John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge at UM Postponed

March 13, 2020


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MISSOULA – In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Montana College of Business and Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at UM are postponing the 31st annual John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge, scheduled for March 27. The event will be rescheduled at a later date in the summer or early fall.

The event, supported by title sponsors Ontra Marketing Group, First Interstate Bank, First Security Bank and Missoula Economic Partnership, received a record 31 applications from student teams across the state to compete for over $50,000 in prize money.

“We know how passionate our students, judges, coaches and sponsors are about this event,” Blackstone LaunchPad Director Paul Gladen said. “We are encouraging the students to view this as an opportunity to further develop their startup so that when the JRBSC is re-scheduled they are able to pitch an even more exciting and compelling startup than they would have been able to on March 27.”

Finalists in the 2020 competition represent the University of Montana, Montana State University, Montana Tech, Montana Western, Carroll College and Rocky Mountain College. Majors of students include business, microbiology, finance, accounting, management information systems, marketing, management, entrepreneurship, engineering, computer science, natural science, history and filmmaking.

Members of the public that have purchased tickets will be reimbursed for their transaction.

Since 1989, the UM College of Business has hosted the annual John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge, the premier opportunity for Montana’s brightest and boldest students to present exciting new entrepreneurial ideas for adjudication. It is the only statewide student business startup challenge, open to all college students in Montana, which awards $50,000 in prize money annually.

While the competition has been postponed, both the UM campus and Blackstone LaunchPad at UM remain open for business.

Information and details on the rescheduling of the event will be made available on the competition website ( as this dynamic situation evolves.


The University of Montana is the flagship university of the state. The College of Business at UM is nationally renowned and has been named the top business school in the Big Sky Conference by U.S. News and World Report for four consecutive years.