Category Archives: Innovation

CHICAGO TECH’S NEXT CHAPTER

At Tempus, Ocient and Catalytic, Chicago’s most prominent entrepreneurs are moving on to their next big thing.

by Jim Dallky

Chicago tech is growing up.

One sign of a maturing tech ecosystem is the success of a city’s serial entrepreneurs, and recently we’ve seen some of Chicago’s most high profile founders and technologists move on to their next companies, and tackle big industries like the Internet of Things, cancer research, and artificial intelligence.

Uptake - ChicagoInno

Look no further than Groupon founders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky. Keywell brought Uptake1 out of stealth in 2015, and the fastgrowing IoT startup has already raised $45 million at a $1.1 billion valuation. Lefkofsky left his CEO role at Groupon last November and, as we first reported in July2, has since been working on Tempus3, a healthtech startup that’s “building the infrastructure to modernize cancer treatment.”

 

Ocient - homepage

Also in July, Cleversafe founder Chris Gladwin, who sold his data storage company to IBM in 2015 for $1.3 billion, unveiled4 his next startup Ocient5. Gladwin has yet to make Ocient’s product plans public, but the software company expects to “ultimately hire hundreds of local employees.”

 

pushbot - website

Sean Chou, the former CTO and employee No. 2 at Fieldglass—which sold to SAP for more than $1 billion—recently, launched Catalytic6, a startup building chatbots for businesses. The company’s platform, Pushbot, helps enterprises “build, run, and improve your processes.”

 

bright - website

You can also look at Jeff Judge, the founder of Signal (acquired by BrightTag in 2014) who’s now building business metrics platform, Bright.7

Kickstarter cofounder Charles Adler is giving entrepreneurs, creatives and makers a better place to work with the Center for Lost Arts8; Motorola veterans are spinning out to create new hardware startups like John Renaldi’s “invisible wearable” company Jio9; along with many, many other founders who are on to their next project and have committed to building in Chicago.

“Certainly, as a community, I think we are maturing,” said Illinois Technology Association CEO Fred Hoch. “It’s being driven a lot by those serial entrepreneurs that are coming back and doing their next thing.”

Hoch described how the city experienced an “excitement period” 3-4 years ago where a lot of startup activity was taking place but, “a lot of bullshit was being developed…things that don’t have a long-term revenue stream.” Chicago’s strength as a tech city is in B2B, Hoch said, and Chicago tech has started to get back who it is as a community. “What’s happened over the last 18 months is that we’ve come back to realize who we are,” he said. “[Entrepreneurs] are not thinking about dog-walking apps. They’re thinking about big things that affect businesses nationally and globally.”

1871 CEO Howard Tullman added that Chicago also has a handful of who he calls “benchers,” successful entrepreneurs who are taking some time off but will likely “be back in the action in a reasonably short time.” This list includes Fieldglass founder Jai Shekhawat, AKTA founder John Roa, and Roger Liew, the former CTO of Orbitz. Tullman also said that 1871 isn’t just full of first-time founders. There are dozens of serial entrepreneurs working out of the Chicago tech hub.

“People don’t understand that the 1871 members aren’t remotely all first timers,” Tullman said. “We have several dozen serial entrepreneurs working here and building their next businesses who are smart enough to avoid making sizeable infrastructure and other capital commitments until they determine whether the dogs will be eating their new dog food…we are definitely seeing a wave of more seasoned, more talented and more aggressive serial entrepreneurs—all working in Chicagoand, largely using their own resources to start the next group of great tech businesses right here.”

Of course, as Chicago’s tech community matures, it doesn’t come without growing pains. Some of the city’s most prominent startups have gone through layoffs in recent months, with Avant firing 60 employees and Raise trimming 15% by cutting 45 people. And the city is still well behind other markets like New York and Boston when it comes to total venture funding.

tempus - website

Tempus

 

But Chicago is proving to be a city where entrepreneurs are willing to double down after successful exits, and that’s good news for the future of Chicago tech.

