Category Archives: Events

TOP OF THE LIST

by Mark T Wayne

“Admirable!  Superlative!  Top of the list!  Gentlemen, you are indeed fortunate that I invited you here!”  I study the greedy faces of my two compatriots—the estimable Donatas Ludditis (good old Don) as well as the execrable Loop Lonagan and his stinking bull terrier, Clamps.  (Claims it’s a therapy dog.)  We are here as judges, along with a crowd of luminaries from Chicago’s startup community for the finals of the tenth annual POWER PITCH competition.  Today we will hear pitches from a host of exciting new companies.  Yes sir!  The enthusiasm is riveting.

Clamps

Don bows politely and speaks like a gentleman.  “Am glad I come,” he says in his charming Lithuanian accent.

Lonagan leers at me.  “Lemme at ‘em,” he says in his gutter lingo.

The IN2 Accelerator

I scan the ranks of judges and note representatives of the Business Plan Police lurking in the wings.  We want no trouble from them. But I must familiarize my guests with the program.  “This, gentlemen, is IN2—potentially the greatest startup accelerator of its kind in the world, with facilities available at a mere handful of elite universities”  I sweep my arm in an arc to indicate our magnificent surroundings. “Offices here and at the huge 1871 incubator.” 

Clamps releases one resounding bark—basso profundo—and lolls a broad tongue out over enormous teeth.  From a suitcoat pocket, Lonagan produces a hunk of meat.  He tosses it into the gaping maw—just as the teeth snap closed in hungry abandon.  This animal and its uncouth owner make up a last-minute replacement, foisted upon me by the editor.

On stage, Dr. Carl Heine announces the first competitor.  With a cane, I prod my guests and lower my voice to a whisper. “Don’t make me ashamed, you two derelicts.”  Don straightens his back and faces front with all due alacrity and respect.  Lonagan slouches like the slob he is.  The round begins:

IN2 Maker Space

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Flameless

Fifty percent of all residential fires are cooking related. This company uses sound waves—yes, sound waves—to extinguish fires automatically.  It is safe. It is neat.  It does not belch messy fluid or poisonous gas, as do other fire suppression methods.  We watch a video showing the system in action and the audience bustles with delight.   Amazing!

“Five minutes!”  The shout stops the speaker in mid-sentence.  That is the kind of strict discipline that warms my heart.  But even under the gun of limited time, their business plan is complete with financial projections, marketing plan, intellectual property, and go-to-market strategy.  Well coached, sir!  Very well coached!

Moises Goldman – Judge

Lonagan elbows Don and whispers:  “Deeze guys look kinda young, doncha think?”  The response to his juvenile utterance gets cut short when the next company is introduced:

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The Oil Magnet

This is a new technology for cleaning oil slicks.  They disburse magnetic nanoparticles into the spill, and then recover black gold with a magnetic boom.  A demonstration unit elicits gasps from the crowd—the team pulls off this whiz-bang presentation with thoroughness and aplomb.  I believe I’m sensing a rhythm to this event.

Demo

The foul Lonagan leans over to me and mutters with his rank breath and wet voice: “How old d’ya s’pose dem guys is?”

“Shush! You, sir, are making a mistake. Mark your judging sheet.” I thump the document with a finger. “The next company is already speaking.” I cannot abide ludicrous interruptions during business hours.

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Series

Ninety six billion dollars of crops are lost annually due to pests, standing water, and soil degradation.  This company uses drones and GPS to scan farm fields automatically, in both the visible and infrared spectrums.  They scrutinize images against a large computer database and detect damage down to the individual plant.  And they do it cheaply.  Their mentor is DuPont.

Don nudges my arm and leans close to my ear, speaking with hushed tones in his broken English:  “In old country, I not see anything like this.  Is just high school.  Am impressed!”

Judge

Apparently overhearing, Lonagan lets out a shout of desperation:   “Hey, yer sayin’ dis’s a high school?—a high school?” After this inane utterance, he buries his face in both hands and moans as if in deep pain.  “And youse guys dragged me outa bed!  On Saturday!”  His outburst elicits a perplexed expression from the speaker and rumblings of outrage from the judges and crowd.  Clamps leaps against his master and howls.  I am astonished—astonished I say—that the man only just noticed the fact that this is indeed a high school.  True, it does not look like one, but nobody can be that obtuse.

Judge

I am unable to restrain myself from delivering a rebuke, and do not spare any volume:  “Sir, your puerile reaction is entirely inappropriate to the situation!”  I fix my stare until the man squirms.

Clamps wags his tail as I continue:

“This, sir, is THE high school—IMSA—the Illinois Math and Science Academy—the statewide school for the highly gifted!  You may find other schools riddled with dropouts and illiterate stooges that quickly jettison whatever knowledge they accidentally absorb, but these students WANT to lead society! At this fine institution, 99.8% of the graduates go to college!  Many of the businesses you see here come to fruition and these students intern at actual startup companies around the city!” 

Mark T Wayne

As my gaze bores into his soul, the man appears badly stunned.  Dare I tell him that some of these teams are middle school students?  Those around us seem well satisfied with my lecture, but I cannot be certain that any real ideas penetrate Lonagan’s frontal lobe.  From under my shaggy brows, I pin my friend Don with a meaningful glance and tilt my head in the general direction of the foul perpetrator and his dog.

Don immediately comes to my rescue:  “Loop!  Is great place!  Not gangs here!  No drugs!  No fear!”

“Whatsa funna dat?”

Don keeps at him.  “Faculty 47% PhD!”

“Piled Higher ‘n’ Deeper.”

Clamps barks.

Dr. Heine spares us further histrionics by introducing the next pitch.

