Category Archives: IMSA

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.

 

Read Part 1 – THE NAME IS IN2

Hope you enjoyed Part 2 – POWER PITCH

Coming soon – 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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2 Comments

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

THE NAME IS IN2

by John Jonelis

What happens when you give kids—highly gifted in math and science—a state-of-the-art facility entirely dedicated to entrepreneurship? This could be the best-designed business incubator on the planet and the students are going to create real businesses here. Hey—this is too much fun! It sure doesn’t look like high school to me! Where did they put the usual long halls walled by the usual rows of lockers? Where are the standardized rigid rectangular classrooms?

This is IN2, the new entrepreneurship center at IMSA—the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy—the Statewide high school for the best and the brightest. It’s located near Chicago and students live on campus, as if attending a university four years too soon.

IMSA will host a big party and ribbon cutting for the new IN2 innovation space on the 30th of the month—that’s the 30th anniversary of the school’s founding. I had the unique opportunity to preview this amazing facility. Here’s a sneak peek:

IN2 at IMSA (Note the unique tables and ping pong net)

Britta McKenna is the Chief Innovation Officer here, and led the team that put this together. As I fumble to get my recorder going, I ask her how they pulled it off. Without any hesitation, she pours out an amazing story—so here it is, verbatim:

[First of all, I asked about the name—IN2. What does it mean?]

“Innovation and Inquiry. When people were in focus groups and asked about IMSA, those were the two words that came up over and over. So the company we worked with used Inquiry & Innovation as IN-IN. That’s why it’s called IN2. So you can say, ‘What are you IN2?’ It can be playful.”

Britta McKenna, Chief Innovation Officer

“The story actually goes back 10 years. It was decided an innovation hub would be built—a physical space and a virtual space.

“Three and a half years ago, we got a gift of one million dollars from Steve Chen to build the innovation center, so then the work really began.”

[Chen is an IMSA alum and co-founder of YouTube and AVOS. I asked Britta how they came up with such a wonderful design]

“I got tapped, as chief innovation officer, to figure out what this would be, what it would look like, how it would operate, how it would be funded. It would have to be a private revenue stream to support this.”

[ALERT—All you budget hawks. She’s talking private funding—and she’s got the corporate connections and alumni to do it.]

Maker Space

“So I brought along students to Silicon Valley—15 of them. We went through Chicago to spaces like Northwestern, IIT, University of Chicago, Fermilab, Argon, 1871, Private Industry Chicago, Next Door, and we also went out to Boston to visit MIT Media Lab, and other spaces out there, including artist colonies to be inspired to by what people were doing coast-to-coast in innovation spaces.”

Multi-use conference rooms

“That was a 2-year research project and included the students all the way. They worked in three teams—Developing Technology, Programming, and Facilities. They helped co-design the space, because they are the users, and too many times, we design things in a box outside of the users. So we implemented a user-designed thinking approach.”

Lab space

“We went to Facebook, Google, Dropbox, AVOS, which is Steve Chen’s newest startup, WeWork, which is a co-working space, and Stanford’s StartX, so we literally have done our due diligence.

“And I asked, ‘What space gets used the most? What’s your favorite thing? And what did you do wrong?’

“It doesn’t mean that those things will all work here, but it’s likely that we might have success if somebody else already has. So we synthesized all of that and I became what is known as the ‘hashtag’ Super-User. And the Super-User is the one that funnels all of this information to the architects, because now it actually has to be designed.”

Idea space

“We went to the community. We came together—58 of us—anyone from a Chicago Public School teacher to a city administrator with City of St. Charles. We got public, private, parents, past parents, teachers—everybody came together and literally built models of this space. We went through the design process with architects, we used Cordogan Clark in Aurora, and we built this—it took about a year to build from the time we broke ground and now we’re opening up.”

Sharing space

“So all the spaces here are influenced either by student ideas or places coast-to-coast that we visited. And so we’d probably say that we’re the first secondary school innovation center in Illinois, and dare we say the United States because we haven’t been able to find something like this. First-to-market is great for Illinois, great for Aurora, and puts IMSA on the map. We invite people to come in and see what we’ve built here.”