“We’ve come a long way in the last 10 years,” Hoch said. “[Entrepreneurs] are choosing to stay and be a part of this community because it’s a strong community now.”

 

About the Author

Jim Dallke is the Associate Editor of ChicagoInno of Streetwise Media, where this article previously appeared.

This article appeared in News From Heartland

 

 

Links cited:

Graphics and logos from company websites and ChicagoInno

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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TO BE OR NOT TO BE HACKED?

by William Shakespeare,

alias Moises J. Goldman and John Jonelis

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Hamlet—To be or not to be hacked? That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of phishes, gouged by creatures who boast no scruple, nor affect any purpose higher than foul destruction—and by opposing, end them?

[Editor’s translation—Hackers are a bummer. This is war.]

 

William “Moises” Shakespeare

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Or may say ‘tis wiser to remain in dungeons rank and old—to sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub. For in that sleep, what dreams may come? The internet makes cowards of us all.

[Editor’s translation—Should I upgrade the robustness of my internal infrastructure and firewalls?]

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Horatio—But soft, me lord, to think upon the many turns a kindom make.

Betwixt two means shall we choose to take.

[Editor’s translation—There are two good options.]

 

Hamlet—Ay, the dilemma. To guard an angry pack of dogs that tear and rent and hack away till strength and blood be spent—or flee? How wouldst thou fight, Horatio? I would not hear your enemy say you could do it. Nor shall you do my ear that violence.

[Translation—Don’t feed me a pack of lies. If we encrypt all sensitive data and cyber-secure our network we still can’t achieve fail-safe.]

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Horatio—Hear me lord; I make my case:

Should bits and bytes habitate high Cloud

A kingdom’s gold to free?

No arms, no knights, no castle wall to tug a purse’s string so proud!

‘Stead exult in markets, foul of hogs and sheep and goat?

Entice the sorcerer to play in darker art, in unknown moat?

To raise a legion—conquer lands anew beyond the sea?

And so extend a kingdom’s reach?

[Option #1: The Cloud is cheap.  Save your money for marketing, R&D, and expansion.]

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Hamlet —Methinks this boy hath soundly grounded thought. He makes PaaS-ing SaaS at learning dearly bought. It takes no brain to buy his train of thought.

[Seems like a no brainer. The Cloud.  Platform as a Service—Software as a Service. Let’s do it!]

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Horatio —But soft, me lord, I fear foul play!

This Cloud by wild winds be cast astray.

It boasts no force to hole such gauze with tumult and in fray,

And by doing so, steal treasury of intellect away.

‘Tis best, to build yon castle walls of stouter stuff, some say.

Keep bytes and treasure close and spend on fodder and on hay.

[Option #2: The Cloud is way too vulnerable to attack. Update your in-house network.]

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Hamlet —Wouldst thou squeeze gold from a lark? Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. But harken thee—where may best advantage be? What odds see ye?

[That equipment’s really expensive! What’s the probability of getting hacked either way?]

Horatio —Sorcerers be that wouldst draw

Straight crook from snarled oaken saw.

[Mathematicians use probability trees.].

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Hamlet —O cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right! 

[I hate math!]

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Horatio —Of haste take not. Outcomes be but three.

Take heed of which I shew to thee.

[No big deal. There are only three probable outcomes.]

Hamlet—Hold, varlet! A fourth ye lacked—that one repent and not be hacked.

[Hamlet has noticed a missing variable: An enterprise upgrades internal systems and yet escapes hacking.]

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Horatio—‘Tis true M’lord, yet is it moot?

Foes be met; nought ground ‘neath heel o’ boot.

Complication wears poorly on thee.

There be no guarantee.

This outcome we call 1-P3…….(1)

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Hamlet—Ha! There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

[Maybe I’m not as dumb as I look.]

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Horatio —‘Tis sooth, my liege—I seek not to deceive.