Judge

iCane

What grandpa is ever without his cane?  This company makes a smart cane with medical reminders, loud SOS alarm location tracking, geo fencing, pedometer, and Bluetooth.  It folds up and is easy to use.  My walking stick seems inadequate by comparison.  What an excellent idea!

Judges

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epilEXPERT

Fifty thousand people a year die from epileptic seizures. It’s a $27.8B market.  This company makes a device that detects the problem, alerts the caregiver’s phone, and keeps a trail of raw data.

Lonagan slurrs out a belligerent question:

“How y’gonna run a business ‘n’ finish yer education at da same time?”  The man has gone from judge to heckler and I find myself acutely embarrassed for him.  The team covered this point in its presentation.  Like most of these companies, it will license its technology—in my view, an elegant and fully reasonable solution.

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Rethink Numeracy

This is a new way to teach numbers to children with disabilities, and the team seems to have cracked the problem.  They’re already working with neuropsychology experts and marketing their methods through a reputable center for the care of children with Downs Syndrome.

Finals

Lonagan scratches his monstrous dog behind the ears and puts another question: “How y’gonna scale a thing like dat?” 

This slurred interrogatory barely precedes the flashing of a badge. “Business Plan Police.  Please come along quietly, sir.”  Lonagan immediately balls a fist and clouts the officer to the floor.

Clamps licks the stricken man’s face. The officer regains consciousness and blows his whistle.

From out of the crowd, three musclebound agents pile onto Lonagan and hustle him out of the room like a roll of carpet.  I catch a glimpse of his feet kicking and hear him spew a few choice and utterly foul invectives as he disappears out the door.  Clamps bounds after them, tail wagging vigorously.

The crowd hushes a moment, then shrugs off the incident and Don lets out a sigh.  “Is bad.  I wonder do we ever see Loop again.” 

I also feel somewhat perplexed about such a questionable privilege.  In any given year, the Business Plan Police arrest a number of startups—never to be seen again—but I have never known them to abduct a judge at a pitch competition.  I can now relax.  It makes me most grateful.

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Finals

Three high school teams will advance to the regionals.  (Lower grades compete and are rewarded, but they cannot advance.)  Last year, IMSA won the top three slots at the regional competition.  Here are the results of today’s event:

Jim Gerry – IMSA

1st Place –  $1500 – award sponsor: Charles Whittaker

  • OIL MAGNET – Marisa Patel-O’Conner, Eden Gorevoy & Sol Hwangbo (Juniors at IMSA)
  • iCANE – Umika Arora (7th grade at St. Catherine Laboure School)

2nd Place – $1000 – award sponsor: Deliciousness

  • FLAMELESS – Sivam Bhatt & Nikhil Madugula (Seniors at IMSA)
  • RETHINK NUMERACY – Akshaya Raghavan (Junior at IMSA)

3rd Place – $500 – Award sponsor: After the Peanut

  • epilEXPERT – Monika Narain (8th grade at Mead Jr High) & Jayant Kumar (7th grade at Grainger Middle School)

Alternate

  • SERIES – Andre Wiedenmann & Tommy Neidlein

Britta McKenna – IMSA

Other Companies (alphabetical)

  • 21 C2 – Maryam Mufti, Erika Ezife
  • ACTIV8 – Anusha Trivedi
  • AMENITY – Sonia Edassery, Milica Barac
  • COMMUTE – Natalie Sanchez
  • BRIDGE TUTORING – Armando Pizano, David Gonzalez, Cain Yepez & Stefany Boyas
  • ENABLE EQUITY – Rachel Mason, Shikha

Adhikari

  • GOGO RIDERS – Rishi Modi
  • IDEAL SUGAR – Maya Wlodarczyk
  • IDROGENY TECHNOLOGY – Sricharan Sanakkayala
  • IMMERSION – Neil John, Samuel Anozie, Samantha Alexis Lehman
  • INSPIRULINA – Meghan Hendrix, Kanika Leang, Harsha Nalam
  • INSTA-VILLAGE – Catelyn Rounds & Julian Kroschke
  • INTELLIFIT – Steven Andreev
  • INTELLI-TEST – Akash Basavaraju
  • PHOCUS – Matthew Selvaraj, Louise Lima, Vaishnavi Vanamala, Eric Errampalli, Arthur Lu
  • POCKET PASS – Ajay Jayaraman
  • PROMETHEA – Ayush Bhalavat, Ian Son
  • SAVE OUR STARVING SOULS – Shreya Parepally, Sofie Heidrich
  • SCHOOLBOARD – Samuel Anozie, Aryan Walia, Mary Ashley Tenedor
  • SHINDIG – Nikita Elkin
  • TAKE HOME – Aliah Shaira De Guzman, Michelle Sia, Aryan Walia
  • TRANSSPEED – Atharva Gawde
  • THINKING CAP – Nishant Bhamidipati, Ryan Talusan, Micah Casey-Fusco
  • VIRTUPEACE – Michael McKelvie, Max Knutson
  • UNITED 5 AEROSPACE – Levi Raskin, Duncan Osmund, Wyatt Funkhouser, Ethan Tse

Dr. Carl Heine – IMSA

IMSA IN2 Contact Info

Address – 1500 Sullivan Rd. Aurora, IL 60506

Website – https://www.imsa.edu/

Dr. Carl Heine – heine@imsa.edu

Britta McKenna – bmckenna@imsa.edu

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Photography – John Jonelis

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money..Copyright © 2018 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under 1871, angel, angel capital, angel investor, App, Characters, Chicago Startup, Donatas Ludditis, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, IMSA, Innovation, investor, loop lonagan, Mark T Wayne, Mobile App, new companies, Startup

CLOSURE

John Jonelis

How do you deal with the death of a loved one? For me, an important facet of grieving is closure. This is an account of what I did at the burial of my mother.

