Randall Big Idea

Welcome to the Randall Family Big Idea Competition with $100,000 in cash prizes for Pitt students!

Congratulations to to the 2019 participants of the Randall Family Big Idea!  Learn more about the recent winners here.

Trek Wins $25,000 Top Prize in 2019 Randall Family Big Idea Competition

This competition is an experience-based learning opportunity for Pitt students with big ideas who enjoy working in diverse teams to bring those ideas to life. Discover how to take your idea to the next level towards startup creation. The competition spans February and March of each year and awards a grand prize of $25,000 to the idea with the most startup promise. Additionally, cash prizes are awarded for first, second, and third places, and best video.  Since its inception in 2009, the competition has attracted hundreds of interdisciplinary teams seeking to bring their big ideas to market.

Who is eligible?

The competition is offered to all Pitt undergraduate and graduate students across all schools and departments. Post-doctoral fellows are included.


Since its inception in 2009, the competition has attracted hundreds of interdisciplinary teams seeking to bring their big ideas to market.  The Randall Family Big Idea Competition is made possible through the generous support of the Randall family. Robert P. Randall, a Pitt alumnus and trustee, 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.


Important 2019 Randall Family Big Idea Competition Upcoming Dates

Info Sessions: Jan 25 (3 p.m.), Jan 28 (4-5 p.m.), & Feb 1 (4-5 p.m.)

All Info Sessions will be at the Big Idea Center (Gardner Steel Conference Center, O’Hara Street entrance, next to O’Hara Student Center)

Application deadline, Tuesday, Feb 5, 2019 11:59 p.m.

Notification of acceptance will be by Wednesday, Feb 6, 2019 by 5 p.m.

Bootcamp (attendance required) Friday, Feb 8 2-5 p.m. O’Hara Student Center

Semi-final round in late Feb, 2019

Final round Thursday, Mar 21, 2019

Visit us on Facebook to see all images from this year’s competition awards ceremony.


Meet the Big Idea Competition Team!

Babs Carryer

Director, Big Idea Center

Babs Carryer is the director of education and outreach. Her role encompasses programs to encourage and support innovation and entrepreneurship across campus to all students, post-docs, faculty, researchers, and clinicians. Babs teaches the Benchtop to Bedside and Academic Entrepreneurship technology commercialization courses to researchers, clinicians, and graduate students. Babs is a serial entrepreneur, writer, and educator. She blogs about entrepreneurship on NewVenturist.





Entrepreneurs in Residence Pitt Students Entrepreneurs in Residence Pitt Students
Entrepreneurs in Residence Pitt Students Ketaki Desai Entrepreneurs in Residence Pitt Students Ketaki Desai
Entrepreneurs in Residence Jeanine McCreary Pitt Entrepreneurs in Residence Jeanine McCreary Pitt
Entrepreneurs in Residence Pitt: Phil Marzolf Entrepreneurs in Residence Pitt: Phil Marzolf
Entrepreneurs in Residence Pitt Don Morrison Entrepreneurs in Residence Pitt Don Morrison


Joanna Sutton

Entrepreneurship/Competition Coach

Joanna is a Business Innovation Advisor with Brights Lights Innovations helping small businesses create profitable growth with accelerated times to market.  Since 2007, she held various B2B Marketing Executive roles with Westinghouse Electric Company.  She helped create numerous business opportunities leveraging a range of advanced technologies.

Phil Marzolf

Entrepreneurship/Competition Coach

For the past 5 years, Phil has focused on augmenting technical founders as they commercialize innovations through leading market discovery, market development, operations and early stage sales for their organizations.  Phil’s current interest is on power-efficient hardware and intelligent software systems for Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications.  

Phil earned a BSEE from the University of Notre Dame, a MSEE from Santa Clara University, and a MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ketaki Desai

Entrepreneurship/Competition Coach

Ketaki’s experience ranges from co-founding and leading a data analytics startup in manufacturing, PlantMetrix, to leading an education technology startup, LeSyn Labs, and a healthcare technology startup, BlenderHouse. Ketaki has a Doctorate in Biomedical Sciences from Texas A&M University, a Master’s in Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University, and a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from Pune University, India.

Don Morrison

Entrepreneurship/Competition Coach

Don is a serial entrepreneur and visionary leader who has consistently leveraged technology to improve the customer experience and top and bottom-line results. Don has been involved in the growth and development of several businesses, including American Eagle Outfitters, from one to 165 stores as President and CEO, Sundance Catalog Company as Executive Director, and Bear Creek Corporation as Senior VP of Sales and Marketing. He is currently chairman of deal flow for BlueTree Allied Angels.

Jeanine McCreary

Entrepreneurship/Competition Coach

Jeanine is the President of the McCreary Group, a company which helps large and small organizations with project analysis, development, implementation, and management.

We would like to sincerely thank all of our sponsors for the 2019 Randall Family Big Idea Competition.

upmc enterprises
Platinum Sponsor
Platinum Sponsor
Gold Sponsor
idea foundry
Silver Sponsor
Silver Sponsor
Silver Sponsor
institute for entrepreneurial excellence university of pittsburgh
University Sponsor
arts and science dietrich
University Sponsor
University Sponsor
PittNursing_2line 2018
University Sponsor
University Sponsor
Office of the Provost University of Pittsburgh
University Sponsor
University Sponsor
University Sponsor
pitt school of computing and information
University Sponsor
University Sponsor


Other Media: Randall Family Big Idea Competition Gives Golden Tickets to Student Business Endeavors, By Micaela Fox Corn, Pitt Chronicle, Issue Date: April 5, 2017

Ambient Cybersecurity and Tiny Lasers Win Big Prizes for ECE Students at Startup Competition by Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer, 4/26/2017

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