Perchance I draft a map—deeper knowledge ye may tap.

Yon magic shall appease;

Thy grace’s ire set at ease.

[I’ll make it simple, so even you can see. Take a look at this probability tree.]

 

M’lord do you see?

If systems new and hacking lacking,

Probability is simply 1-P3.

[The probability of an internal network not getting hacked.]

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Hamlet—What make I of this wonder? To ask a fool is to blunder.

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Horatio—Magic formula ye seek, to make right your decision?

Fortunately, Shakespeare knows it with precision.

[Be cool. I got this.]

Look here, dear Ham, and spy yon enterprise,

Floating on the Cloud ’tis wise.

Not to hack or nick sharp blade.

We dig our likelihood with spade.

‘Tis thus: P1+(1-P1)(1-P2)=1-P2(1-(1-P1)………(2)

[The probability of not getting hacked on the Cloud.]

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Hamlet [Aside] Madness in great ones must not unwatch’d go. A screw is loose. He rhymes like Dr. Seuss.

[Horatio’s gone bonkers.]

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Horatio —But hark—magicians work dark secrets in a day

That mortal man can plumb no other way.

I spell it in a cypher so you see

The final answer to this mystery.

[Here dummy, I’ll spell it out for you.]

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Hamlet—Indeed, this must I see.

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Horatio—Floating on a Cloud,

Yon enterprise two chances escape plunder,

To hide from doom, not hacked asunder.

The Cloud foul Russian must attack rapaciously

Before cursed knife shall reach its mark with certainty.

[If your enterprise is on the Cloud, hacking is a two-stage process. The Cloud may get hacked. But even then, your enterprise may escape damage.]

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To ride the Cloud in skies of blue, equation (1) must be less than (2).

Hence:  1-P3<1-P2(1-P1)…….(3)

We boil down that poison thus, and there we gain the clue.

If fates would their due, we sing this song,

Our enterprise will float along.

And thus:  P3>P2(1-P1)

 [This is the absolute condition for an enterprise to go to the Cloud.]

 

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Hamlet—Dost thou think me easier play’d on than a pipe? For ‘tis sport to have the enginer hoist with his own petard, an’t shall go hard.

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Horatio—M’lord salves the ego with a threat.

Is this the way your friends are met?

But hear me, sire, ‘tis plain to do.

I will write it out for you.

Be ye not a foe to the way the numbers go.

Ye shall recall the probability of hacking free be 1-P3.

If wise man, on gauzy Cloud his merit bent,

To the tune of 80%,

The numbers shew:  1-P2(0.2)

[Here ya go, Mr. Bigshot CIO—if the probability of not getting hacked on the Cloud—P1—is 80%, then 1-P2(1-0.8) hence 1-P2(0.2)]

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Hamlet—Still it be Greek to me.

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Horatio —Here, my lord, I will unravel

The way that ye must travel,

To the ending of thy quest.

Be in knowledge, not in jest.

[Gotcha!]

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Hamlet—Get it over before I die.

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Horatio —Here’s an end so ye may rest

Like bones inside a chest.

If P3>(0.2)P2 be true,

To the Cloud get ye hence,

Else makest equipment new

And play yon cards close to thy vest.

[This is how the CIO makes the decision.]

Hamlet[Aside] This be a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He rhymes obtuse like Mother Goose. Yet I shall the effect of this good lesson keep as watchman to my heart.

[Translation—Good! Let’s get some pizza.]

[Curtain]

[DOWNLOAD ARTICLE IN PDF FORMAT]

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NOTE – This example follows similar logic and Decision by Professor J. Sussman used in his lecture to the Engineering Systems Division entitled, DID BELICHICK MAKE THE RIGHT CALL?

[READ BELICHICK PART 1 – PDF]

[READ BELICHICK PART 2 – PDF]

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About the Authors

Dr. Moises Goldman is uniquely involved with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). He is a member of several advisory boards at MIT and is a founding member of the TALENT program at IMSA.