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Real Death

We don’t write about such things. The events that move us in the real world are too mundane for that. I step away from the norm to give my account.

I’ve sent the four limos away and stand in my best blue suit and black wool coat, flanked by two strong nephews who asked permission to remain with me at a time when polite society withdraws. It’s January 29th, yet hundreds of stale, wind-blown Christmas wreaths remain staked to the ground in long, precise rows. The wind gusts against our own fresh displays of pink and lavender roses. How they cut such a clean rectangle into the ground, I don’t know.

Calloused hands guide rolls of green nylon strap as the cherry wood casket recedes into the ground. No one speaks. Not one of the yellow roses perched on that burnished lid move and I recall they remained on my father’s coffin eight years back when he died at age 78. My mother is 78 and now she’s dead. Leukemia. Both of them. My dress shoes kick at wet, dirty snow, then I step onto plywood, worn through and ragged, covering the ground at the edge of the grave. I lean forward and stare into the hole, fixing the image in my mind. Permanently.

Men winch a concrete lid onto the vault and I see my mother’s name in gold. The funeral director watches till it’s properly seated, then nods and walks off. The hearse pulls away. A truck backs onto the plywood and pours crushed limestone into the hole. We stare for I don’t know how long till it returns to dump wet clods of earth, filling the hole in less than a minute. A ragged worker. A small bladed shovel smoothing the heap. I scoop loose dirt from the truck bed and deposit it on the pile. This is real dirt—both clay and black soil that sticks to my fingers and palm. He finishes his task. I thank him. I don’t know his name.

Why am I here while a crowd of loved ones wait at a restaurant three miles down the road? I am numb. I need release. I want closure. I am forcing it on myself. While others turn away from their loss, I face it at the cost of sudden pain. Of all the images of death, the crown of dirt that seals that hole is the most potent—more than kissing her brow before they removed the corpse. My mother’s body lies hidden—hidden as if she had never been. Nothing left but the wind.

“If that were really all there was to life, what would be the point?” .I say. My nephews both agree. The Truth is stark and obvious as we stand there, numb and humble. She no longer has use of her husk or her human pain. She’s in the presence of the Lord.

As the car approaches, I’m thankful the driver stayed so long. We leave more than a thousand dollars of flowers at that gravesite and step around an icy puddle, into the black interior and my tears finally come as we glide to the place of good company, food and comfort.

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Self portrait by John Jonelis.

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under Biography, Events, Relationships

POWER PITCH

by John Jonelis

What happens when you give kids—kids gifted in math and science—a real chance to bust out with their God given talents and excel?

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  • What if you trust them to lay their greasy little hands on equipment normally available only at elite universities?
  • What if you allow them to direct their own time?
  • What if you challenge them to construct their own goals and learn by themselves how to accomplish them?
  • What if you dare them to build real startup businesses at such a tender age?
  • And what if you throw them into a competition against a panel of critical judges from the real private equity world?

What happens? Good things! Good things happen! They happen here at IMSA – the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. I’ll give you an intimate peek at the inner works of this educational powerhouse so you can see for yourself what makes this one of the biggest success stories in the country.

Showcase – Chandra Gangavarapu

This is a high school with a serious entrepreneurship program. Many of the ideas, business models, and pitches produced here outshine what we’re accustomed to in the business world. Mere students, you say? Some of their companies have gained funding and gone to market. And many of these same students intern at real-world startups throughout Chicago.

According to Britta McKenna, Chief Innovation Officer at IN2, “Kids love to have real-world problems to actually work at. This space provides that opportunity.”

Today’s event is the grueling POWER PITCH. Each team presents its company twice before separate panels of judges—the finalists pitch three times.

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What Do the Judges Say?

The judges are all smiles as they feed at the idea bar after the first round. Competitors get whittled down by secret ballot. I corner John Lump. He’s a colleague at Heartland Angels and a professor at DePaul where I’ve lectured at his invitation on risk profiles in private equity. See IN YOUR FACE RISK.

This a practical guy who’s knee-deep in the real world of business as VP of Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. I can count on him for an honest opinion. Here it is verbatim:

John Lump — Judge

“I love being a judge here. Second year I’ve been doing it. And it’s exciting and a lot of fun. The enthusiasm and energy of the kids is just fantastic.”

Swelly – Tyler Stock

“I saw several interesting businesses.

  • Swelly is a temporary insurance company.
  • Blabl is a company to help students with speech disabilities.
  • Rethink Numeracy is one that helps students with Downs Syndrome learn math—a more visual approach.

Some really cool ideas here.”

Blabl – Ayan Agarwal

“Obviously these entrepreneurs are quite young. There are some still in Jr. High. You’re talking kids that are 10, 12, 13 years old and already starting businesses! At Heartland Angels, we see entrepreneurs in their 20s up to their 50s and 60s. So these kids need much more mentoring. But I think you’re going to see some business opportunities here.”

Rethink Numeracy – Akshaya Raghavan

I touch base with Moises Goldman. As I’ve said before, he’s an old hand at private equity in Chicago and a VIP here at IMSA. I’ve known him a long time, and trust what he says. He’s a guy that projects humility, but receives deference and respect.

Moises Goldman – Judge

Today Moises is bursting with exuberance and he speaks with more passion than I’ve ever seen. What he says is as intuitive and emotional as it is insightful.

“Two of these kids blew me away. The company is called Fast Exit. One brother is 12 and the other is 15. Twelve and fifteen! I looked at the father and just jokingly said to him, what is it that you do? These kids are very, bright. Very, very bright—both of them.