Collaboration space

“This is really meant as a convening space. Innovation doesn’t happen unless there are people here. We learned from going coast-to-coast that you can have the coolest space ever, but if there’s nobody there, there’s no innovation happening. There’s nothing happening. It’s all about connecting people.”

Coffee Bar

“One of the biggest places we found is around food. So we have a built-in cafe around the corner because you want to meet somebody for a cup of coffee. You just want to have a casual conversation. You want to have a back-of-the-napkin sketch, that can happen there or it can happen in our idea bar.

“We have Idea Baristas that we’re training. They actually wear aprons, and will help people advance their ideas here. They’re all volunteers.”

Idea Baristas.

We’ve got a mentoring office like 1871. We hope by the fall to have regular office hours. So I am a non-profit mentor. On Tuesdays from 4-6:00, I volunteer my time to mentor non-profits in the community. I can go to them. They can come to us.”

Mentoring Office

“Mike McCool, who’s an alum and a software engineer, wanted to donate and I said, ‘How ‘bout we get the McCool View?’ So he funded the beautiful windows that we have.”

The McCool View

“Our reach—about advancing the human condition—can, I think, really be actualized through this space. Not that we weren’t doing it—it just gives us that new front door. The space is just literally right by the front door.”

A huge competition between student startup companies— POWER PITCH—is going on here today. I’ll give you an inside look at that in the second article in this series.

Moises Goldman – Judge at POWER PITCH

I run into an old friend, Moises Goldman—angel investor, a big driver at MIT, and an important contributor at IMSA. Today he’s one of 17 judges at POWER PITCH. I ask him what he thinks of the new facility. Moises responds in his gentle, deliberate, and old-world manner, condensing his thoughts into a few words:

“I think it’s always been the desire to be in a type of space that recognized talented students. This is our recognition of these students. That makes a difference to me.”

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Notable IMSA Alums

The school’s alumni reflect its excellence. Browse through a few:

Steve Chen – Co-founder/Chief Technology Officer of YouTube and AVOS. Early engineer at PayPal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Chen

Steve Crutchfield – Chicago Trading Company. CBOE Advisory Board, Head of Options, ETPs, Bonds at NYSE Euronext.  2012 Crain’s Forty Under 40.

http://marketswiki.com/wiki/Steven_Crutchfield

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Dr. Julia Comerford – Astronomer. Discovered several supermassive black hole pairs—occurring in the merger of galaxies.

http://www.sci-news.com/astronomy/pair-black-holes-distant-galaxy-03546.html

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Dr. Scott Gaudi – Astronomer, discovered over a dozen new planets and a new solar system.

https://www.imsa.edu/news/releases/2012/08/06/president-obama-honors-dr-b-scott-gaudi-91-highest-honor-early-career-scien

http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~gaudi/

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Nathan Gettings – Co-founder of Palantir. Founder of robotics company Robotex.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palantir_Technologies

Also – http://www.robotex.com/

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Ramez Naam – Software developer and international bestselling author. Developer at Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer projects.

https://www.amazon.com/Ramez-Naam/e/B001IOH84S/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1489516515&sr=8-2-ent

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Mike McCool – Software Engineer at Google, Robot Invader, Aechelon Technology, Netscape, and many others.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.robotinvader.fooding&hl=en

Rob McCool – Software developer and author. Developed the original NCSA Web server, later known as the Apache HTTP Server. Part of original NCSA Mosaic team with his twin brother Mike.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McCool

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Tim Meyer, PhD – Chief Operating Officer, Fermilab

http://www.fnal.gov/pub/about/timothy-meyer.html

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Yu Pan – Co-creator of PayPal and the first employee at You Tube. Co-founder of kid’s kraft company Kiwi Crate.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yu_Pan

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Dwan Prude – Financial Analyst, Boeing Company. Motivational speaker.

https://www.imsa.edu/news/releases/2012/08/20/dwan-prude-97-gives-passionate-and-motivational-2012-convocation-address