John Jonelis is a writer, publisher of CHICAGO VENTURE MAGAZINE and NEWS FROM HEARTLAND, author of the novel, THE GAMEMAKER’S FATHER. BFA, MBA from Kellogg.

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Photography and Graphics – John Jonelis, 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. 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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THE BIG LITTLE TRAP

by Scott M. Anderson

An investor, Sally, recently heard two pitches. The first was from A-Dot-Co, which will produce polka-dot jellybeans using a new patented process. The second was from BetterBean, will produce purple jellybeans using a trade secret method which improves existing manufacturing processes.

Having spent several years owning a candy company, Sally was interested in both opportunities.

Jellybean T

Sally knows that the jellybean market is large and well established. With a few regional exceptions, she knows the annual market growth has been 3% for many years.

sales projection MS Office

Accordingly, she was a bit surprised to see strong growth projections in the presentations from both A-Dot-Co and BetterBean. More diligence would be required.

Sally asked both companies to submit detailed materials in support of the projections they presented. She was particularly focused on the factors responsible for revenue growth. Since the market is large and established, Sally knew that growth for a new entrant must come from either expansion of the overall market or from switching behavior (customers switching from established providers to new providers). She was hopeful that the detailed support material for each revenue projection, would reflect management’s understanding of these market dynamics.

 

A-Dot-Co

A-Dot-Co

Sally received the following support detail from A-Dot-Co:

A-Dot-Co Revenue

She knew from prior experience that the total candy market was very large and she was glad to see the jelly bean sub-market in excess of $2 billion. There would be plenty of upside for A-Dot-Co. She was also glad to see that in year 5, the founder did not expect to exceed 1.0% of the market. Any larger share percentage would require major resources and additional funding rounds.

However, before investing, Sally still needed more information on the detail behind the market share projections. She scheduled a follow-up call.

On the call, A-Dot-Co was very enthusiastic. It went like this:

Sally: “Thank you for your revenue detail. I have some follow up questions. How do you expect to land nearly $2 million in revenue in the first 2 years?”

Founder: “A-Dot-Co is well positioned to achieve our revenue goals. We have a seasoned team who formed many candy company startups in the past.”

Sally: “That’s great. But how do you intend to land $600K of sales in year 1?”

Founder: “My team has deep knowledge about the jelly bean market. We only need a mere 0.03% of the market to land the projected $600K! Surely there are enough polka-dot jelly bean eaters out there to achieve this projection!”

A-Dot-Co’s founder fell into The Big Little Trap.

trap MS Office

 

The Trap

The Big Little Trap occurs when a founder believes his future projections are achievable because the market is so big and the market share percentage is so little. Specifically, that the sales goal will be very easy to accomplish because the market goal is such a small percentage, such as 0.03% with A-Dot-Co. (“It’s so small that anyone can reach it…as easy as falling off a log!”) In fact, the Trap victim might further say that the percentage is so tiny, that it may take only a few customers to reach it, and “…clearly the market has more than just a few customers!”

The response to an enthusiastic Trap victim: “I’m glad you’re excited. Name the customers!”

 

BetterBean

BetterBean

BetterBean submitted the following detail to Sally:

BetterBean Revenue

 

As before, Sally was glad to see confirmation of the jelly bean market. (They must have used the same market study). But she was even happier to see customer detail behind the revenue projection.

target market MS Office

The detail reveals several important items:

  1. BetterBean knows his target customers and may already have relationships established with them.
  2. Knowing BetterBean’s target customers should lead to a more efficient operation by helping the company prioritize the company’s limited time with its important customers over less strategic prospects.
  3. BetterBean has applied the 80/20 rule—at least 80% of the revenue is derived from specific, identified customers. The remaining revenue will come from other customers, currently unknown. Forecasting is an inexact science and to communicate over-precision in the detail implies the founder may be taking his projections too seriously. BetterBean has not been overly precise.
  4. When—not if—BetterBean misses its projections, the detail will provide insight as to why the projections were missed. The “why” is more important for fixing future revenue projections.
  5. BetterBean is more transparent than A-Dot-Co. Specifically, BetterBean’s founder has shared his target customer list, perhaps with the hope that Sally may have contacts to be leveraged at those customer accounts. Conversely, A-Dot-Co has shared no customer detail, suggesting that its founder may not know who his customers will be. This is concerning if true.

