Buchanan kicks off crowdfunding program intended to help startups

 

CHEYENNE – A Casper company became the first example of how a new program could help small and medium-sized Wyoming businesses access capital and grow.

Wyoming Invests Now – or WIN – is a crowdfunding investment opportunity exclusively for Wyoming residents and businesses. Crowdfunding is a practice of raising money for a project or venture, typically through online platforms.

Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, whose office administers the WIN program, said it’s a historic step and an important piece of Wyoming’s economic diversification strategy.

“Folks that believe in a company or idea or new technology are now able to fund startup businesses and allow them to raise capital in a way that’s much more accessible, but also, importantly, allows them to realize at some point in time, hopefully, a return on their investment,” Buchanan told a small crowd Tuesday in Casper.

McGinley Orthopedics was announced as the first beneficiary of the program. The medical device company is not only based in Casper, it manufactures its products in nearby Glen-rock. The product is a handheld robotic orthopedic sensing system. As surgeons drill through bone, the sensing system stops the drill when it reaches the far side of the bone, giving medical professionals an accurate screw size, said CEO Joe McGinley.

“That sounds like a trivial task, but right now, it’s a manual process that occurs in any orthopedic surgery where they’re drilling through bone or putting (a) screw in, so essentially (to repair) most fractures,” he said. “So it’s a common procedure that occurs every day.”

McGinley said his company’s success is an indication that Wyoming communities have the ability to foster entrepreneurs and startups.

“When people think of Wyoming, they think mostly of natural resources like oil and gas, which is a big component of what we do here in Wyoming,” McGinley said. “But moving forward through ups and downs in that market – and led by Gov. (Matt) Mead and the Legislature – we need to diversify the economy and think of different ways to create jobs and create economic development.”

Mead’s initiative to develop an economic diversification strategy for the next two decades – known as ENDOW, which stands for Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming – kicked off in 2017. During the Wyoming Legislature’s 2018 budget session, lawmakers passed several bills and fully funded the initiative with $44 million from the state’s key savings account.

It was the third consecutive legislative session facing budgetary shortfalls or government services. Around 70 percent of Wyoming’s revenue is generated from mining, so when commodity prices took a dive in late 2014, the state was thrown into an economic bust it’s yet to recover from. The goal of ENDOW is to foster new and existing economic sectors that could broaden the state’s ability to generate revenue and provide jobs. Technology and entrepreneurship have been important focuses for ENDOW’s proponents.

The WIN program was made possible by the federal Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act in 2012, which eased regulations in a way intended to help small businesses. Piggy-backing on that was the Uniformed Securities Act passed by the Wyoming Legislature in 2016, which allowed crowdfunding to become possible in the state.

There’s no limit on investment for accredited investors. Non-accredited investors have a $10,000 limit. Businesses benefiting from the WIN program must be approved by the state. Investors must be Wyoming residents. More information is available at the Secretary of State website, soswy.state.wy.us, and www.createwyoming.com.

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