[Moises is talking about the Orr brothers, Joshua and Maxwell. The older brother is in 8th grade at Avery Coonley. They are each pitching their own companies today.]

“What blew me away was that they’re two brothers, so I look at the father and I just wonder, what are his challenges as a dad with these two amazing kids? Because the social environment that they have—it must be an alternative universe to the one that I’m used to—that I grew up in.”

Jim Gerry with Joshua Orr of Fast Exit

[I suggest to Moises that their home life must be very nurturing.]

“Yes, somehow. But I’m amazed. That really blew me away—that blew me away. Last year, the older boy had a drone project that was a game you could adapt to Dave and Busters in that kind of environment.”

[I recall that drone project and ask if they’re both planning to attend IMSA.]

“The 12-year old—I don’t know. The 15-year old is applying for the coming year.”

OneNote Quiz – Maxwell Orr

Today there are 17 judges at Power Pitch – Patrick Bresnahan, Dane Christianson, Moises Goldman, Joe Jordan, Sanza Kazadi, Christine Krause, Maria Kuhn, John Lump, Josh Metnick, Nancy Munro, Kelly Page, Jacob Plumber, Lance Pressl, Julia Sanberger, Chris Stiegal, Tom Voigt, Joe Zlotniki. I agreed to be an alternate and fortunately don’t get that tap on the shoulder. I want to see the whole event.

Shop Cheetah – Catelyn Rounds, Julian Kroschke

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Entrepreneurship

IMSA’s entrepreneurship program is called TALENT—Total Applied Learning for Entrepreneurship—led by Dr. Carl Heine, Britta McKenna, and Jim Gerry. Jim is technically retired from the program but still volunteers his time. This is too much fun to stay away.

Heat2Heal – Sushil and Pranav Upadhyayula

At this place, students get real-life experience and opportunities to solve real-world problems and bring ideas to market. The goal is to instill the thinking patterns and mindset of an entrepreneur:

  • Develop a product
  • Form a team
  • Communicate ideas
  • Formulate a business plan
  • Protect intellectual property
  • Work your network
  • Raise funding
  • Start the business

Really? These are high school kids—some even younger. In a world of schools dominated by gangs, drugs, and fear, who would think them capable of such positive desires and accomplishments? Then I come across one of the quotes on the wall:

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IMSA Fast Facts

  • Teaching philosophy – The Socratic approach. Self-directed learning and problem-based learning.
  • 99.8% of IMSA students attend college.
  • 70.1% pursue majors in science or math.
  • 47% of faculty is PhD.
  • Alumni hail from every district in Illinois.
  • This is the school’s 30th year.

The IN2 Entrepreneurship Center at IMSA

I snag Dr Carl Heine, as he moves between presentations. He’s director of IMSA TALENT, their entrepreneurship program. I ask him if IMSA still has a presence at 1871, the huge incubator in downtown Chicago, or if all the activity is at the new IN2 facility.

Dr. Carl Heine, Director of IMSA TALENT

“IMSA is still a member of 1871. We take our students on Wednesdays to intern at companies. They’re embedded in startup teams. We can’t teach a class that’s better than that.”

“We do it every Wednesday. 1871 is just one location. We have students at the James Jordan Foundation downtown. Three of them are interning there right now, working on summer curriculum. There are students at a variety of other spots, too.”

[“This year’s Power Pitch is better than I’ve ever seen.”]

“POWER PITCH is an event that makes people feel good about the future. I hope you feel that way as a result of your involvement.

“The top three high school teams are advancing to the Next Launch regional competition in Indianapolis on May 17. If you would like to continue to work with your favorite team as a thought partner, a mentor or more, the purpose of IN2 and TALENT is to make that happen.”

Yoda

[I decide that Carl is the Yoda of IN2. I ask him, “What other events are coming up?”]

“This has been an academy for 30 years now, so we’d like to have a celebration. We’ve put it on March 30th this year, so there’s a 30 and a 30. As part of that, we’re doing the ribbon cutting for the IN2 space, and the new science labs that are part of a capital campaign that just wrapped up as well. And we’re celebrating the accomplishments of the institution over the last 30 years.”

This is just brilliant!

IMSA trains students not to fear any subject. I noticed THEORY OF ANALYSIS on the course syllabus. Normally, that’s offered only at the university level and it’s a course that’s hated and avoided by math majors nationwide. Never be intimidated by difficult subjects.

Award Ceremony

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17 Student Teams

IMSA’s President, Jose׳ M Torres, and the Stephanie Pace Marshall Endowment present the awards.

The top three high school teams—Blabl, Heat2Heal and Flameless—advance to the Next Launch Regional Competition in Indianapolis on May 17. The two winning middle school teams are Fast Exit and Shop Cheetah.

Blabl– Ayan Agarwal

 

Social Good Category Finalists & Winners

  • BlablAyan Agarwal – A mobile application that engages speech impaired children in conversation with an avatar – $1000 prize, Top 3 HS team
  • Heat2HealSushil Upadhyayula, Pranav Upadhyayula – A hands-free, self-powered Arthritis Wrap that converts body heat into electricity to provide targeted massaging & heat therapy for stiff joints – $500, Top 3 HS team
  • Rethink NumeracyAkshaya Raghavan – Teaching numeracy to children with Down Syndrome, leveraging their learning strengths.
  • Double-CheckRishi Modi – A protective biometric alternative to prevent ID theft.

Heat2Heal– Sushil Upadhyayula & Pranav Upadhyayula

Social entrepreneurs create self-sustaining businesses that promote social good. The STEM category is for-profit tech companies.

