John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge


Since 1989, the University of Montana 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. In its formative years, the competition would not have been possible without the efforts and contributions of the Montana Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs (MADE), a group composed of Montana’s finest entrepreneurs and business professionals. Although MADE is no longer a formal organization, the Montana business community continues to foster the spirit of innovation through generous support of the UM College of Business and its business startup challenge.

Occurring every spring, the Business Startup Challenge is open to all students attending a college or university in Montana. From new products and inventions to social entrepreneurship ventures, the challenge invites all ideas for submission.

With the dedicated leadership of both the College of Business and UM’s Blackstone LaunchPad running the event, up to 12 teams will be selected and invited to compete in the annual event. Invited teams will compete for $50,000 in awards while also having the opportunity to network with venture capitalists, early stage investors, investment bankers, economic developers, corporate executives, and successful entrepreneurs. Teams will also have the unique opportunity to present to over 250 business professionals and community leaders who will be attending the Final Round presentations.

Competition Date: April 15, 2022

Check the Competition Day page to view a sample schedule of the Competition Day.

To reserve a seat, RSVP on the Griz Hub event page. Admission is free and the live public final is open to the public. Doors open at 4 p.m. and light appetizers and drinks will be provided. The program will run from 5 - 7 p.m. in the ALi Auditorium in the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education on the campus of the University of Montana.

If you have a business idea and are interested in competing, please contact Paul Gladen ( 

Submission Deadline: March 24, 2022

Please review the Submission Requirements and Deadlines page to obtain important dates, eligibility criteria, and submission requirements.

Join A Team!

Love entrepreneurship, but not ready to launch an idea? We have a list of competitors looking for people like you to dig in prior to the competition and possibly pitch at the competition. Get a front-row seat to starting up and get some prize money while you do! Email with the subject line "I Want to Join a JRBSC Team!" Include your name, major, contact information, and a small list of strengths.

Further Competition Details:

The 2022 competition finals will be open to the public from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. on Friday, April 15. Those in attendance will have a chance to vote for the winner of the People's Choice Award. Details on purchasing tickets for the event will be made available soon.

Lodging & Travel Fee Coverage

Significant effort is made to subsidize student travel to Missoula from other Montana areas through scholarships that cover transportation and lodging. Teams can expect to have up to two hotel rooms provided for two nights. To arrange contact

About the Coaches & Judges

All of the Business Startup Challenge judges and coaches are successful business leaders, entrepreneurs, executives, investors and professionals who are committed to the advancement of entrepreneurship. All teams will be assigned an experienced coach. Coaches have committed to providing their assigned teams a minimum of five (5) hours of guidance and feedback, over the internet or via phone/e-mail. Coaches will also be on hand to provide support during the competition. Judges will be present at the competition but not available for team consultation leading up to the event.

Statement of Non-Confidentiality

All sessions of the competition are open to the public at large.  Any and all of these sessions may be broadcast to interested persons through media which may include but is not limited to radio, television, and the Internet. In fact, attendance by media personnel is expected and encouraged. Any data or information discussed or divulged in public sessions by competitors should be considered information that could enter the public domain and competitors should not assume any right of confidentiality of any data or information discussed, divulged, or presented in these sessions.

Due to the nature of the competition, we do not ask judges, reviewers, staff, or the audience to agree to or sign non-disclosure statements. However, the John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge staff will make every effort to limit distribution of the written submissions to judges of the competition.