 

Decision Time

Sally rejected the opportunity with A-Dot-Co. It fell into The Big Little Trap—and didn’t even realize it. The lack of transparency did not generate confidence in the company’s management team.

Sally proceeded with further diligence on BetterBean.

The Big Little Trap grabs victims all the time. Like Sally, an investor should consider the market size, but only in the context of the startup’s upside potential. As she observed, there’s, “…plenty of upside for A-Dot-Co.” However, market share is not the justification of year-to-year or month-to-month revenue goals. Market share is best seen as a byproduct of sales efforts.

The jellybean example is fictitious, but the Trap is very real. Watch for The Big Little Trap at your next pitch session. See if the founder falls into it!

 

About the Author

Scott M. Anderson is a principal at Anderson Financial Services, LLC and has been performing cash projections for decades as an investment banker, a workout specialist, and recently, as an advisor to investors and startups. He can be reached at scott@andersonfsllc.com

Graphics from MS Office

 

This article appeared in NEWS FROM HEARTLAND

NEWS FROM HEARTLAND – The Journal of the Heartland Angels is published tri-annually for its members. We encourage reproduction and quotation of articles, if done with with attribution. Copyright © 2017 Heartland Angels. John Jonelis, Editor – John@HeartlandAngels.com

FOR MEMBERSHIP IN THE HEARTLAND ANGELS, contact Ron Kirschner Ron@HeartlandAngels.com

FOR FUNDING, apply online. Go to www.HeartlandAngels.com

NEWSLETTER SITE – View past and present editions at News.HeartlandAngels.com

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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THE SUM OF ALL PARTS

Optimizing Human Behavior with a STEM Model

by Moises Goldman PhD

 

The Human Conundrum

For the last 15 years I have given numerous seminars aimed at optimizing executive and managerial performance in technology driven firms. The goal is to optimize departmental performance resulting in the larger optimization of an entire firm. As the theory goes: If the whole is the sum of the parts, and each part is optimized, then the whole is optimized.

These experiences have challenged my ability to communicate with people involved in STEM fields. This group represents a highly gifted segment of the population, and they tend to be very results driven. How does one reason, interpret, and convince scientists to modify their own behavior?

At first, I struggled with the appropriate lingo. I pondered how to describe my ideas using managerial jargon. I realized that I needed another language—a language that both empirical and intuitive thinkers will readily grasp and put to good use.

Then my eureka moment came to me. STEM initiatives are defined by basic human bevavior and not the other way around.

To some, this may seem counterintuitive, so let me elaborate. If we first accept and understand any given issue at hand through basic human reasoning, we can then interpret it in a STEM format. Once we do that, we can use the tools of science to bring about an optimized outcome. Let me add some clarity with the following example:

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Kalman Filtering

My Ph.D. is in Inertial Navigation and my Masters in Control Systems. I spent many years as an executive in the aerospace industry and came to be expert in Kalman Filtering, a complex mathematical algorithm used in the guidance and navigation of aerospace vehicles. It occurred to me to apply this knowledge to the human equation.

Kalman Filtering is also known as Linear Quadratic Estimation (LQE), but it’s not necessary to go into the math here. I will attempt to make this example clear and concise. All we need is a simple diagram. I’ll describe it in layman’s terms and then apply it to the human condition.

