Finalists Announced for 33rd John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge

Bridgible presents during the 2021 John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge finals

April 4, 2022


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MISSOULA – The only statewide student business startup competition returns to the University of Montana this spring. The public is invited to attend the 33rd annual John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge, presented by the UM College of Business and Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars, from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, April 15 in the Ali Lund Instructional (ALI) Auditorium inside the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education.

The competition, sponsored by Ontra Marketing Group and Missoula Economic Partnership, is open to any student enrolled in higher education across Montana, and provides more than $50,000 in prize money to students who pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges.

Businesses, organizations and individuals committed to the future of entrepreneurship in Montana provide all of the prize money for the event and participate as judges. Competitors pitch a vast array of venture ideas, with previous winning concepts including filtering brewery waste water with mushrooms and cricket farms for edible protein.

Finalists represent multiple Montana higher education institutions and have the unique opportunity to present and network with business professionals and community leaders attending the final round presentations.

Now in its third decade, challenge finalists include a number of established Montana businesses, including Five on Black Brazilian Grill, Market on Front, Morphose Exercise Systems, GeoFli and Big Sky Brewing.

The live public finals are free of charge and open to the public. Doors to the event open at 4 p.m. with the main programming beginning at 5 p.m. Seating is limited, so attendees are encouraged to RSVP to ensure a seat is reserved.

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.

2022 Finalists

Bloom Technologies Co. (Montana State University - Herlin Kadriu): A locally owned and operated company, based in Bozeman, Montana, specializing in farming microalgae to make an environmentally friendly, carbon negative plant fertilizer.

Good Tracker (University of Montana - Ethan Hoppin): Good Tracker provides tools to help users manage their carbon footprint, so that they can be green citizens.

IMMERSION by Poye (University of Montana - Daniel Poyerd): IMMERSION is a high-tech fashion experience beginning in London, England where customers work one-on-one with fashion designers to create customized items of high-quality clothing which are manufactured same-day as both a physical product and an NFT.

Karn (University of Montana - Finan Lund-Andersen): Quality leather mittens with unique designs for skiing and snowboarding.

Morel Technology LLC (Montana State University - Marcus Twichel, Bruce Clark): Morel enables restaurants to make mobile-ordering apps to better compete against mega-brands in an industry that's rapidly demanding new technology.

Positivity Outward (Montana State University - Zariah Tolman): Through the app, rural youth are connected to mentors that empower the students to use reflection and action as tools for confidence and well-being.

Telepathy Inc. (Montana State University - Kari Perry, Calvin Servheen, Matt Lessmeier, Ava Paul, Andrew Aron): Telepathy improves coherent LiDAR to eliminate the last barrier to an autonomous vehicle future.

We Stock Your Shop LLC (University of Montana - Tosha Neal-Ragsdale): We Stock provides an online real-time live purchasing experience of wholesale inventory with no MOQ for small retail business owners, while providing an information platform to customers that will help their companies prosper and grow.


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 six consecutive years.