Fast Exit – Joshua Orr

STEM Category Finalists & Winners

  • FastExitJoshua Orr – A life-saving solution for managing exit signs – $1,000 prize, middle school team.
  • Shop CheetahCatelyn Rounds, Julian KroschkeA groundbreaking store navigation system that saves times and routes customers through the store$500 prize, middle school team.
  • FlamelessSivam Bhatt, Nikhil Madugula – Extinguishing cooking fires automatically with sound waves – Top 3 HS team.
  • SwellyAneesh Kudaravalli, Tyler Stock – A mobile app that allows users to get flexible insurance on personal items in an instant.

Shop Cheetah – Catelyn Rounds & Julian Kroschke

 

Other Competing Teams

  • AlertAshritha Karuturi, Priya Kumar – An app that efficiently connects homeowners to rescue workers, saving time and lives.
  • Be BettahZoe Mitchell – The food search engine and cookbook series that allows for bettah nutrition without changing your lifestyle.
  • Electrofood Alex Orlov – A microbial fuel cell that converts food waste to electricity.
  • OneNote QuizMax Orr – The personalized quiz generator.

Flameless – Sivam Bhatt & Nikhil Madugula

  • SafeSeatElliott Cleven – An app to alert parents if their child is left in a car unattended.
  • ShowcaseChandra Gangavarapu – A web app for musicians and dancers to gain recognition for their art.
  • Social BreadVainius Normantas – Using social media advertisements to raise funding and awareness for communities in need.
  • StrobeJayant Kumar, Zaid Kazmi – LED light strip supplements for fire and carbon monoxide alarms to assist the hearing impaired.
  • Verifact!Shreya Pattisapu – An effective and efficient way to couter fake news.

 

Go to Part 1 – THE NAME IS IN2

Hope you enjoyed Part 2 – POWER PITCH

Read Part 3 – INQUIRY & INNOVATION

 

 

IN2 Contact Info

Address – 1500 Sullivan Rd. Aurora, IL 60506

Website – https://www.imsa.edu/

Carl Heine – heine@imsa.edu

Britta McKenna – bmckenna@imsa.edu

Tami Armstrong – tarmstrong@imsa.edu

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Photography by John Jonelis

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under 1871, angel, angel investor, Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, IMSA, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, investor, MIT, MIT Enterprise Forum, MIT Enterprise Forum Chicago, MITEF, MITEF Chicago, Social Entrepreneur, Startup, startup company, vc, venture capital

NO GOAT

no-goat-500by John Jonelis

This thing still replays in my mind. And the news is everywhere!

“The last real American sports story—the story of the team that couldn’t and seemingly never would—is gone for good… [Rick Morrissey – Sun Times] Now I watch in shocked delight as the Cub’s sleeping bats come alive! A leadoff home run…

“…ending more than a century of flops, futility and frustration.”   [Ronald Blum – Associated Press] …now more runs—a lot more runs, but way too many innings left to go…

The Cubs won their last title way back in 1908 “At the time, Theodore Roosevelt was president, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states, and the first Ford Model T car was two weeks old.”  [Ronald Blum – Associated Press] …I hear our first baseman, Rizzo, caught in the dugout on an open mike, saying, “I can’t control myself. I’m an emotional wreck.”

“The longest championship drought for any continuously operating pro team in North America – nay, the world…we never truly thought this would happen. We joked about not seeing the Cubs win it all in our lifetimes. We said that with grins when we were young. We reached middle age, and we said it with blank faces. We grew old, and it curled off our lips like, yes, a curse.” [Rick Telander – Northwest Herald]

Yup, that about sums it up for me. A hundred and eight years! Why should anything change today vs. the Cleveland Indians? Somehow the Cubs will find a way to lose this thing.

Baseball from MS Word T2

The Replay

Again, the events of the game run through my mind. “No, Maddon, no!”   Why yank Hendricks when he’s on a roll? He can pitch himself out of trouble.  At least let him finish the inning. After that, you’ve got nearly enough pitchers to use one for each out. Even Jake can take a batter or two. But the manager doesn’t hear me. In goes Lester. The guy’s got the numbers but this ain’t his night.

Out comes Chapman, the one-inning wonder-closer, who hurls the ball at 105 mph, now pressed into way too many innings for way too many games.  Before long, he’s pouring sweat, his face in anguish. “Take him out! Can’t you tell he’s out of gas?” He hurls the next pitch and the Cubs blow the final three-run lead with two outs in the eighth. When he reaches the dugout, he weeps. And the same cynical, “Maybe next year,” settles in my mind.

Now the 10th inning. The rain delay. The Indians intentionally walk Rizzo. The batter shortens his swing. “In a situation where some of his teammates would have swung for the outer reaches…Zobrist settled for making contact.” [William Graves – Associated Press] The rally! The win! Ben immediately points skyward, giving God the glory, but they award him the MVP of the World Series.

Eight to Seven—every run counts! The game of a lifetime! “…something that no one alive has ever seen happen before.” [Rick Telander – Northwest Herald] I watch the after-game mayhem, the unbounded joy, as if in a trance. The team carries the retiring catcher, Ross, off the field! I’m numb—stunned—and it hasn’t all sunk in.

Now the parade! Where is Sianis’ goat?

ron_santo_autograph

Heros

So I grow up with both the Cubs and Sox, collecting their trading cards, arguing over which team is best. But Ron Santo and Ernie Banks are my heros. Those guys are the top of the heap. I’m eight years old when Santo visits my Cub Scout troop and I shake his hand in awe.