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Russel Simmons – Co-founder of Yelp. Early developer at PayPal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russel_Simmons

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Clara Shih – Bestselling author, THE FACEBOOK ERA. Founder of Hearsay systems. In 2010, she was named one of most influential women in tech.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Shih

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Kevin Wang – Founder of TL;DR Legal. Theil Foundation fellowship recipient.

https://www.imsa.edu/academics/talent/kevin-wang-new-thiel-fellow

Also – http://www.geekwire.com/2012/kevin-wang/

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Sam Yagan – American internet entrepreneur. Co-founder of SparkNotes and OkCupid. CEO Match.com. Named in Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world list.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Yagan

 

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Hope you enjoyed Part 1 – THE NAME IS IN2

Go to Part 2 – POWER PITCH

Coming Soon – INQUIRY & INNOVATION

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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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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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1 Comment

Filed under Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, IMSA, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, new companies, Public Schools, Social Entrepreneur, Startup, startup company

RAW TALENT

Sharks Tby John Jonelis

Ever want to be a Shark on the popular reality TV show? Wish you controlled a billion dollar investment account? Wonder what it’s like? I’m here at Chicago’s 1871 incubator doing it. Emotions run high. Hey, mine are running away with me. That guy on the end keeps grabbing all the deals!

Most of these teams are looking for $100K or so for maybe 15% of the company, but the Sharks seem to want more control than that. Offers meet counter-offers. Investors make hardnosed bids—they team up—steal deals—the usual shenanigans seen on TV.

Negotiations get heated and sometimes abstract. Lance Pressl works a convoluted deal structure in the next room.  No problem—both sides seem on track with it.  But I’m out.  In the long run, any of these companies might produce hockey stick growth or go belly-up.

20150723_131230

Dangerous Waters

Now I’m hearing a pitch from a company called Water Power. I want this one in the worst way. I know the industry. It’s a hugely exciting company with a highly attractive energy product, easily scalable, and a terrific business model.

They’re asking $200K for 20% of the company—a $1M valuation. It’s low. Way low. I tell them they’re undercapitalized and immediately boost the offer for a controlling stake. They counter. Another shark joins me. Meanwhile, that guy on the end is dickering with a completely different set of parameters that sound pretty good.

Ah, but I notice these teams value a strategic investor, so I mention my experience in the industry and that seals the deal. Satisfaction! Victory! Hooray!

20150723_131658

Merchandise Mart

Who Gets to Play

Did I mention these are Junior High Students? Not just any young punks—these are highly gifted, highly precocious, and highly competitive young people. Their pitches rival those seen on TV. Some of these kids are hopefuls for enrollment at the prestigious Illinois State High School for the gifted, the Illinois Math and Science Academy—IMSA.

This entire program is put on by IMSA TALENT. It pits the best and the brightest junior high school students against experienced investors and CEOs at an event that reproduces the popular reality TV show, Shark Tank. Hey, this is a blast!

20150723-IMG_2958

Pitch

How it Works

  • IMSA TALENT puts these kids through a fast-paced deep-immersion experience. The school maintains space at 1871, the enormous incubator in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, so the teams rub shoulders with lots of real startups. That’s huge.
  • Every decision, every action, gets entered into a computer simulation that spits out consequences and makes the process as close to the real thing as you can get.
  • Each team creates an actual product, design, prototype, business model canvas, go-to-market strategy, financials, their pitch—the works.
  • Sharks come armed with unlimited investment capital in the form of Monopoly™ Money and strike cutthroat last-minute negotiations. Think that’s not realistic? Once those dollars get plugged into the simulation, they’re real enough to make or break a company.

20150723-IMG_2955

Negotiation

Once again, IMSA proves that, given the opportunity and the right coaching, brilliant children can outperform ordinary adults. Hats off to Carl Heine and Jim Gerry.

Last year I got caught-up in the spirit of the thing, which is dangerously easy to do. One kid was so professional, I forgot myself. I lost my head and asked the team to present before the Heartland Angels. Lesson learned—School first, then business. This year, I keep that straight.

