The University of Montana College of Business, along with our generous sponsors, make it possible to offer substantial prize money to many of the Business Startup Challenge competitors. During the 2021 competition, over $50,000 was awarded to teams with the first prize of $15,000.

In addition, significant effort is made to subsidize student travel to Missoula through scholarships that cover transportation and lodging.

All teams selected for the John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge will receive a cash prize. Descriptions and amounts of awards and prizes are listed below:

  • First place - $15,000. 
  • Second Place - $7,500.
  • Third Place - $5,000.
  • Fourth Place - $2,500
  • All other teams - $2,000
  • Elevator Pitch Prize - The audience selects the winner of this award based on the 60-second elevator pitch - $3,500.
  • People’s Choice Prize - Given to the team receiving the highest score from the audience in the Final Round. The audience will base their votes on the presentations and one-page Executive Summaries submitted by the teams - $3,500.
  • Most Innovative Prize - This new award will recognize the most innovative submission that leverages cloud, wireless, big data and analytics, IoT or AI technologies to deliver broad consumer or corporate benefit. The winning team will receive a unique opportunity to work directly with Blackfoot Communications' C2M program led by Joe Fanguy, VP of Strategic Development. C2M, started in 2018, connects local entrepreneurs with resources and capital to bring great ideas to life - $1,500
  • Brandon Speth Award for Passion, Poise and Charisma - This award is named in memory of Brandon Speth who won first place in 2001. Introduced in 2005, the award recognizes the individual student who exhibits the passion, poise and charisma to successfully launch a new venture. All who had the good fortune to know Brandon would agree that these were some of the qualities that truly made him stand out - $1,000.
  • Intent to Launch - This award is generously supported by Tom and Lauren Snyder at Five on Black. This award recognizes the team with the greatest intent and potential to become a reality and have an impact on the Montana economy. The prize focuses on the business idea that shows a clear understanding of their financials, market, and path to opening regardless of size - $1,000.
  • ESG Award - The ESG Award recognizes the venture that most aligns to the principles of Environmental, Social, and corporate Governance (ESG), where an organization works on goals that go beyond the role of a corporation to maximize profits. - $1,000
  • Athena Award - This award goes to the team with the most compelling female participation - $2,000

See past Prize Winners here.