Business Startup Challenge Scheduled for Oct. 2

Winners from the 2019 John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge

MISSOULA – The entrepreneurial spirit of college students across Big Sky Country will be on full display Friday, Oct. 2, during the 31st annual John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge at the University of Montana.

The state’s premier college business challenge competition will run from 4 to 6 p.m. online. The event was scheduled to be held this past spring but was delayed due to the pandemic. All online events are open to the public.

JRBSC is hosted by UM’s College of Business and the Blackstone LaunchPad. It is supported by title sponsors Ontra Marketing Group, First Interstate Bank, First Security Bank and the Missoula Economic Partnership.

This year, the competition received a record 31 applications from student teams across the state to compete for more than $50,000 in prize money.

“Despite the global pandemic, Montana students continue to demonstrate remarkable entrepreneurial spirit,” said Paul Gladen, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad. “We're excited to see them pitch their ideas and benefit from the tremendous feedback and connections provided by our diverse panel of judges and coaches.”

A panel of judges selected nine teams to compete at this year’s event. The teams will pitch their business to a panel of around 50 judges during the two weeks leading up to the live event in hopes of receiving a portion of the prize money, all of which is generously contributed by businesses, organizations and individuals committed to the future of entrepreneurship in Montana.

JRBSC is the only statewide student business startup competition in Montana. Finalists in the 2020 competition represent UM, Montana State University, Montana Tech and Montana Western.

Student majors include business, microbiology, finance, accounting, management information systems, marketing, management, entrepreneurship, engineering, economics, computer science, natural science, history and filmmaking.

Of these diverse competitors, four finalists will be selected to compete for the top four prizes at the evening’s public event, including the $15,000 first-place cash prize.

The public event begins at 4 p.m., with the winners being announced by 6 p.m. The event will be held on the Whova App, which can be accessed from any computer, tablet or mobile device via Google Play or the Apple App Store

Notable previous JRBSC winners include Storysquares and Five-on-Black.

This year’s finalists are:


Trevor Finney (University of Montana)

CounterBalance is the first-ever carbon offset bracelet, enabling environmentally conscious individuals to take climate action.

Gallatin Visual Media

Erinn Hermsen (Montana State University), Nate Kenney (MSU)

Gallatin Visual Media is a science communication production company that helps university professors communicate their research and its impacts to the public through film and photography in a way that creates a personal connection and spurs support and action.

Guide Time Booking

Danilo Jankovich (UM), Jason Mathews (UM), Shane St. Onge (UM)

Guide Time Booking seamlessly connects guides and outfitters to those who seek.

High Morel

Lily Jane Clarke (UM)

High Morel alleviates costs and accessibility to wastewater treatment for breweries by using mushrooms to remediate brewery wastewater.


Joaquin Monterrosa (MSU), Thor Lancaster (MSU), Silas Scissorman (MSU)

Legitimizer stops illegitimate apps before they fool you.

Red Patch Outdoors

Charles Luther (UM)

Red Patch Outdoors provides high-quality, modular outdoor gear that allows you to make your gear fit your needs.

SporeAttic LLC

Benjamin Deuling (MSU), Ali Moxley (MSU)

SporeAttic is a commercial gourmet mushroom farm in the process of starting up in Bozeman.

Will Care

Kimberly Rogers (UM), Jennifer King (UM), Susan Tangmo (Montana Tech), Vanessa Fiore (Montana Western)

Will Care provides easy-to-understand, step-by-step video instructions that enable the customer to create a legal, dynamic will that tells a story by adding personalized photos or videos around assets.

Zesty Touch

Kaitlin Lane (MSU), Norhan Abbas (MSU), Tyler Fleetwood (MSU), Marielle Korringa (MSU)

Zesty Touch is an app that helps reduce the amount of household food waste.


Contact: Paul Gladen, director of UM Accelerate Montana and Blackstone Launchpad, 406-396-3534,