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

Explore, Discover, Experiment.

The Startup Challenge team offers weekly office hours, “pop-up” classes promoting individualized learning, and monthly “booster” sessions, where program participants learn the tools and strategies essential to launching new ventures – and useful in any job. Our three phases – explore, discover, experiment – see student entrepreneurs partner with mentors, professors, classes, Milwaukee community members, and other students in researching, developing, prototyping, financial and sustainability modeling, marketing and design, and more.

Individual students and teams that are actively involved in the Startup Challenge will also have the opportunity to 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, extra-curricular workshops, and internal financial support.

Who Can Apply?

The Startup Challenge is open to all current UWM students in all schools and colleges, as well as recent UWM alumni. We also welcome non-UWM community members to join us in actively participating in our pop-ups, boosters, and workshops. Students can apply as a team, or alone. Teams are encouraged but not required, and often develop over the course of the program. Our startups range from engineered products, computer hardware and software, camping gear, media platforms, job boards, or biomedical projects, to food trucks, art galleries, non-profits, and social ventures. All ideas are welcome and encouraged.

Program Outcomes

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. Throughout our yearlong program, we propel your venture forward whether that’s through design thinking, customer discovery, prototype development, or launching business out into its day-to-day activities.

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.

Broaden your network. Our entrepreneurs have opportunities to interact with esteemed UWM professors and staff, as well as work with Milwaukee business professionals.

Commitment & Timeline

Our community is the most important part of our program and we can’t wait to grow the network. You are expected to attend “Booster” sessions, where you will learn entrepreneurial skills and progress your idea, one Saturday morning a month November – May. You will also want to participate in the community and get the other resources provided by our program, including office hours and topical “Pop Ups” (workshops) hosted at noon on Wednesdays, and LEC talks that will leave you inspired.

Confidentiality & Intellectual Property Protection

At the Lubar Entrepeneurship 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 975

Director of Innovation - Lubar Entrepreneurship Center
Associate Professor - Mechanical Engineering
Director - NSF I-Corps™ Site of Southeastern Wisconsin (Milwaukee I-Corps™)
Kellner Entrepreneurship Fellow

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 photoHorinek, MJ (Madeline)Innovation InternUWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Centermhorinek@uwm.eduLubar Entrepreneurship Center

University Innovation Fellow, UWM
Innovation Intern, Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

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

Adjunct Faculty, Milwaukee I-Corps™

profile photoPeterson, LorenEntrepreneur-in-Residence, Milwaukee I-Corps™ Core Team414-533-5251lgp@eas-mke.comUWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

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

profile photoPowley, NicoleAssistant Director for ProgramsLubar Entrepreneurship Center(414) 906-4684nicole@uwmrf.orgLubar Entrepreneurship Center Room 201

Assistant Director for Programs, Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

profile photoRogers, GraceInnovation Intern, UWM University Innovation FellowLubar Entrepreneurship Center(262)343-5287glrogers@uwm.eduLubar Entrepreneurship Center

University Innovation Fellow, UWM

Innovation Intern, LEC

profile photoStern, NathanielProfessor // DirectorPSOA Art & Design // Student Startup Challenge(414) 251-6004 (Teams #)sternn@uwm.eduUWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center 201

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

profile photoThompson, BrianPresident / DirectorUWMRF / LEC(414) 906-4653briant@uwmrf.orgUWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center 210

President, UWMRF
Core Team, Milwaukee I-Corps™

student enterprises in nine years

ideas proposed

student interactions

participants trained in Lean Launch