The diagram below describes the guidance control of a space vehicle. The vehicle is at position “time-zero” or T(0). We want to get to position T(1,000,000). We calculate the location of our target relative to our present location. We recognize that any internal disturbance, such as bad sensors, electronics, and perhaps bad computations must be eliminated. (We get rid of them.)

  • We predict the trajectory of the vehicle over a short increment of time.
  • We measure the actual flight path against our target and factor in real environmental conditions (noise), such as wind speed, meteorites, etc.
  • We correct our trajectory.

The vehicle is now at T(1)—a very small part of the entire trip. T(1) is the next starting position. The algorithm repeats, bringing the vehicle to the next position T(2), then T(3), and so on. We iterate—continue to perform the same steps—predict, measure, correct—to optimize the overall trajectory to the target—T(1,000,000).

Perhaps you recognize this as a description of the way a child learns to walk. It’s commonly called a feedback loop. It governs behavior in many human pursuits. It’s the way our central nervous system directs us to negotiate a curve while driving down the road. It’s the way a baseball player catches a ball and executes a play. It’s how a circus performer walks a tightrope. It’s the way we all learn optimum behaviors.

Our minds perform this function intuitively through ordinary mental concentration, focus, or attentiveness. Concentration is an iterative process and the higher the number of iterations, the higher the degree of accuracy.

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Optimizing Human Behavior

If we can model our human behavior and reasoning in STEM format then we are able to optimize it. As an example, let’s choose a simple human behavior and describe it using Kalman Filtering:

Behavior—Tomorrow I’m taking a final exam; I need to arrive at 8 am—the target.

Method—My class always meets at that time, so I already know approximately when to wake up. Since there cannot be any internal disturbances, I eat a good dinner, plan my breakfast and what to wear to school. I give myself time to study and get to bed early. I set my alarm for 7 am. I’m at position T(0) on the diagram.

  • Prediction—I estimate the time it takes to get ready and walk to the exam. (About the same as a normal day.)
  • Measurement—I reach the door and glance at my watch. It’s raining and I’m running late.
  • Correction—I grab an umbrella while at the same time speeding up my pace.

I get to the exam location on time, and the algorithm repeats itself for the next activity (assuming my intention is to optimize the next behavior).

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A Simple Model for STEM Communication

It’s amazing how simply human behavior can be optimized using a STEM model—whatever the circumstances may be.

We know our current state. [We are on a diet, T(0).]

  • We predict the meal that we are going to eat. [A nice juicy zero carb steak.]
  • We eliminate any internal errors [If we’re cooking it, we make sure all the ingredients are there; check the labels for carbohydrate count; grill in working order; plates and glasses, etc.]
  • We set out to eat, then get a call that we’re needed immediately somewhere else. We make a correction. [Either we eat extremely fast or put the meal away for later, at T(1).]

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Optimizing Complex Behavior

Now let’s apply this same optimization process to a non-linear human behavior—investing in the stock market. We have some money to invest, T(0), in a given company stock. We eliminate all the internal disturbances by doing our homework. We read quarterly statements, look at the fundamentals, research the competition, analyze price and volume activity on a stock chart, and interpret technical indicators such as MACD and Slow Stochastics.

  • We predict our next move—[buy the stock]—T(0).
  • As we are getting ready to buy the stock we hear news of the latest unemployment report and we realize it will have a direct effect on the stock we are buying. We must correct. [We buy more, less, a different stock, or sit tight. Which correction we use will have a direct effect on the optimization.]
  • We decide to buy more of the stock. Now we are at T(1), and must predict T(2)—[sell, hold, or add to position].

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Achieving Greater Accuracy

The more we are able to reduce the size of T (time), the more we increase the Kalman iterations, and the better the optimization. In human terms, optimization is inversely proportional to the size of T, and directly proportional to Intelligence. Please note that human thinking is continuous in time, so the smaller our intervals, the closer we approximate a continuum.

As you see, I found my language for communicating optimization of human activity in any given organization. It is an amazingly powerful tool.