20150723-IMG_2959

Deal

Sharks

Lance Pressl, John Detjen, Brian Brandenburg, Jeff Prussack, Joe Guarascio, John Jonelis

20150723-IMG_2956

Team

Team Members

Alexandria Cannon, Alp Demirtas, Aman Shah, Ammar Ladhani, Arjun Vyas, Arshia Ajmera, Chandra Gangavarapu, Daniel DeBoer, Dev Singh, Dhruv Nambisan, Ellis Irwin, Erol Ikiz, Ethan Tse, Jacob Conroy, James Raflores, Joseph Tennyson, Joshua Tennyson, Katreena Subramanian, Madeline Drafall, Marc Peczka, Ohm Vyas, Parth Bhatt, Prarthana Prashanth, Shreya Maganti, Shreya Pattisapu, Shreyas Manikonda, Simone Seno, Sydney Elvart, Vismay Vyas, Yuhan Lin.

IMSA Staff

Jim Gerry, PhD

Carl Heine, PhD, Director, IMSA TALENT and Cool Hub IMSA.

heine@imsa.edu Office 630-907-5921 Fax 630-907-5062

Read related article: WHIZ KIDS

Photo credits – Students: IMSA; Architecture: John Jonelis; Shark image: MS Office

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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WHIZ KIDS

You Don't Want to Compete with this Kidby John Jonelis

You don’t want to compete with this kid.  Believe me.  Just watch his intensity as he pitches his business to some of the private equity luminaries in the city.  I’m a judge at this event and try not to show my feelings of awe as he answers all the tough questions in a pressure-cooker environment without so much as a flinch.  There’s an intimidating team behind him too.  They’re all in middle school.  Middle school!

These guys offer a new white-label web browser that’s secure from hackers at WiFi hotspots.  It’s up-and-running and they’ve got the moxie to ask $100K for 15% of their company!  These are potential recruits for IMSA – the vigorous live-in statewide high school for the best and the brightest.

You don't want to compete with this kid 2

And that kid over there—the one quietly sitting in the background?  The IT department at IMSA is afraid of that one.  “Some IMSA students try to hack the system,” says Carl Heine of TALENT, “but if this kid comes to the academy, we’ll have to keep him close.  He’s the real deal.”

SecuritumFive other teams like this one pitch today and they’re all wonderful.  I’ve seen IMSA students put adults to shame but hey—this is way over the top!  Once again, the TALENT program proves that children can outperform adults in one of the toughest games in town—a grueling pursuit that demands everything you can put out and then asks for more.

I ask you—can you imagine doing that when you were in 7th or 8th grade?  At that age, a pop quiz seemed like a big deal.  I certainly had no dream of running a business back then.  What we have here is a roomful of truly extraordinary individuals coached by wonderful teachers.  I’d like to hire them to create and build the next big company.  Problem is they’re still minors.

PitchThis event is part of an intensive one-week immersion camp held at 1871—a program geared to teach what an entrepreneur goes through by personal experience.  These kids pitch real companies only 3 days into the program.  Three days to form a group, put together a business plan and prepare the pitches we hear today.  Three days!  When I look at the quality of the output, it seems impossible.  But I’m here watching it happen.  Give credit to IMSA’s selection process.  Give credit to Carl Heine, Jim Gerry, and a brilliant TALENT organization with their finely crafted template.

It’s our job as judges to challenge these kids with real business questions.  And we do.  All of them respond well.  We’re asked to rate them on specific categories, and yes, TALENT provides us with an organized matrix to keep score.  Here’s their Pitch Rubric:Judges

  • Pain Point – Do they understand and describe it clearly? Yup.
  • Market Research – Is it clear and complete? Looks that way to me.
  • Competition – Have they identified and clearly expressed their competitive advantage? Yes sir.
  • Product – Do they have a compelling prototype? A prototype? After 3 days! Hey, these kids already have working products! This ain’t your science fair back home, Chumley!
  • Business Model – What’s the go-to-market strategy? What is the likelihood it will be profitable? Chances look pretty good from here.
  • Presentation – Does it convincingly cover all the bases? Yeah. That it does.
  • Questions – Do the answers make you want to invest?

