Business Startup Challenge Returns Oct. 8

Sept. 15, 2021


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MISSOULA - Montana’s only statewide student business startup competition returns to the University of Montana campus in October. The 32nd annual John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge hosted by the University of Montana’s College of Business and UM Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars received applications from numerous student teams across the state to compete for the $50,000 in prize money. The 2021 event is presented by lead sponsors, Ontra Marketing Group and Missoula Economic Partnership.

A panel of judges selected eight teams to compete in the Oct. 8 event. On competition day, teams will pitch their business to a panel of around 40 judges in hopes of receiving a portion of the prize money, all of which is generously contributed by businesses, organizations, and individuals who are committed to the future of entrepreneurship in Montana.

Of these diverse competitors, four finalists are selected during the day to compete for the top four prizes at the evening’s public event, including the $15,000 first place cash prize. Doors open to the public event starting at 4:30 p.m., with the program beginning at 5 p.m. in the Alice Lund Instructional (ALi) Auditorium in the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education.

There is no charge for admission to this year’s event, but seating is limited. Attendees are highly encouraged to reserve tickets online to guarantee a seat (

Those unable to make the live event can watch a live stream over Zoom ( 

For more information, visit the John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge webpage. For questions regarding the competition email Paul Gladen at or call 406-243-5723.

This year's finalists are:

Aizy Tech SAR Drone Project

Morteza Hosseinnejad (MSU), Jordan Gibbs, Yoni Shchemelinin, Tyler Myhre

Aizy Tech SAR Drone Project creates drones specifically for first responders.


Chase Bartlett (UM), Preston Kerr (UM)

Bridgible is an online sports coaching marketplace that helps all players access the best coaching, regardless of the barriers they face.

The Giddy Thrifter LLC

Mariah Karis (UM)

With the dream of creating a more sustainable design world with less fast fashion, while keeping the shopping experience intact, The Giddy Thrifter sells new, used, vintage, and upcycled fashion and decor that is ready for new homes, while also teaching style and bargain decor via how-to videos.


Evan Jackson (UM)

KokuaJ is a personal brand created to be consumed by anyone, anywhere, at any time.


Justin Hunt (UM), Alexa Coyle (UM)

Physico provides a one-stop connective platform for people that are experiencing, or have experienced injury rehabilitation, where users access individuals with similar experiences to increase motivation, mitigate feelings of loneliness, and positively affect home-based physical therapy outcomes.

Posted Software LLC

Michael Mawn (MSU)

Posted Software is the on-campus job posting app for one-time jobs on college campuses.

Red Patch Outdoors

Charlie Luther (UM), Ethan Pateman

Providing outdoor enthusiasts with modular gear options for hunting, fishing, and hiking.


Diana Anyango (UM), Bruce Grant (UM)

The Samaritan App connects individuals in medical crisis to their friends, family and close neighbors, for the help they need.