the ground.”
In its sixth year, the Casper Start-Up Challenge supports companies that honor McMurry’s vision for success, perhaps even more than the other challenges, as it is based in Casper, McMurry’s hometown.
This challenge serves as a hub of innovation and resources for founders of companies and entrepreneurs of all kinds. For example, the challenge helps young businesses develop and grow, and it guides them through the often-confusing world of startups. This mentoring is invaluable, even if a business does not go on to win the competition. And it helps ensure the economic future of the state.
After extensive mentoring, the challenge offers $50,000 in prize money and a free year in the incubator, which allows companies to continue to work with the IMPACT 307 team and aggressively grow their businesses. This free year not only dramatically increases the entrepreneurs’ chance for success, but also helps the companies make connections with lifelong benefits.
The TW Foundation’s gift will continue to grow Wyoming’s economic future through the support that IMPACT 307 provides for entrepreneurs across Wyoming.
“At IMPACT 307, we are in the business of assisting entrepreneurs across the state,” Jerred says. “Economic development is a long-term play and a relationship business. The TW Foundation’s generosity allows us to maximize our effectiveness across the state.”