Yes, yes, and yes!  The event ends and we meet everybody.  In a moment of irrational exuberance, I hand my card to a boy and say I’d like to see him pitch to my angel group.  Forgive me.  I sometimes forget myself.  First school, then the business world.  Gotta keep those two straight.  ♦

 

Photo credits IMSA.

To contact IMSA TALENT:  Britta McKenna, Chief Innovation Officer bmckenna@imsa.edu

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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 © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under 1871, angel, angel capital, angel investor, chicago, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, IMSA, Innovation, Invention, investor, new companies, pitch

THE TWO LAWS

IMSA Kids at MIT Enterprise Forum

From a special correspondent – Mark T. Wayne,

as told to John Jonelis

Mark T Wayne Frankly sir, I am flabbergasted! This is something beyond my experience! Think of it. High school students turned serious entrepreneurs. These are children in suit and tie—teams of them politely waiting to speak in turn without interrupting the others. Not so much as a spit wad—do you hear me? Not one! That in itself is cause for more than casual interest. And no fluff here, sir!  These kids seek equity funding without so much as a blush. And they do it with such aplomb.

One by one they each give a compelling presentation before a swarm of serious investors and businessmen. Each offers a new venture—a real venture with a plausible business plan. Yes, I witnessed it myself. Something astounding is taking place among those students and I want to put my finger on just what it is.

Let’s look at one example. Jason Lin is on stage to confront the audience at the MIT Enterprise Forum, Chicago—

Jason Lin

Jason Lin – WikiRoster

This is a crowd of competitive peers, cynical investors, critical business people, and a panel of jaded judges. Young Jason stands before this daunting mob, tricked out in his tailored suit, relaxed, poised, and glib. He calmly and professionally convinces us that his company is number one. His is not a pipe dream.  NO – IT’S A FULLY OPERATING BUSINESS, SIR!  And remember, this is high school.

I talked to Kendrick Lau from his team while waiting for the judge’s decision. We traded letters after that. Every encounter tells me of sincerity, intelligence, and good breeding.

Judge Bob Geras

Judge Bob Geras

Does this surprise you? Everyone knows that our public schools are the laughing stock of the world. Today, a faithful teacher invests all her hopes and struggles to graduate just a few students that can read, write, and comprehend the rudiments of the English language.

And this has been the way of it for at least 150 years. Take the well-known example of a boy named Tom who I know from my own youth. Not a model student but not unusual, either. He hates school with his whole heart. In class he starts a quarrel with the first boy that comes handy. Then he pulls a boy’s hair in the next bench. Next he sticks a pin in another boy, in order to hear him say “Ouch!”

And Tom is not unique. No sir! His whole class is of a pattern—restless, noisy, and troublesome. Fidgetings and whisperings extend far and wide. Soon the classroom air is thick with paper wads.

Can you conceive of building a serious business venture in such chaos?

David Park

David Park – tunesketch

IMSA – the Illinois Math and Science Academy has teamed with other high schools in the region.  As a result, these children might very well be the best-of-the-best.  But can that explain this wonderful performance? Rubbage! That does not answer. Kids are kids wherever you go. There must be some fundamental law at work.

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Two Laws

As I cogitate on that a while, I actually come up with two fundamental laws:

  • Law #1—Misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. It does not matter if the enterprise is puckering the lips and successfully whistling for the first time or a more complex pursuit such as playing a tuba or starting a business. When the thing is achieved, exultation takes over.
  • Law #2—Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do. Play consists of whatever a body is NOT OBLIGED to do. Entrepreneurship—at the fundamental level—is pure play. Folks will work harder at play than at any other activity under the sun.

Mark T Wayne

I recall these same two laws driving a boy to engage in private enterprise about 150 years ago. Everybody here is familiar with Tom’s brush with whitewashing his Aunt Polly’s fence. The story has been around long enough to suggest universality.

