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.

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, IlyaAssociate Professor / Director of InnovationMechanical Engineering / Lubar Entrepreneurship Center(414) 229-6949avdeev@uwm.eduEng & Math Sciences 975

Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering 
Director of Innovation,
Core Team, Milwaukee I-Corps™

profile photoFairbanks, MarkLubar Entrepreneurship Center

Entrepreneur-In-Residence of Social Innovation

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

University Innovation Fellow, UWM
Innovation Intern, LEC

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

Adjunct Faculty, Milwaukee I-Corps™

profile photoPeterson, LorenEntrepreneurial AdvisorEAS-MKE, LLCloren.g.peterson@gmail.comUWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

Entrepreneurial Advisor, EAS-MKE, LLC
Core Team, Milwaukee I-Corps™

profile photoPowley, NicoleProgram CoordinatorLubar Entrepreneurship Center(414) 906-4684nicole@uwmrf.orgLubar Entrepreneurship Center 203

Program Manager, LEC

profile photoRogers, GraceInnovation Intern, UIFLubar Entrepreneurship Center(262)343-5287glrogers@uwm.eduLubar Entrepreneurship Center

University Innovation Fellow, UWM

Innovation Intern, LEC

profile photoStern, NathanielAssociate Professor // DirectorPSOA Art & Design // Student Startup Challenge(414) 229-6054sternn@uwm.eduArt Building 251

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 seven years

ideas proposed

student interactions

faculty-led courses