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MORE FROM MOISES COMING SOON

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Moises Goldman at IMSA

About the Author

Dr. Moises Goldman is uniquely involved with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). He is a member of several advisory boards at MIT and is a founding member of the TALENT program at IMSA.

 

Kalman Diagram—Moises Goldman

Portrait of Moises & Chicago Globe—John Jonelis

Other graphics—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. 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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CHICAGO—THE BEST INCUBATOR IN AMERICA?

by Denny O’Malley

Recently, Inc.com published an article about the best cities for early-stage companies. The premise: Chicago is the surprise winner.

Why would that be? San Francisco and New York are both beautiful, thriving cities that dramatically represent the diversity of American ideas. San Fran—younger, more venture-oriented, with beautiful natural vistas. New York—the classic, bustling private and public equity concrete jungle.

What do they have in common? It costs a kidney to pay rent for a closet. Continue reading

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INQUIRY AND INNOVATION

by John Jonelis

What happens when you invite the community into your high school and send your high school students into the community?

Amazing things! You create a THIRD SPACE in people’s lives.

[Britta McKenna is the Chief Innovation Officer at IMSA.]

Britta – “You have your home and you have your work and you have third spaces in your life where you feel comfortable and find a community. Robert Putnam believed in third spaces. He has a book called Bowling Alone 1. It used to be that bowling leagues were that third space. People at the bar. Cheers. We want IN2 to be that third space in people’s lives.”

“Look at the ceiling. Look at the lights. Do you see the pattern?

IN2 – Symbolism in Architecture

It’s that intersection of outside and inside. Community coming together to make this a real learning laboratory experience. We want to come in and work on real-world problems and opportunities.

“People can bring problems and opportunities to us and say, let’s figure out how we can work together. Like the State of Illinois with the hackathon we just did—finding solutions to childhood lead poisoning.

“Think about all the things kids are doing that are not helping. Here’s a great place. I hope IN2 can be a third space in people’s lives.”

[The grandness of the idea and the imaginative scope hit home, but ask Britta how IN2 will implement it.]

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Innovation

“We can’t stand still. Education—if it’s doing the same thing over and over and over—is not moving ahead—it’s falling behind.

“IN2 is the intersection of what we do at IMSA and the community. We’re partnering with Invest Aurora, the Woman’s Business Development Center, the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center—they are all resources to help what we’re doing here grow and scale.

Business Mentor

[Britta anticipates my next question and gets even more specific.]

“We’ve opened up a cohort of LINKubators 2 These are actual startup companies.  We have three working in the space as a pilot.  Our students intern with them and our network can help them grow.  Our MENTORS, our IDEA BARISTAS, our SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS can all help them grow. 

“Next fall we hope to have ten LINKubator startups working in the IN2 space during the day when the kids are in class. We’re trying to see what we’re good at and get a rhythm to the space.

“So whether it’s somebody in the community with an idea or a problem—whether it’s students that want to accomplish something new—whether it’s mentors from the community coming here to help the next generation of learners—whether it’s subject matter experts helping a non-profit grow—we want IN2 to inspire students and community to go on and be entrepreneurs and develop their ideas.

“Our goal at IN2 is to blend in with IMSA and be that resource for students and community beyond the classroom. That’s what this is all about.”

Student Entrepreneur

Inquiry

“I think one of our signature programs is our STUDENT INQUIRY AND RESEARCH program or SIR. That really distinguishes us because we don’t have class on ‘I-DAYS.’ Those are inquiry days—that happens most every Wednesday. Traditional class shuts down. We have class Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

“‘I-DAYS are meant for independent exploration—inquiry or research. On ‘I-DAYS, student go down to 1871 and other locations to intern for startups. Now, with the new IN2 facility, our students can work with entrepreneurs right here as well. Either way, through the SIR program, they’re doing research with mentors and business teams.”