For a boy, painting a fence is a daunting task and one sure to bring the scorn of other boys who are setting off on interesting Saturday expeditions. Permit me to dwell for a few moments upon the manner in which Tom turns a hated task into a profitable venture.

Kendrick Lau

Kendrick Lau – WikiRoster

With his bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush, he surveys the fence in genuine anguish. A quick accounting of the resources in his pockets makes it clear that he cannot hire boys to do the work—he must find other means. So he brushes on the whitewash and stands back critically, then dabs at the fence and again surveys his work. When his friend Ben comes by, Tom convinces him he’s having the time of his life (Law #2). After eager negotiation, Ben gives up a juicy apple for the honor of painting that fence and he sets to it with enthusiasm (Law #1).

Boys happen along to jeer but remain to whitewash. Tom trades the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite in good repair.

Ethan Gordon

Ethan Gordon – Bend

Then Johnny Miller buys in for a dead rat and a string to swing it with. When the middle of the afternoon comes, Tom is literally rolling in wealth. He has twelve marbles, a piece of blue bottle glass, a spool cannon, a key that won’t unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, the glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar, the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.

His enterprising spirit does not stop there.  The next day at Sunday School, he trades these treasures for yellow and blue tickets earned by diligent students that meticulously memorized Scripture. He turns in those tickets in one big pile and wins the honor of the faculty and a girl’s heart – at least until he is questioned more closely.  It seems the most boastful are the first to get found out.  We will draw the curtain on that scene.

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The Winners

Winners of the MITEF / IMSA Power Pitch with IMSA Faculty

The Winners

So what have these young folk at MITEF to offer? Here are the winners:

  • WikiRoster – Jason Lin, Jung Oh and Kendrick Lau operate a website that answers the question, “Who is in my class?” This is the first question a student asks. It’s already changing the way high schools interact and the way marketers do business. It facilitates collaboration on homework, notes, tutoring, sale of textbooks. There is almost no competition in the high school market. And it’s a going venture!
  • Bend – Ethan Gordon has developed a way to generate electricity from undersea currents. This is in the far depths and does not interfere with commerce or recreation. And it’s clean!
  • Tunesketch – David Park offers software that lets you write beautiful music by the simple act of making a rough sketch. I can think of many folks who will buy that!
Judges

Judges

And these are high school age children! All of them give us a peek at their business plans and answer the important questions: Why will folks buy it? How does the company make money? How does the investor make money? In my imagination, Tom and Billy Fisher and Johnny Miller and all the other fence painters want to buy in. And well they should. I do too!

powerpitch logoAllow me to bestow credit to Jim Gerry of IMSA and Moises Goldman of MITEF for bringing inspiration to us in in the midst of all the chaos we call education.  Tonight we have seen it as it never appeared in our fondest dreams.

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ContactsT MITEF

Moises Goldman PhD – MITEF – M&J Acquisitions –  Moises6@comcast.net

Jim Gerry – Innovation and Entrepreneurship Director at IMSA – jgerry@imsa.edu

IMSA – Illinois Math and Science Academy – www.imsa.eduT IMSA

MITEF Chicagowww.mitefchicago.org

WikiRosterWikiRoster.com

tunesketchtunesketch.com

Photographs courtesy IMSA Student Productions  www.imsastudentproductions.com/view.php?id=128

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GO TO PART 2 – SIX KIDS PUT TECH COMMUNITY TO SHAME

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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 © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, App, big money, Biography, Characters, chicago, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Events, IMSA, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Internet, Internet Marketing, Invention, investor, Mark T Wayne, MIT Enterprise Forum, MITEF, Mobile App, Mobile Marketing, Software

SIX KIDS PUT TECH COMMUNITY TO SHAME

Rong Mayhem is screaming. “This kid puts the whole tech community to shame! His presentation is better than 90% of the professionals!” Bill Blaire mutters a response as if talking to himself. “Why don’t them guys make that loudmouth pipe down?” Thinking back, I recall Rong Mayhem getting silenced—even banned, but his harsh voice sometimes broadcasts the raw truth and I find that valuable.

