Thursday, November 30, 2017


On November 15th, MTCC VISTA Connor Harbison hosted the Awards Ceremony for the 2017 Idea Challenge him and his team at Blackstone LaunchPad at Montana State University had been planning for months. This video pitch competition brought together 27 current MSU students to give 90 second elevator pitches for their business ideas and social ventures. This year, the Idea Challenge awarded $3,000 in prizes, garnered 1,869 votes and reached 532,586 social media profiles.

This year’s pitches included an all-natural cleaning solution, modular tiny homes, handmade duck calls, metal campfire rings, a bar arcade in downtown Bozeman, among others. Blackstone LaunchPad’s team of venture coaches assisted candidates with everything from ideation to preparing the pitches themselves.

“It was important to us to lower the bar to entry,” said Connor Harbison. “You don’t have to be a business major to have a great idea. That’s all it takes, one great idea. At the Blackstone LaunchPad, we believe that anyone can have a great idea, and we are here to help them make a thriving business out of it.”

This year’s Idea Challenge brought more diversity to the MSU's Blackstone LaunchPad than ever before. Nearly two thirds of the voters and site visitors were women, and the publicity effort before the formal contest engaged student groups from all over campus, including: UNITY, the Veteran Service Center, Society of Women Engineers, F-Word, Design Guild, and the Women’s Center at MSU. It is Blackstone's mission to break down assumptions of exclusivity in entrepreneurship.

Ultimately, six videos advanced through popular voting, while six were chosen by the preliminary jury of three entrepreneur alumni of the Blackstone LaunchPad’s venture coaching process. Five final judges reviewed the twelve finalist videos. Judges from banking, law, and tech, used their expertise to evaluate these finalists’ videos.  

Among the night’s winners was Adeline Sutich, who received the Rising Star Award for Young Entrepreneurship. Partnering with her father, Doug, who is a student at Montana State University, Adeline submitted Mr. Bubbles, a stuffed octopus who wanders from his tank every night to go on adventures throughout the home. The Rising Star Award is given for future potential and passion for the entrepreneurial process and pursuit.

“I may not have won any money tonight,” Adeline said, “but I’ll be making money when I sell my product.”

The 2017 Idea Challenge is in it's third iteration. In addition to this event, the Blackstone LaunchPad holds live pitch competitions, hosts visiting business leaders, and organizes programming to help innovative MSU students achieve their dreams.

“The Idea Challenge is just one way we can bring in new people to the process,” said MTCC VISTA
Connor Harbison. “People know they have good ideas, but sometimes they just need a little push to make it happen. One great idea can change your life, improve your financial situation, and empower new leaders.”

Every Idea Challenge submission can be viewed here.

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