Tag Archives: MIT Enterprise Forum


John Jonelis

White Board Challenge

We’re planning the new season at MITEF–a good time to reflect. To me, this is a premier event:

As I heard it –

The Challenge: 
1.) Present an overview of your idea in less than 5-minutes
2.) No slides, no assistants—White board only.

An interesting note—all four winners received coaching from my colleague Terry Flanagan. 

CommuniTeach – Sarah Press

This was a sparkling presentation with an imaginative collaborative approach to education-on-demand.  It might be called a “Meet-up.com for learning.”  They provide free learning communities.  Clients sign up and create profiles with skills they want to learn and skills they want to teach.  Teachers and students meet on a the web.  The pilot project is scheduled for this summer. The company goes beyond the not-for-profit scheme and is also testing private paid networks for corporations.  Companies spend 140BB on training each year, $40BB on training consultants. Communiteach is a way to use existing employees to do the jobs that are typically hired out.  It builds a social network between employees.  Communiteach has gained CNN exposure and interest throughout country. They offered an invitation to their audience to learn or teach what they want. The company is based in Chicago and Pittsburg.  Will they be able to make it a reality?

CVT Innovations Corp.  – Thomos Capote

The technology – Continuously variable transmission for heavy equipment to offer a 20% fuel savings to the nation’s truck fleet and other large equipment. That’s huge. CVTs are already available in light cars but so far have not proven durable enough for heavy equipment because exisiting CVTs use pulleys and belts that are prone to failure.  Solution—a patented design replaces pulleys with toothed gears.  Belts are replaced with chains.  Result—The CVT produces high torque and can be used in SUVs, trucks—even ships.  The  US consumed 200BB gallons/yr on the road.  Cut that by 20% and you’ve solved a big part of the energy crisis.  The biggest gain for the country as a whole is to install CVTs in large fuel-burning vehicles.  They plan to offer CVTs to existing industries and license the technology.  CVT Innovations profits from royalties and consulting engineering.  Opportunities are forseen for joint ventures.  The application isn’t limited to heavy equipment since CVTs are lighter than automatic transmissions and could replace existing units in light cars. Can they gain industry acceptance and attention?

M.O.R.E. Live – Urba Mandrekar/Blak Wolfe

Technology—A mobile operating-room.  The goal is to improve how you respond to natural disasters.  During the Haiti earthquake, hospitals were overwhelmed. People flooded the city spreading disease. M.O.R.E. deploys modular tents to deploy and assemble as portable hospitals in remote locations.  The US Military has a DRASM tent which weighs 5-10 tons, needs a truck to deploy, cost 100K and most importantly—cannot reach remote locations.  M.O.R.E. has a better tent.  It weighs only 5,000 lb and breaks into components to be carried as backpacks into remote regions.  The cost is only $10K per unit.  Each tent features 600W of self-sustained power, LED lighting, an air compressor, an operating table, and a medical cabinet.  The roof is designed to create a sterilized sheet of air.  It’s a complete mobile operating room, easily transported and used in remote locations.  In a world of natural and man-made disasters, can they deploy this technology and help the world?

Fun Captcha – Bryan Arturo

This is an imaginative idea offering by a strong speaker—interactive Internet advertisements based on captchas. (Captchas are warped text posted by sites to differentiate humans from computers.)  For example: Post an ad showing a bottle of Coke next to a tabby cat. Question—“What’s next to the Coke?” You answer—“Cat,” or you click on the cat.  Result—Coke has scored an ad.  It’s fun. It’s visual. It attracts attention.  It encourages clicks.  It’s a new way to advertise on the Internet. Do you see its potential?

Energy Recovery Technologies – Ron Fleckman

The technology—Re-cycle outgoing HVAC to reduce energy used in the heating/cooling cycle.  Their technology is called ERV—Energy Recovery Ventilation.  It increases energy efficiency in large buildings.  HVAC is the largest hog of energy in commercial buildings.  There is a need because the existing technology hasn’t been effective for 30 years.  ERV separates both heat and moisture from air.  It’s a simple process with high reliability high and 90% efficient.  Efficiency is monitored and transferred via web for remote management.  It’s already tested in two stores—Florida and Chicago, and succeeded in cutting energy in half.  ERV carries an estimated nine month payback.  They see a 14BB overall market.  How much of that market can they capture?

Fear Experiment – Saya Hillman, Mac’n Cheese Productions

Saya told stories about her to-do list—all the things she wanted to learn to do.  Story #1 was to learn to dance.  Using email, she sourced 50 people that considered themselves bad dancers.  She rented a dance studio and hired an instructor.  They learned and at the end of the training, performed on stage for $17/ticket.  Story #2 was for those who believe they are bad at improv.  Same model.  Story #3 was all about leveraging the previous groups.  Called “Fear Experiment,” she used the previous groups to teach underprivileged kids to get over their fears.  At the end, they put on a big show.  Can she make headway as a non-profit or monetize the idea for the consumer?

Blood Vessel “Bulls-Eye” Locator – Colin O’Donovan

Technology—Creates a “bulleseye” to target for a hypodermic needle.  If you’ve ever had a bad experience with nurses and needles, listen up.  Today, medical professionals locate patient’s veins visually and 77% don’t find the target on the first try.  Nine attempts are typical and it can easily take 45 min.  A critical patient can die by that time.  This new offering uses an electronic chip installed in a patch to give a bulls-eye location for needle. The marketing strategy is like the razor blade model.  Low up-front cost, revenue on the disposables.  The product sells for $20, profit is $16.  If there are 15 MM procedures, that equated to 250MM in revenue for the entire market.  If they only capture 1% of the market, they still gain 8MM in gross revenue. Do you want your next shot to use this technology?

I-Go Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing – John Brophy

Problem—It costs $8K/yr to own a car in Chicago when you add up insurance, gas, maintenance, tickets, parking, tolls, cost of lease or purchase. Solution—A peer-to-peer car sharing service using cell phone or laptop.  You make a reservation. A car in your area gives a signal.  You use the car and bring it back full of gas.  Currently 8K cars are shared by 500K people.  They expect 4MM members by 2013. The company doesn’t maintain a fleet because members both borrow and share.  To share or borrow a car, you set up a profile online. Then you rate your experience. Their competitor—Zip Car, doesn’t have peer-to-peer rental.  Will people be willing to share their cars?

Energy Distribution Unit (EDU) – Eduardo Sampedro

Technology—A solution to the problem of standby energy consumption (wasted power). It’s modular and scalable.  On a small scale, it’s a portable power strip on steroids.  On a large scale, it’s a central unit that can calculate metrics and transmit them by Internet to provide statistical analysis of power use in a  homes and offices.  The existing technology is expensive.  These modules are only $15-$45 each. Is the world ready for a better power strip?

Green Zephyr, Inc. – Michael R. Weinman

What’s on your table and how did it get there?  Goal—to deliver fresh produce to your table faster.  Solution—Green Zephyr can piggy-back four trucks per railroad car—a low-tech solution to fast shipping.  The company is already profitable. I like the words, “Already profitable,” but what kind of return can they generate? 

That’s what I heard. What did you hear? Your comments are welcome.




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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.

Copyright © 2011 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved.


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