The Student Startup Challenge is a unique co-curricular program that creates an entrepreneurial culture at UWM by encouraging students to develop their ideas, launch businesses, and gain unique skills that come from the entrepreneurial experience. Students are given the opportunity to participate in hands-on workshops and develop ideas through one-on-one mentorship from UWM faculty and staff.  
In the Fall of 2016, the Student Startup Challenge program was redesigned to focus on three phases – Explore, Discover, and Experiment. These phases pair student entrepreneurs with existing classes and student teams to create prototypes and business plans to ultimately market ideas. Students and teams that are actively involved in the SSC process are also able to receive funding support from a pool of $25,000 based on funding requests and approval*.  
Who Can Apply?
The Student Startup Challenge is open to all current UWM students in all schools and colleges as well as 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.
Student Startup Challenge Tracks
The Student Startup Challenge is interested in innovative ideas across all disciplines. Below are some of the topic areas we have explored in Student Startup Challenge.
  • Web & Mobile Applications
  • Social Innovation
  • Food Industry
  • Consumer Products
  • Business Operations
Phase 1: Fall 2018 Explore: Fresh Idea Pop Ups – engage with the UWM community to build a stronger idea and team.   Phase 2: Submission Deadline: October 31, 2018 Program: November 10, 2018 – December 13, 2018 Discover: Student I-Corps Program – utilize customer discovery to redefine solution.   Phase 3: Application Deadline: December 30, 2018 Program: January 26 – May 2018 Experiment: Prototype – build a business model canvas and minimal viable product. *Phase 2 completion is strongly recommended when applying for Phase 3.  
Final Celebration UWM Innovators Expo
Program Outcomes
  • Teams become closer to making their ideas reality: We realize that startups develop at different stages. Throughout the duration of the program, we would like to propel your idea forward whether that’s developing a prototyping or incorporating a business.
  • Growing professional skills that will benefit startups and/or within a company: We want to see our students succeed wherever their next step may be. The Student Startup Challenge practices skills that don’t typically come up in the classroom.
  • Broaden network: Teams will have countless opportunities to interact with esteemed UWM professors and staff as well as work with Milwaukee business professionals.
Confidentiality & Intellectual Property Protection
The Student Startup Challenge 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.
Student Startup Challenge Teams

Startup Challenge Teaching Team

Dr. Nathaniel Stern, Co-Founder, Director

Associate Professor, Peck School of the Arts University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee e-Mail: Website

Dr. Ilya Avdeev, Co-Founder

Assistant Professor, College of Engineering & Applied Science University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee e-Mail: Website

Brian Thompson, Co-Founder

Director, UWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center President, UWM Research Foundation e-Mail: Website

Nicole Green, Program Coordinator

UWM Research Foundation & UWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center e-Mail: Website

Startup Challenge Advisers

Dr. Anne Basting

Professor of Theatre

Founder: TimeSlips



Dustin Hahn

App Brewery Project Manager

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee



Thomas Luljak

Vice Chancellor of University Relations and Communications University Relations, Government Relations


Phone: (414) 229-5024


James H. Hunter III

Bostrom Entrepreneur-in-Residence


Phone: (414) 758-0183