Welcome to the Randall Family Big Idea competition and $100,000 in cash prizes for Pitt students! This competition is an experience-based learning opportunity for Pitt students interested in finding a big idea and discovering how to take it to the next steps towards startup creation.  The competition spans six weeks in February and March of each year and awards a grand prize of $25,000 to the idea that with the most startup promise. Additionally, cash prizes are awarded for first, second, and third places, plus people’s choices.


The Randall Family Big Idea Competition is made possible through the generous support of the Randall family. Robert P. Randall was president and chief executive officer of the Three Rivers Aluminum Company (TRACO), a prominent regional door and window company, which was acquired by Alcoa and is now a division of Kawneer. Mr. Randall continues to give back to the community through his position on the Board of Trustees at the University of Pittsburgh, his work with the United States Chamber of Commerce, and as a board member of both the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance.


The annual Randall Family Big Idea Competition is an experience-based learning opportunity offered to all University of Pittsburgh undergraduate and graduate students across all schools and departments. Since its inception in 2009, the competition has attracted hundreds of interdisciplinary teams seeking to bring their big ideas to market.

Through the competition the Innovation Institute hopes to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Pittsburgh
  • Support University of Pittsburgh students in launching and growing new business ventures in western Pennsylvania
  • Provide a forum for emerging student entrepreneurs to network with potential advisors, partners, customers and funders
  • Highlight the expanding entrepreneurial culture at Pitt to the university community, the region and prospective students


Grand Prize $25,000
2nd Prize (3 Awarded) $15,000
3rd Prize (4 Awarded) $5,000
4th Prize (4 Awarded) $2,000
People’s Choice Live Voting and Video (2 Awarded) $1,000


The Randall Family Big Idea Competition is open only to Pitt students. The competition has three elimination rounds: Big Idea 1, Big Idea 2, and Big Idea 3, plus the final Big Idea Showcase. To participate in subsequent rounds, you MUST apply to Big Idea 1. You cannot enter the competition mid-round.

This competition is OPEN TO ANY AND ALL PITT STUDENTS at all levels in all schools, including post-doctoral fellows.

Students MUST APPLY AS A TEAM of at least two members.

Team members MUST BE FROM AT LEAST TWO DIFFERENT SCHOOLS on Pitt’s campus (eg engineering and business). Exceptions are only made for compelling reasons. Email me for questions or exceptions. All participants must be listed on a particular team.

Please note

All presentations and videos submitted may be placed in the public domain. It is the responsibility of the entering team to confirm that making these particular materials public does not adversely impact the commercial potential of the project (do not disclose any confidential information).

All images and language used in videos and presentations must be legal and valid uses (do not use copyrighted material such as background music).

Prize money is distributed equally to all team members upon completion of applicable paperwork as required by the University and by law, and, in the case of the top prizes, completion of specified milestones. Individual team members may disclaim an interest in the prize money by providing notification prior to the selection of the winners. In the event that an individual team member elects to disclaim interest in the prize money, distribution of those funds will be determined by the University.