The UWM Startup Challenge is a co-curricular program that fosters an innovative and entrepreneurial culture at UWM.

Explore, Develop, Build, Pitch.

Do you want to work for yourself? For a small company that shares your values? The UWM Startup Challenge prepares you to work on what you want to work on.

The UWM Startup Challenge is an experiential program where you learn entrepreneurial thinking – research, financial models, prototyping, storytelling, and more – through the process of starting up your own venture!



The Startup Challenge is the longest running Lubar Entrepreneurship Center (LEC) program with over 300 participants so far. This co-curricular program encourages students to research and develop their ideas, prototype products, services, or social ventures, launch new businesses, and gain the skills that come from entrepreneurial experience.

Over the academic year, we: Explore potential customers and what they value, Develop a model for sustaining our ventures, Build experiments and prototypes, and Pitch our ideas to the public.

Learn how to turn your ideas into reality. Students and teams come to us at different stages of their idea and move at different speeds. We help propel your idea forward by leading workshops with topics including product-market fit, customer discovery, prototype development, storytelling, financials, business basics, and more.

Grow professional skills that benefit your career, whether as an entrepreneur, and/or in a company. We want to see our students succeed wherever their next step may be. The Startup Challenge has you learn by doing, practice techniques, skills, and strategies that don’t typically come up in the classroom.

Get connected to campus resources. Participants can apply for a growing list of on- and off-campus resources, including class-based student prototyping teams, University facilities, printing and fabrication services, federal grants, and extra-curricular workshops.

Broaden your network. Our best asset to the program is YOU, the people and community around it. Throughout the year, participants interact with each other, esteemed UWM professors and staff, mentors, and Milwaukee business professionals.


Who Can Register?

The Startup Challenge is open to all current UWM students in all schools and colleges, recent UWM alumni, and non-UWM community members. Teams are encouraged, and individuals are welcome. Past participants have ranged from engineered products, computer hardware and software, and biomedical projects to food trucks, music labels, yoga studios, coloring books, non-profits, social ventures, and more. All ideas are welcome and encouraged.

Students are welcome to join the Challenge at any time, but the sooner you get involved the more you will learn and gain from the experience and our community. Apply now!


Commitment & Timeline

The Startup Challenge structure consists of booster sessions (large workshops) once per month, LEC Brown Bags (office hours and community building every Wednesday at noon), and LEC Hosted Brown Bags (specific conversation topics with special guests). You should, at minimum, plan to attend every Booster.


Confidentiality & Intellectual Property Protection

At the LEC, students own everything they do and make! That said, the 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 LEC reserves the right to share a non-confidential summary of all ideas as part of our public profile. Intellectual Property remains the property of the disclosing party unless otherwise agreed to separately.

Teaching Team & Advisors

profile photoAvdeev, IlyaLEC Director of Innovation and Kellner Entrepreneurship Fellow, Director, NSF I-Corps™ Site of Southeastern Wisconsin (Milwaukee I-Corps™), Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Department: Mechanical Engineering / Lubar Entrepreneurship CenterMechanical Engineering / Lubar Entrepreneurship Center(414) 510-3631avdeev@uwm.eduEng & Math Sciences 1181

Director of Innovation - Lubar Entrepreneurship Center
Associate Professor - Mechanical Engineering
Director (PI) - Milwaukee I-Corps™ Program
Kellner Entrepreneurship Fellow

profile photoCobb, PortiaAssociate Professor - UWM Peck School of the Arts, Department of Film, Video, Animation and New GenresPSOA Filmpcobb@uwm.eduMitchell Hall, b73a; KSE studio 475

Associate Professor – UWM Peck School of the Arts, Department of Film, Video, Animation and New Genres

Lubar Entrepreneurship Center Teaching Fellow - Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

profile photoCoffaro, AmeliaWell

Well Entrepreneur-In-Residence, Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

profile photoFairbanks, MarkEntrepreneur-in-Residence of Social InnovationLubar Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneur-In-Residence of Social Innovation, Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

profile photoJanezic, MitchellInnovation InternLubar Entrepreneurship Centermjanezic@uwm.eduLubar Entrepreneurship Center 204

Innovation Intern, Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

profile photoKibicho, JenniferAssociate ProfessorNursingkibicho@uwm.eduCunningham Hall 603

Associate Professor, College of Nursing

Lubar Entrepreneurship Center Teaching Fellow, Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

profile photoLenz, LilithInnovation InternLubar Entrepreneurship CenterLlenz@uwm.eduLubar Entrepreneurship Center 204

Innovation Intern, Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

profile photoMoore Jr., ElmerUWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Centermoore437@uwm.eduLubar Entrepreneurship Center

Adjunct Faculty, Milwaukee I-Corps™ Program

profile photoPeterson, LorenEntrepreneur-in-Residence, Milwaukee I-Corps™ Core Teamlgp@eas-mke.comUWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

Entrepreneur-in-Residence, UWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center
Core Team, Milwaukee I-Corps™ Program

profile photoSaleh, YoussefInnovation InternLubar Entrepreneurship Centeryisaleh@uwm.eduLubar Entrepreneurship Center 204

Innovation Intern, Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

profile photoStern, NathanielProfessor // DirectorPSOA Art & Design // Student Startup Challengesternn@uwm.eduUWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center 201

Professor, Art & Design / Mechanical Engineering
Director, Startup Challenge

profile photoThompson, BrianPresident / DirectorUWMRF / LECbriant@uwmrf.orgUWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center 210

President, UWMRF
UWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center
Core Team, Milwaukee I-Corps™ Program

student enterprises in nine years

ideas proposed

student interactions

participants trained in Lean Launch