Student Startup Challenge


Our vision is to be a hub for student entrepreneurship, experiential learning and co-creation at UWM and to be nationally recognized for producing innovators who change the world. Take a look at recent startups here.

The Program

It’s back and better than ever! Submit this application to be considered for an intensive program to bring your idea to reality. Teams have an opportunity to share from a collective pool of $50,000. Additionally, teams will benefit from close support and mentorship from UWM’s faculty and Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship’s team.

The first half of the program consists of customer discovery through Student I-Corps beginning November 13th. Teams will be offered support and guidance as well as share from a pool of $5,000 for approved company and travel expenses.

Teams that showcase dedication throughout the customer discovery phase will be invited to continue the Student Startup Challenge. In the Spring semester students will begin to prototype their idea in Idea Challenge Courses. The program will begin monthly meetings that provide support and mentorship. Teams will have an opportunity to share from a pool of $45,000 for approved prototype and company expenses.

Apply early and have an opportunity to meet with us!

Tracks and Themes

In 2016, we will fund ideas along different themes that we can support thorough various tracks, including:

  • product development (hardware)
  • software applications (mobile apps)
  • water technologies
  • energy-based research and design
  • social entrepreneurship and sustainable communities
  • consumer products

Our newest track, Sustainable Communities, will be run by Anne Basting. Proposals to this track will work with a team of students here in Milwaukee to test their ideas, and should invest in interpersonal, long-lasting, and positive impacts on local communities, with the potential for transferability to other locales. Business models that we help you develop can be non- or for-profit, and we will support winners in envisioning a sustainable mode.

Enter Your Idea


Students can apply immediately, and early entries will benefit from more discussion and brainstorming. The deadline to be considered is November 9th, 2016.

  • Fall Semester Student I-Corps: Customer Discovery
  • Spring Semester Prototyping, Mentorship, Team forming, Strategic Doing

Who Can Apply

The contest is open to all current UWM students in all schools and colleges and UWM alumni who have graduated within the last two years. Students do not need to be engineering or business students to apply – ideas are sought from all disciplines.


On-line applications are open until November 9th, 2016. Any stage startup is encouraged to enter. Click here to submit!

The Outcome

The winning ideas will be developed over a 12 month period starting in the fall of 2015. Our objectives include:

  • A Prototype – a working prototype device, mobile app, or tested support model will be developed by students using CEAS, SOIS and Peck design classes. (Students do not need to be enrolled to apply; however, winning applications must be willing to act as advisors to student design teams)
  • An Entrepreneurial Team – A student-led team will be developed to advance the business
  • A Business Mentorship – local successful entrepreneurs and business leaders will help guide the student teams in developing their businesses
  • A Business Launch – the team will launch a business, including legal formation
  • An Investor-Ready Business Plan – working with business mentors, the team will develop a business plan that will be ready to present to investors, or to apply for funding.

The mobile app and sustainable communities teams win up to $5000 in operational budget, and support for prototyping and/or development and testing with several students and a supervisor in classes at UWM. The product teams require much more support in terms of materials and expenses for Product Realization development in the UWM labs. Out of their $10,000, $5,000 is earmarked to pay the Product Realization standard fee. $2500 is dedicated to material expenses for the prototype, and the last $2500 is operational budget for the business. All expenses must be approved by the SSC board as something beneficial to your company, which may include office space, computers, travel expenses or consultants, to name a few possibilities that have come up in the past.


The contest is sponsored by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), UW System Growth Agenda for Wisconsin, College of Engineering and Applied Science, School of Information Studies, Peck School of the Arts and the UWM Research Foundation. Up to eight selected teams will each have access to $5,000 (mobile apps and sustainable communities) or $10,000 (products) in operational budget. This money has portions earmarked for material expenses, production, and/or the standard industry fee for Product Realization resources, while some is set aside for spending by the team, pending approval from the advisory board.

Confidentiality and Intellectual Property Protection

The contest is designed to foster better decision making by involving a variety of players. Initial submissions can be treated as confidential upon request; however, the project sponsors reserve the right to share a non-confidential summary of all ideas. Intellectual Property remains the property of the disclosing party.

Advisory Board

An advisory board, consisting of deans, faculty members, industry partners, serial entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, will select up to ten projects to be launched, and continue to help shape the program.

More Information

For more information, contact: Nicole Green at

Managing Team:

Dr. Ilya Avdeev, Co-Founder

Ilya Avdeev

Assistant Professor
College of Engineering & Applied Science
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Phone: (414) 229-6949

Dr. Nathaniel Stern, Co-Founder

Nathaniel Stern

Associate Professor
Peck School of the Arts
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Phone: (414) 229-4200

Brian Thompson, Co-Founder

Brian Thompson

UWM Research Foundation
Phone: (414) 906-4653

Mark Jacobson, Web & Mobile Leader

Mark Jacobson

Director, UWM Web and Mobile
Communication & Media Relations
Phone: (414) 416-9503

Anne Basting, Sustainable Community Leader

Anne Basting

Director, UWM Center on Age & Community
Founder, TimeSlips

Ideas Challenge Fellows:

James H. Hunter III

James Hunter

Bostrom Entrepreneur-in-Residence
Phone: (414) 550-1711

Thomas Luljak

Tom Luljak.

Government Relations, Leadership
Phone: (414) 229-5024

Team Members:

Laura Otto, UWM Communications
Nicole Green, Program Manager