Sue Fricano & Tami Armstrong

[I’m joined by Sue Fricano—IN2 site coordinator, Tami Armstrong—Director of Public Affairs]

Sue – “MONDAY NIGHT LIVE is an event put on by Dr. Carl Heine each week. He brings in speakers and he develops programs for entrepreneurs.

Carl Heine

“He puts external students on his TALENT board—entrepreneurial students coming in to learn the different stages of building a business and different skills used in building businesses.”

Tami – “A lot of the students here are part of that as well as members of the community that come to learn more about entrepreneurship.”

Sue – “At IN2 we are trying to give them the expertise to go out and make the initial steps of developing.”

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[Betty Hart is the Innovation Center Program Manager.]

Betty – “We have girls in the STEM program, which is a mentoring peer-to-peer program for girls in 6th to 12th grade.  We have events such as IMSA DAY OF CYBER, which focuses on encouraging students to seek cyber security careers.” 

Betty Hart

Betty – “We have TEAM STEM CAFE, which is a network of local high school students who host quarterly events focused on STEM related topics. And we have THINK CAFE, which is a community initiative that invites organizations to come in and pitch a problem or an idea.”

Britta – “Our charges really are this: The first is to be a STEM teaching/learning laboratory for our best and brightest students across the state. Then we have the FUSION programs.3 These are after-school programs at schools, grade 4-8, all around the state. And we also have the charge of educating the educators. We bring the teachers in and give them professional development, which helps them in science and math.”

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Bring Back Socrates

[I pose a thorny question:  Why teach entrepreneurship at such an early age, rather than prepare the students for college or jobs?]

Tami – “What we’re doing is launching the students so when they leave here, they’re prepared. There’s a big demand for ideas and innovation. Innovation is valuable, and very coveted. We’re supplying that to the workforce.

“We’re also launching research. How can students advance the human condition and solve the world’s grandest challenges?

“That’s what comes from IN2—the ability to make very difficult innovations. When you can harness them, bring them to a place like this, and connect the students with business and industry, dream and idea become reality.”

[Suddenly I get it. I asked the wrong question and now realize the goal is really quite straightforward—to encourage students to think for themselves—to let them discover how to learn. IMSA does it the same way it was done almost 2,500 years ago—self-directed inquiry and innovation—the Socratic Method.]

Student Entrepreneur

Possibilities

Britta – “People think we’re just this gifted school for 650 sophomores, juniors, and seniors from around the state, but we’re not. And people think we’re a private school and we’re not—we’re public. We don’t want to be the best-kept secret in Illinois.”

“And we have a student team called IMSA ELEMENT that teaches the lean startup methodology. Build—measure—learn. Students developed a whole curriculum and teach it to each other. We’re entertaining possibilities.”

  • “We need to be open to ideas, be able to move quickly, and say YES.”
  • “And have FAST FAILS.”
  • “And move toward SUCCESS and ITERATE.”

“We’re not afraid to do that here. In a world where you’re dealing with high-caliber students who don’t fail often, failure is a difficult concept. But once they get the hang of it, they actually become quite good at fast fails.”

Entrepreneur with a solution

The 17%

Britta – “We’re not looking for the vast majority to really understand this space, because we can’t hold everybody. But about 17% in the world are innovators. That’s who we’re looking for—that 17%. Once we get a few of those, they bring their networks. Those are the early adopters, innovators, and they see things much earlier.”

Those are the people IN2 was built to serve.

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This is the final article in this series.

Go to Part 1 – THE NAME IS IN2

Go to Part 2 – POWER PITCH

 

References

  1. BOWLING ALONE – Robert Putnam
  2. IN2 Launches LINKubator for Fox Valley Startups
  3. IMSA FUSION

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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

 

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 capital, angel investor, App, Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Impact Investing, IMSA, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, investor, Mobile App, new companies, Public Schools, Social Entrepreneur, Social Media, Software, Startup, startup company, Venture

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
.
.

3 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