But those two guys never make it to the post season during their careers. Now they’re both dead and in the Hall of Fame. Maybe this game is played out by Dexter, Rizzo, Bryant, Schwarber, Russell, Zobrist, Baez, Heyward, Contreras, Ross, Montero… But for me, this win is all about those two heros from my childhood.

ernie_banks_autograph

Quick Comparisons – Chicago Teams

  • The Bears won nine championships: 1921 as the Chicago Staleys, and then in 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, and 1963. They didn’t win for another 22 years—the glorious 1985 Superbowl. That was 31 years ago, but who can forget?
  • The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup six times: 1934, 1938 and 1961, then after a 49-year dry run, they triumphed spectacularly in three recent contests—2010, 2013, 2015. If one were to chart their history like a stock or futures contract, a momemtum trader might suggest the semiannual pattern indicates they’re due again this year. On the other hand, a technical trader may see a triple top, similar to a security that’s reached its ultimate peak. But I’m hoping for another win this year.
  • The Bulls won six NBA championships but not until the 1990’s when Michael Jordan woke them from their slumber. With him they pulled it off in 1991, ’92 and ’93. Then Jordan retired, tried baseball for a couple years, and the team went back to sleep. When he returned, they won in 1996, ’97 and ‘98. Two three-peats in eight years. Since then they’ve slept soundly for a good 18 years.
  • The White Sox won the World Series three times. Eleven years ago, in 2005, they thrilled Chicago, sweeping the series in four straight games—their first championship since 1917 and 1906, bringing back baseball honor to Chicago after an 88-year dry spell.
  • The Cubs also won the World Series three times—back-to-back in 1907 and 1908, but not again till this year. 108 years!

Yet amazingly, the Cubs enjoy an enormous national fan base. On this, the seventh game of the World Series, enough Cub fans show up in Cleveland to make it seem like a home game. StubHub sells seats behind the dugout for $10K each. Yes, this is the Cubs—one of Chicago’s oldest startups.

 

Image Credits:

“No Goat” by John Jonelis, MS Office

Baseball Cards from Baseball Almanac

 

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com

Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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5 STARTUPS WE LOVED FROM TECHWEEK

Chicago’s Launch Competition

techweek-logo T

 

by Jeff Segal

Why does a B2B digital marketing agency that works with some of the biggest and best-known companies in America send a team to a startup competition?

Because marketing and startups actually have a lot in common.

  • Marketing is about problem solving, and startups are founded to solve problems.
  • Marketing is about storytelling, and every startup has a story.
  • Finally, a great marketing campaign and a successful startup both make people say, Wow, I wish I’d thought of that!

Out of the dozens of startups entered in last week’s Techweek Launch competition, here are five that made me and my coworkers say, “Wow!”

Techweek

 

CAST21

Technology has revolutionized nearly every aspect of healthcare in the last 20 years. But if you break your arm, your cast will look and feel just like one from 50 years ago.

Cast 21 wants to change that. Their lattice design—stiff on the inside, soft on the outside—lets patients shower and even swim, and lets doctors dress and treat the affected skin underneath. No more itching, no more smell.

Cast21

CEO Ashley S. Moy explains, “Our co-founder [and bio-mechanical engineer] Jason Troutner wore casts for nearly three years of his life. He was passionate about solving the complications that accompanied the casts, and his energy was contagious. We knew there was no other option but to change the way people heal broken bones.”

 

COMMON CENTS

If you know a college student or recent grad, you’ve probably heard about the increasing burden students loans are putting on the youngest members of our workforce.

Some recent University of Chicago graduates have designed a platform that makes paying off loans a little easier. Common Cents connects mobile spending apps like Venmo to a student’s loan accounts, so spare change from everyday purchases goes directly toward paying those loans down.

Common Cents

How much difference can a few cents here and there make? Co-founder Madeleine Barr says an average student who puts just $1.33 per day toward loan repayment can save more than $3,000 before finishing school, and more than $20,000 over the lifetime of a loan.

She adds, “As recent graduates with student debt, we are building the app we wish existed for us.”

 

FIND YOUR DITTO

Find your Ditto CEO Brianna Wolin has lived with multiple chronic illnesses since she was four years old. And she spent four stressful years at college without meeting a single other person living with the same conditions.

Her solution: build a mobile platform that allows people to make local, on-demand connections with others living with the same chronic illness. These connections can help relieve the isolation and depression that so often accompany chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, diabetes, cancer and eating disorders.

Find Your Ditto

 

The result: Within five days of Brianna starting the Find Your Ditto pilot at the University of Michigan, another female student with exactly her same conditions had signed up.

 

FLIPWORD

If you read lots of online content, Flipword can help you learn a new language without special classes or software.

Like many startups, the idea for Flipword came from a real-life problem. CEO Thomas Reese was trying to teach himself Mandarin, but didn’t have time to study. One day while browsing the web, it hit him that he could learn Mandarin at the same time.

Flipword

The concept is mind-bogglingly simple. Read whatever online content you like, and Flipword replaces a few words per page with words from the language you want to learn, along with definitions and pronunciations. Maravilloso!

 

HERE 2

Jelani Floyd, CEO of Here2, explains how this “pop-up social broadcasting” app came to be:

“My brother and I attended a Bulls game at the United Center. We noticed so many people around us taking photos and videos and we wondered, where was all this content going? We searched hashtags on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but we could not find any content relevant to that game.

“We posted a photo to Facebook, and one of our friends—whom we had no idea who was also at the game—commented on our pic and said ‘I’M HERE TOO!!’”

Here 2

Here2 locates users geographically, so they can connect with each other in real time without having to guess hashtags or channels. And users who can’t make an event can still get authentic insight from the crowd’s perspective—the next best thing to being “here too!”

 

Links to the Five Companies

Cast21

Common Cents

Find Your Ditto

Flipword

Here2

Jeff Segal

Jeff Segal writes blogs and social content for digital B2B marketing agency StudioNorth, while crusading tirelessly against the words provide, quality, strive and utilize. This post originally appeared at Inside the Studio, the StudioNorth blog.

