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

Explore, Develop, Build, Pitch.

The Startup Challenge is the longest running Lubar Entrepreneurship Center program with over 250 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.

This year’s Challenge will focus on these special elements: Explore design thinking, Develop potential customers and what they value, Build experiments and prototypes, and Pitch your 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 venture forward by leading workshops with topics including design thinking, customer discovery, prototype development, and business basics.

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 program, participants interact with 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, individuals are welcomed but everyone is required to register for each Sprint. Past participants have ranged from engineered products, computer hardware and software, biomedical projects, food trucks, non-profits, social ventures, and more. All ideas are welcome and encouraged.

Students are welcome to join the Challenge at any time! Register for the Spring sessions separately, participating in as few or as many fit your schedule and needs. Depending on where you are with your idea, we can also help you decide where you will gain the most from our year-long programming.

Commitment & Timeline

Students are welcome to join the Challenge at any time! Depending on where you are with your idea, we can also help you decide where you will gain the most from our year-long programming. The Startup Challenge structure consists of booster sessions (large workshop) LEC Brown Bags (more or less office hours and community building), or LEC Hosted Brown Bags (specific conversation topics with special guests).  

Confidentiality & Intellectual Property Protection

At the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center (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

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

Innovation Intern, LEC

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 photoPowley, NicoleAssistant Director for ProgramsLubar Entrepreneurship Centernicole@uwmrf.orgLubar Entrepreneurship Center Room 201

Assistant Director for Programs, Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

profile photoRogers, GraceInnovation Intern, UWM University Innovation FellowLubar Entrepreneurship Centerglrogers@uwm.eduLubar Entrepreneurship Center

University Innovation Fellow, UWM

Innovation Intern, LEC

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