Enterprising Badgers Pledge to Give Back

True entrepreneurs know an opportunity when they see one, and that’s exactly what drove then mechanical engineering student Mike Casper ’04 to take part in the seventh G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition — a contest where students develop and present business plans and compete for cash rewards and services. Casper and his team took second prize with their creation, BriteIce Technologies, a business that offers a product that places advertising messages on hockey ice and other ice surfaces. Previous winners have gone on to build their own successful businesses, and Casper was no different.

Mike Casper '04

In 2008, he turned the experience into a career launching pad, creating FLEx Lighting in Chicago with two colleagues, Tony Nichol ’04 and Shawn Pucylowski ’02, MAcc’03. What initially began with joining xenon light bulbs, fiber optics, and plastic film to create a narrow light source evolved into a compact system of LEDs and optical film. Together, Casper and his teammates went on to invent a breakthrough light transmission system that has revolutionized the display industry.

Early in 2021, FLEx Lighting became Azumo and is successfully delivering on LCD 2.0 to make displays more energy efficient, sunlight readable, and safe for all. With two decades of sales and marketing experience, Casper — CEO of Azumo — brings a lot of passion, talent, and expertise to the table. He remains connected to the UW and is a member of the Industrial Advisory Board with the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Casper and his wife, Julie ’03, also a mechanical engineering graduate, are avid supporters of the department and the university. Their collective generosity led them to be among the first to contribute to the Entrepreneur’s Pledge Society. This decision was inspired by Mike’s experience at the UW — he credits some of his greatest successes to his years on campus. Many UW alumni want to give back to the campus community that helped make their success possible but aren’t able to while their assets are dedicated to their fledgling businesses. This pledge society makes it possible to give back on your own schedule and to direct any amount you wish to any existing or newly created fund.

The Caspers’ pledge reflects their unique goals and circumstances, making it easy to make a meaningful contribution once Azumo’s assets become liquid, ensuring a world-class legacy for future generations of Badgers. “The UW holds a special place in our lives, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the experiences we had while on campus,” shares Mike. “Not only did we find each other, but we also had the opportunity to learn and make connections that set us on a successful path. Entrepreneur’s rely on the help of so many people on their journey that it becomes part of the culture to pay it forward to help others. The Entrepreneur’s Pledge Society gives us a platform to do just that and to help support future Badgers by sharing our success in the hope that they will go on to create an even better future for others.”