In a roomful of investors and professionals, I sit between Bill and a six-foot-six giant of a man, Dr. Alexander Harbinger, three-time Ph.D. Alex looks around me to address Bill in his faintly German accent. “It is my heartfelt belief that the man is correct in his assertion,” he says. Bill responds with a scowl and crosses his arms. I nod and give a thumbs-up—I agree with every word Ron just blurted out.

The next speaker begins his pitch and Alex lets out a whispered, “Yes.” I feel the enthusiasm in the room. He leans close to my ear. “Think of it, John: These are high school children. One is only an 8th grader. And at a time that the public schools struggle to teach reading and simple arithmetic. We are seeing hope for the future of our country.”

I meet his eyes. I see the passion there. I’m getting treated to the six best startup pitches of the year. We’re at POWER PITCH, the capstone event of a partnership between IMSA and the MIT Enterprise Forum right here in Chicago. It’s the 25th anniversary of IMSA—the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy—the high school with some of the smartest kids in the world. They’re proving it tonight—showcasing their new entrepreneurial program called TALENT.

“Nice digs.” It’s Bill Blaire, patching things up with Harbinger. I lean back in my leather chair and take in the enormous room, the multiple screens—the IBM Innovation Center is a beautiful facility. “TALENT,” Bill says, “Acronym, anagram–whatever. Must stand for somthin’ but I duno what. Teens Always Learn…Ten Advanced Lunatics… That can’t be it.” Then he taps the back of my head. “One thing’s sure—these kids know their stuff—anybody can see that.”

Alex responds for me: “These young people are more than just poised. They are professional and their fledgling ventures deserve serious attention.”

So, Bill challenges him. “You ready to plunk down a quarter mil in a company started by a 17-year old kid?” As the next speaker steps to the front, Alex surprises me. “Yes,” he says.

“What about that 12-year old?”

“Of course.”

Alex is right. These kids are for real. They aren’t geeks and they aren’t loners. Each of them comes with a team. Tonight we’re only seeing technology ventures. In the back of the room sit a group of students with non-tech companies. Smiling. Polite. Quiet. What kind of ideas did they cook up? I wish there was time to hear them all.

At break, a guy I don’t know pulls me aside, bursting with the need to let off some steam. He praises the kids up and down then finishes with, “Don’t you realize these entrepreneurs aren’t even legal age?”

I return to the room and Harbinger is asking Blaire what he thinks about one of the contestants. Alex sees real potential. And sure enough, at the end of the evening that one takes first place and the lion’s share of a fat cash prize.

Back at my seat, Alex points out an older gent in front. “That is Dr. Moises Goldman. He created this partnership between the MIT Enterprise Forum of Chicago and IMSA.” I know Moises. I like him—everybody does. We’re all glad he’s still making an impact on the entrepreneurial spirit of this city. Moises introduces Carl Heine, lead innovation architect of TALENT and I become conscious of an unusual number of Ph.D. level academics in the room.

I think back to the icebreaker before the session. We grab some food and after Bill complains about the lack of beer, he says, “Lookit all these kids in the crowd. Notice something strange?”

It takes me a moment to process that. Finally, “They’re all dressed like business people. Real clean cut. Unusual for high school kids.”

Bill glares at me as if I’m dead from the neck up. “Naw, it’s way bigger than that. Look—none of ‘em is usin’ a smart phone. The only guy doin’ that is the old man over there in the corner.”

I have to smile. Can you beat that?

The judges make up quite a group—not the usual panel of pitch coaches and angels investors:

  • Bob Geras—CEO of LaSalle
  • Kevin Willer—CEO of CEC
  • Nik Rokop—Executive Director of Knaap Entrepreneurial Center
  • Dr. Lance Pressl—President of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • Jose deFrancisco—Director of Marketing for Cloud Computing at Lucent.

At the end, they present the winners with checks—great big checks.

“Hey, lookit the size of that thing.” Bill laughs but Alex is clearly annoyed with him. “Are you referring to its physical dimensions or the dollar denomination, Mr. Blaire?”