Check out Stories We’ve Told and Techweek Launch Competition

Graphics courtesy Jeff Segal


Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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THIS AIN’T NO LEMONADE STAND

20160402_143634-JAJ TLoop Lonagan—Verbatim

What if y’could combat starvation by producin’ yer own meat ‘n potatoes—and do it right at da local food bank? Hey, I’m lookin’ at a real working prototype here. What about a solution to student debt? Or, maybe fer yer next birthday party, ever’body plays laser tag with drones? Or learns music real fast? Or gets a little help rememberin’ stuff. I can use summa that.

This ain’t no lemonade stand—I’m talkin’ serious business ventures here. One of ‘em launched her company this year and raised $250K in revenue already. Yeah, you heard right—a quarter million bucks. IMG_6636And she’s a high school sophomore! They’s ALL high school students! This is POWER PITCH, ‘n’ we’re at IMSA—the Illinois Math ‘n’ Science Academy. Real smart kids go here. I never seen nothin’ like it—all I remember about high school is gettin’ in trouble all da time.

I sure hope John’s cleanin’ up my language before he prints this stuff.

Editor’s Note—This is a verbatim transcript. It is the policy of this journal to do each writer justice. I might point out that Lonagan doesn’t give himself enough credit. He graduated the University of Chicago with a Masters in Finance.

20160402_143634-JAJ

We got almost 40 teams pitchin’ here, and they’s all real professional-like. One o’ da mentors flew in all the way from Silicon Valley ‘n’ spent days ‘n’ days coachin-up deeze kids. They musta worked their little tails off. DSC_0055Another thing I notice—seems like nowadays, kids wanna do somethin’ good fer da world, insteada da usual greed ‘n’ avarice.

They’s buildin’ a whole wing o’ da school—exclusive fer startups. And today’s winners get thousands in prize money.

Jonelis invited a couple o’ the judges ‘n’ I don’t know why he picked me but I’m glad he did. I mean, c’mon—how can a guy pass up somethin’ like this?

DSC_0052Sixteen of us is tryin’ t’ pick da best o’ da best. Alotta these judges is big-time professional investors I know personal-like, ‘n’ I hear ‘em sayin’ stuff like, “Deeze pitches here is better den downtown.” Sheesh, I feel like a kid in a candy store. I mean, yer lookin’ at da hope o’ tomorrow! And it happens every year!

Just take a glimpse at summa deeze startups. I put ‘em in alphabetic’ order I think. And lemme say thanks t’ Carl Heine who runs dis thing. And Jim Gerry who’s retired but can’t stay away. And Britta McKenna who’s da Chief Innovation Officer. Naturally they’s all PhDs.

20160402_142354-JAJ

Tech Ventures

  • Drone Wars—Having fun with flying laser robots—Max Orr
  • FlashFun—The Personalized Concierge in the palm of your hand—Palak Agarwal
  • Flock—A free and efficient social media platform for easily getting together with your friends—Ben Maher, Timur Javid, Michael Dow, Shrey Patel
  • HeadsUp—A projectable HUD purposed to prevent distracted driving-based accidents by keeping drivers’ eyes up and on the road—Sneha Pathuri, Ian Anderson, Andriy Sheptunov, Xinyu Guan
  • Icosadeck—Icosadeck reinvents the flashcard, making it multi-sided and adding other features to let students note more information, with more organization, and more efficiency—Gunwati Agrawal
  • NoteHub—A Website where students can buy and sell their school notes—Katreena Subramanian, Devan Grover
  • Peanut Butter—Peanut Butter motivates Millennial employees by offering a unique benefit that reduces their student debt—Aneesh Kudaravalli, Tyler StockIMG_6631
  • RemindMe—You shouldn’t have to remind yourself to remember – RemindMe is a smart phone app that uses proven techniques in memory research to help you retain information longer and retrieve it faster—Ahana Narayanan
  • Right Glow—Right Glow is a silicone bathmat that when stepped on glows red, providing the user with a light source that does not cause the temporary blinding sensation associated with turning on a light late at night—Luke Morrical
  • Snowflake—An Automatic, not manual, fridge inventory keeper and recipe recommender—Xinyu Guan, Andriy Sheptunov
  • Vestal—Social platform where you interact with other in Virtual Reality using just a smart phone and a viewer—Isabel Lee
  • XYZone—Improve your pitching accuracy with the only 3D Strike Zone—Hector Correa

Social Ventures

  • AquaFood—A permaculture company proposing aquaponics as a biotechnological solution to combat starvation and environmental problems in your own neighborhood and in the world—Erol IkizIMG_6659
  • Blabl—A mobile application that engages speech impaired children in conversation with a virtual pen-pal—Ayan Agarwal
  • HydroHero—Generate water for the people—George Moe
  • Pass Your Plate—Pass Your Plate helps businesses by taking their waste food and donating it to shelters in the area—Aneesh Kudaravalli, Tyler Stock, Shana Farhang
  • SelfHealth—SelfHealth is a system that puts you in control of your own medical information—Alex Orlov
  • SirenAlert—SirenAlert, is developing a Bluetooth app and signal monitoring hardware to help emergency vehicles avoid traffic collisions and improve response time by alerting even the most distracted drivers, saving lives—John Valin
  • SocialGood—SocialGood translates social media activity into charitable donations utilizing social media activity—Vainius NormantasIMG_6637
  • Thinkubator—Thinkubator is a co-curricular program that challenges students to think & solve pressing community issues, for graduation-required service hours—Sivam Bhatt and Nabeel Rashee
  • The Muzic Academy—It will only take a minuet to learn, but what you learn will last a lifetime—Abinaya Ramakrishnan

