Over the weekend, winners were declared for the 26th annual John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge at the University of Montana. Paul Gladden from the Blackstone Launchpad was involved in running the event, and says that this year, all 16 teams walked away with prize money.

"We whittled the 16 down to a final eight, and then down to a final four who pitched to a public audience and a selection of business judges," Gladden said. "There was over $50,000 of prize money awarded, not only to the top four, but also for a number of special awards. Actually every team that participated received some prize money."

In the end, only one business was able to win first place. That honor went to UM MBA student Chad Miller of Florence for his business “Purus.”

"The idea behind Purus is, a technology that turns fracking waste water back into not only water, but also chemicals that are sellable back onto the open market," Gladden said. "So they are trying to address the issue of fracking waste water, which, currently, the majority of which just gets pumped back into the earth.

Gladden said an interesting feature of this year’s competition was the fact that many of the businesses that competed didn’t even have to prove that their business ideas would work: they were already out in the marketplace bringing in revenue.

Below is the full list of winners:

  • First place: Purus – UM MBA student Chad Miller of Florence. Purus is a Montana-based company dedicated to engineering a sustainable wastewater treatment solution for the oil and gas industry. $15,000 prize.
  • Second place: Doces Brasil – UM MBA student Leo Esteves of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Doces Brasil is an artisan chocolatier company in Missoula that produces and sells high-end Brazilian recipe desserts to retail and wholesale customers. $7,500 prize.
  • Third place: GeoFli – UM MBA student Kyle Pucko of Webster, New York. GeoFli is specifically designed for colleges and universities to create multiple versions of the same URL targeting an exact geographic location, with no coding required. $5,000 prize.
  • Fourth place: United Methanol Corporation – UM student Stephen Jenkins of Bigfork. United Methanol Corporation is a clean technology company focusing on the conversion of low-value woody biomass into high purity methanol and liquid carbon dioxide. $2,500 prize.
  • Best Undergraduate Business Plan Award: Item Bounty – UM-Western student Christopher Casties of Irvine, California, and Montana State University student Mike Maher of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Item Bounty is a web application that provides an interactive community of requesters and finders. A requester is a user who inputs the specifications of a product or service they’re looking for online and the fee they are willing to pay for someone to find it.
  • Elevator Pitch (60-second team presentation): Ndigena – UM MBA students Thomas Kurdy of Great Falls and Rachel Strasshofer of Missoula. Ndigena produces powerful digital content that includes video production in a lean, documentary style that triggers a consumer’s emotional connection. $2,500 prize.
  • Runner-up Elevator Pitch: Leo Esteves – Doces Brasil. $1,000 prize.
  • The following special awards were given to teams or individuals based on specific criteria:
  • Brandon Speth Passion, Poise, and Charisma Award: Doces Brasil – Leo Esteves, $1,000 prize.
  • People’s Choice Award: Purus – Chad Miller. $2,500 prize.
  • Polymath Award: Leg Up Innovations – UM student Chantanelle Nava of Shepherd. Leg Up Innovations makes life easier for people on crutches. The apparatus attaches to a standard crutch to create a stable, adjustable footrest to place an injured leg on. $2,500 prize.
  • Most Dynamic and Scalable Award: Purus – Chad Miller. $1,000 prize.
  • Blackstone Launchpad Innovation Award: Dungeon Emporium – UM student William Milligan of Havre. Dungeon Emporium is a website to distribute various products designed for use with the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop role-playing game. $1,000 prize.
  • Manufactured Product Award: United Methanol Corporation – Stephen Jenkins. $1,000 prize.
  • Feasibility Award: Monter Consulting – UM student Katherine Vincent of Missoula. Monter Consulting is a full-service online marketing agency offering web development and graphic design services with expertise in search engine rank strategy. $1,000 prize.