“Both. Big as a tabletop. Numbers ain’t shabby neither. A kid can do a lot with that kinda dough.”

I need to catch a train and quickly look over my notes on the six ventures.

ATONA 

Lydia Auch and Kenso Esquivel – IMSA – 1st Place Winners.

These kids give a peek at the future of music-reading technology and put on a good show too. Kenso tries to turn pages of sheet music while playing a violin. Impossible. His music falls in a heap on the floor. That gets a big reaction from the crowd. Lydia takes over the presentation with this quote, “There has been almost no innovation in music technology since the 15th century.”

Good start.

Their offering is an electronic music reader with double touch screens, each large enough to see an entire sheet of music with e-ink technology—much like an oversized Kindle, not those tiny backlit tablet screens. You can see your music in any light and the device consumes almost no juice. A musician can store an entire library of music in one location and carry it everywhere—and it turns pages automatically with the music. Other features include a tuner, a sound recorder, a metronome, and a USB interface. A musician can scan hard-copy sheet music or download it on the cheap. Hey, I want one of these things.

They acquitted themselves like professional speakers with super-cool visuals, a clever marketing plan, and well-justified numbers. I won’t go into those details—all six contestants did a fine job. The technical side of their presentations wowed us as much as the smooth delivery and slick graphics.

TOSIgram

Andrew Chen – Nequa Valley High School – 2nd Place Winner.

This kid proved that TALENT is open to students outside IMSA. He started with a clear statement. “The way we deal with privacy is broken.” He went on to point out that everybody needs to decide on privacy boundaries. But who wants to read a 9-page document? Who wants to draft one? TOSI stands for “Terms of Service Made Easy.”

A Carnegie-Mellon study shows that reading privacy policies use up an average of 25 days a year per person and soon they’ll be required for the thousands of mobile apps. Every storefront needs one and the list is growing. TOSIgram has created an online step-by-step process to create these documents. It bypasses the lawyers. It provides a summary-driven interface that lets the user quickly drill down to the clauses that matter.

The Living TEG

Shivansh Padhy – Granger Middle School – 3rd Place Winner.

That’s right—he’s in 8th grade, maybe 13 or 14 years old. He poses this idea: “Imagine a world where YOU are the source of power for all your energy needs.” He’s discovered a practical way to use excess human body heat to re-charge electronic devices. This is both extreme green and extremely useful. No more batteries or electrical outlets.

Turns out the human body produces 116 watts of heat every hour. A smart phone only needs five. Body heat can run a cell phone continuously and energy can be stored for higher output devices. His first target is cell phones, then medical electronics, then radios and flashlights. He has a working prototype. If he’s in 8th grade now, what will he do when he gets to IMSA? When he gets to MIT?

TiqFolio

Kevin WangIMSA

This one wins my prize for the best speaker. He’s the super-glib one that caused Ron May to blurt out his praise at the start of the meeting. TiqFolio is a unique online storefront concept for selling digital products—a gap in the market. He’s applying a proven business model to a new segment.

Sofi

Shawn JainIMSA

“Put your portfolio online.” People love to talk about their stocks on the Internet. They love to socialize on the Internet. Why not combine those two? The result is an investor community. People helping each other succeed.

QuickLine

Jennifer Ren, Mitch Bieniek, and Konrad WrobelIMSA

Imagine creating your own bus route—one that fits your needs. These kids have a network to dynamically optimize bus routes and make them more efficient. They gather input from the end user then use a computer algorithm to re-route and size the transportation. A working prototype is already in place in the form of an Android app.

What’s next?

This summer, TALENT is putting on a 2-week micro incubator to bring in partners and make student’s ideas a reality. I’d like to see them find the right consultants and the right investors—the kind that’ll really help these kids.

For Information on the summer TALENT incubator, contact Dr. Carl Heine at heine@imsa.edu

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GO BACK TO PART 1 – THE TWO LAWS

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Find Chicago Venture Magazine at
www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com
Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

© 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under IMSA, MIT Enterprise Forum