Other Ventures

  • AlertIsabella Ginnett, Ashritha Karuturi, Priya Kumar
  • Ask Me 101Rishi Modi, AJ Federici
  • CirclesJulian Litvak
  • FunkyPlantsAkshay Verma
  • InspireEsther Mathew, Amahlia SuDSC_0036
  • LinguLucy Liu and Rebecca Xun
  • LoopNicholas Rodriguez, Isaac Adorno
  • LynxAllAnkit Agarwal, Sweta Kotha
  • MusiWebMaya Wlodarczyk
  • OmNoteClaudia Zhu
  • PoweritForwardShriya Chennuru, Harshita Degala
  • SlipTieSushil Upadhyayula, Pranav Upadhyayula
  • Spatio StationMarc Peczka
  • SugarSmart!Aimee van den Berg, Kate Rabideau, Pranav Narayanan, Abhay Gupta
  • The CommunityMadison Mack

Also read – RAW TALENT

Contact IMSA’s Britta McKenna at bmckenna@imsa.edu

Photo credits – IMSA & John Jonelis

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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DON’T ASK WHY—ASK WHY NOT

Question Markby Howard Tullman

How the First Apprentice Winner Became an Entrepreneur

(No, The Donald Didn’t Help):

Bill Rancic readily admits he wasn’t the smartest guy on the show. But in his subsequent career, he has become very smart about getting the most out of the people around him.

Bill Rancic by Greg Rothstein

At 1871, we had the opportunity to host Bill Rancic for a keynote speech about what he’s learned from several important mentors. Bill was the first winner on Donald Trump’s The Apprentice television program, but didn’t mention The Donald, which isn’t really that much of a surprise. He talked about how he started and built several entrepreneurial ventures, and about a very important lesson that he took away from his triumph on the TV show in 2004.

I thought that his explanation for how he won the Apprentice competition was highly enlightening.

  • He didn’t say he worked the hardest.
  • He didn’t say he wanted it the most.
  • And he certainly didn’t say he was the smartest guy in the room.

Be the Conductor

Bill’s winning edge was something that we talk about every day at 1871: Nobody does anything important and worthwhile all alone. If you have a dream, you need a team—that is, if you want to make the dream come true.

Bill said he tried to be “the conductor” just like the main man at the symphony. He brought everyone together so they could make beautiful music. He knew—just like in an orchestra—that he didn’t personally have the special skills or the same abilities that each of the other members of his team possessed. But he got them all moving in the right direction.  He brought out the best efforts that each team member had to contribute.

The most amazing things get done when no one cares who gets the credit. Harmony trumps hubris. And Bill never spent his time blaming others when things went wrong. That would have been a waste of breath and energy.  When facing confrontations and tough sledding, he kept in mind what Robert Schuller said: “Tough times never last, but tough people do!”

Learn from Others

Bill was fortunate to have some great people to learn from, whose examples he follows to this day. And he knew not to do things on his own until he really knew what he was doing. He needed to play a role for a while before he tried to roll his own—even though one of his first ventures was in the mail order cigar business. Today, he’s also a restaurateur. (See Entrepreneurship: Will You Sink or Swim?).

Bill had a very clear idea of where he wanted to end up and even how he thought he’d get there. But he knew these things were going to take time. The smartest thing he could do was to concentrate on learning something from someone every day on the journey.  It’s important to have a mental roadmap, but patience is also essential.  (See Why You Need a Reverse Roadmap).

Make a Start

One of his father’s rules was “practical execution.” All talk is simply that—results and actions are the things that make a difference. His Dad used to say, “Show me, don’t tell me” or as I like to say, “You can’t win a race with your mouth.”

There’s no simple playbook or set of rules for how you invent the future – you’ve got to get the ball rolling, keep your eyes on the goal, and be agile and flexible all the time. But it won’t ever happen if you don’t get started.

Embrace Risk

Bill said, “When we’re born, we’re only afraid of two things – falling and loud noises. From then forward we learn to be afraid of other things and too often allow those fears to keep us from stepping out and taking the kinds of risks that are essential to succeed.” He quoted Emerson as saying you needed to do what you are afraid of—and if you do—success will find you.  The key is not to avoid every possible risk, but to recognize and manage reasonable risks so you can convert them into opportunities and rewards. The ship that stays in port is the safest, but it doesn’t get anywhere.

Don’t Ask Why

Finally, there is the business with the bumblebees. For years scientists figured bees were never supposed to be able to fly. The ratio of their wing size to body weight was all wrong. The laws of physics decreed that the bees couldn’t generate enough power to lift themselves into the air.  Like so many entrepreneurs who do every day what others think is impossible, no one ever told the bees they couldn’t fly. But off they went.

Today, no one says that the bees are defying physics or nature. They are defying convention. We’ve finally figured out that just because the bees don’t fly the same way that fixed-wing airplanes do doesn’t mean gravity doesn’t apply to them. The fact is that bees—just like entrepreneurs—have figured out a different way to solve the problem. They fly by rapidly rotating their flexible wings; that’s how they get lift.

Every day entrepreneurs are doing the same thing. We look at the same problems that millions of others have observed from new and different perspectives and come up with novel solutions that are often obvious in retrospect. This is because we don’t ask why; we ask, why not?

Tullman2_Full-bkt_16396_16396_16396Howard Tullman is a the father of 1871. For more from Howard, go to

http://tullman.blogspot.com

www.1871.com/

Read his bio: http://tullman.com/resume.asp

Images: Greg Rothstein, Cloudspotter/1871,

Howard Tullman, MS Office

This article is adapted from Inc Magazine

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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