MSU student ventures take top awards at third annual MSU $50K Venture Competition

Tuesday May. 10th, 2022

BOZEMAN — Six entrepreneurial ventures took home a share of $75,000 in prize money from Montana State University’s third annual $50K Venture Competition, which was held April 27 in Inspiration Hall on the MSU campus.

The event featured 10 finalists in traditional and social venture categories, all of whom had connections to MSU or the University of Montana as students, faculty, staff or alumni. The event was hosted by the MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship and the MSU Blackstone LaunchPad.

The event started with an announcement that the available award funds had increased to $75,000 this year.

During the competition, the finalists pitched their ideas to a panel of four judges and then answered questions. The judges were Eric Ladd, founder and chairman of Outlaw Partners, L&K Real Estate, Outlaw Real Estate Partners and Boundary Expeditions; April LaMon, CEO and co-founder of Alosant; Garrett Leach, an MSU alumnus and analyst at Next Frontier Capital; and Scott Peterson, MSU alumnus and vice president of development for United Properties.

The winners are listed below by category, place, prize amount and venture:

Traditional ventures:

  • First place, $18,000: Morel Technology, presented by Bruce Clark and Marcus Twichel, is a platform enabling mobile apps for local and regional restaurants to compete in an industry that's rapidly demanding new technology.
  • Second place, $9,000: Ignis Technologies, presented by Andrew Dixon, provides tools to modernize how firefighting organizations communicate and distribute information.
  • Third place, $6,500: The Giddy Thrifter, presented by Mariah Karis, is a media and e-commerce venture that inspires and educates budget-conscious young people on styling their home spaces and wardrobes using primarily thrifted goods.
  • In addition, the two finalists in the traditional venture track who finished outside of the top three places – Aizy Tech and Hear It Clear – each received a $2,000 award.

Twichel, Morel’s co-founder and an MSU student studying computer science, was appreciative of the support Morel received.

“We are again blown away by the generosity of our community in donating their time, expertise and money to help students like us start a business,” Twichel said. “We are thrilled to meet so many people that believe in our vision and want to help in whatever ways they can to get us there, and we are working hard to turn that belief into a successful venture.”

Social ventures:

  • First place, $18,000: Plus, presented by Jasmine Schroeder and Nathan Saier, connects college students to provide a peer-based social support system.
  • Second place, $9,000: TrialWear, presented by Elizabeth Johnson, provides technology for clinical trial participant safety.
  • Third place, $6,500: Homecoming Seed Co., presented by Charlie Watt, is an organic vegetable seed producer focused on bio-regionally adapted varieties of seeds.
  • In addition, the two finalists in the social venture track who finished outside of the top three places – High Morel and Sweet Grass Woman – each received a $2,000 award.

Schroeder, the co-founder of Plus and a current MSU business student, said that she is thrilled to have an opportunity to positively impact others with their new venture.

“Our dream is to make the world a better, more connected place, and winning this competition is a huge step toward that goal,” Schroeder said. “We'd like to congratulate all of our competitors for not making this easy on us, and we’d like to thank the Blackstone LaunchPad as well as Dean (Matt) Caires for the support.” Caires, MSU’s dean of students, has pledged additional support to Plus from his office because it focuses on an area of importance to MSU students.

Ladd, one of the judges, said he was honored to be a part of the event.

“To witness such a talented group of candidates with inspiring concepts and ideas was very exciting,” he said. “There are a few concepts that were presented at the event that stand to be market disruptors and really make positive ate and entrepreneurship certificate.

MSU’s Blackstone LaunchPad helps MSU students succeed in entrepreneurship and in their careers. Open to students, faculty, and alumni in all majors, the campus-based LaunchPad provides mentoring, opportunities for participants to grow their networks and resources to help their businesses succeed. For more information, visit