Tag Archives: MIT Whiteboard Challenge


Mark T Wayne BOTTOMJohn Jonelis

From special correspondent – Mark T Wayne

Five minutes, a marker, and a whiteboard. That’s all you get with this jaded crowd of critics, skeptics and swarming humanity.

You’ve come here to bare the greatest idea of your life and all the dreams that go with it. You competed for a chance at this grueling event against near a hundred early-stage teams. You’re one of only ten to make the finals.

Now they give the signal and you start like a runner off the blocks. And when your five minutes are up, it’s “NEXT!” No excuse will answer, sir! You are not permitted to utter another word so you sit down to bite your nails.

I can barely credit how fast ten contenders go by without a break in the action. .

Whiteboard Competitor

The Competition

This is the main event for the MIT Enterprise Forum, Chicago. No tricked out slide show or video allowed here. You must draw while you talk. The whiteboard is blank and indeed frightening to behold.

You swallow your fear and draw stick figures, perhaps, with a fat electronic pen. AnotherMITEF logo device projects your illegible scrawl onto a big video monitor so the WHOLE crowd can watch you make a fool of yourself. And use it you must—oh yes, you can’t ignore the whiteboard. It’s the only tool you get to express your idea, besides flapping your jaw.

I see you fidget and turn pale like some of the other folk as you try to explain your complex technology to a disgruntled audience of frowning faces while under the gun of the timer. Was that a nervous tick I just saw? Control yourself, sir!

Mark T WayneThis ain’t the typical pitch contest. You competed with scores of other teams on the value and marketability of your idea. That means all ten of you show up here tonight with something worthwhile. Now you get judged again on merit, but also on communication and use of the whiteboard.

Why do you do it? It’s not the $3,000 first prize—that only amounts to party money. No, the real goal is exposure. A chance to round up some angel capital from those sitting among this distinguished crowd and maybe push your idea to the next level. That and the simple satisfaction of coming out on top.

MITEF Chicago has been putting on this competition for some time. I consider it a premier event. To give you the flavor of it, here is a wonderful short video created in a previous season:


This Year’s Winners

SIRAGO— Deniz Alpay—First Place

MIT White Board ChallengeUnfortunate patients are going straight from Stage 1 to Stage 4 cancer right in the hospital as a direct result of an innocuous and ubiquitous procedure called the biopsy. The problem is rampant in some cancers.

Gentlemen take note: If the oncologist suspects testicular cancer, no biopsy will be done. No sir! The surgeon removes the offending testicles forthwith! This is execrable sir! I wince to hear such words!

Breast cancer is yet another prevalent victim to this culprit. But whatever the cancer, it happens in three ways:

  • When removing the biopsy needle, infected tissue gets dragged away from the site.
  • Sometimes infection spreads through the hole left by the needle.
  • At other times, the infection enters the bloodstream directly because of the needle wound.

Ugh! Horrible stuff! Ought not to be allowed! Could it be that a patient stands a chance of living longer without any test whatsoever?

Mark T Wayne

Pay close attention because the numbers do not favor you. 12.5 million Americans have cancer right now—and that’s expected to rise dramatically. During the span of a lifetime we are talking about one in every two men—one in every three women. I look around the room and wonder—does any man here still have the stones to remedy this injustice?

The young lady draws a clear picture on the whiteboard and presents a solution. It is a hollow needle. An agent is pumped into the needle to plug the opening. Then the biopsy needle follows. When the biopsy is extracted, any unwanted tissue cannot pass the plug.

Mark T WayneI let out a lungful of air. Whew! Such a simple solution. And having seen it described so well, there is no doubt in my mind that it will turn the trick. Something so easily incorporated into existing procedures will likely be widely adopted. In fact, hospitals already exhibit interest.

This young lady is articulate with an excellent command of the white board. I believe she well deserves her First Place finish. I vote for this one myself.

Later while writing my notes, it occurs to me to research the name Sirago. I find some USS Siragointeresting imagery here and wonder if it is intentional. Sirago is the namesake of a 1946 WWII American attack submarine that destroyed two German submarines. This is a boat that survived two major surgeries. It was modernized in 1949 and again in 1962, after which it continued operations until 1972—a good long life for a weapon of war. I see it lancing through the waves in triumph.  I let you draw your own mental image.

Sirago Check 2


COUP $ITY— David Hazan—Second Place (It’s pronounce it “koop city.”)

This is a free mobile game concept where players generate coupons that increase in value based on game play. You must play the game to earn the reward. That is significant!

I am known to play a game of Whist or Poker. I imagine myself, ordinarily reluctant to Mark T Waynefool with coupons, now proudly presenting my prized ticket to the cashier with a flourish and a knowing smile. The coupon displays right on my smartphone and I keep that contraption in the pocket of my white vest.

There can be no doubt that a market exists. The Mobile App industry has grown from zero in 2007 to 25 billion today and game-based advertising is popular.

David came with his own enthusiastic cheering section, which never hurts.


TRIBAL SCIENCE—Mike Vasquez—Third Place

Dr Mike VasquezThis PhD is an engineer as well as a sports nut. He calls the device a Rip Chip. It answers questions such as: “How fast? How high? How many revolutions?”

Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that you’re one of that peculiar brand of Tribal Sciencelunatic that lifts weights, hurdles down icy ski slopes, or performs tricks on a snowboard or skateboard. Now you can read precise statistics fed right to your smartphone. Why would you want to do that? It turns out there are a number of rational reasons:

  • You can improve your performance.
  • You can quantify what you did and compare it to other lunatics.
  • You can hold yourself accountable to another person—preferably your psychiatrist or surgeon.
  • You can directly compete with like-minded individuals in far-away places who also have Rip Chips installed on their devices of doom.

I have to admit, this may change the way athletes compete, play, share, and train. We are looking here at 50 million potential users. .


EATERIA— Ola Ayeni—The Mark T Wayne Business Award

EateriaAll but one of the ten offerings have yet to go beyond the IDEA stage and form a REAL business. Therefore it is my duty to offer my own award. I hearby select Eateria, a company that helps restaurants induce people to come back and eat more food at their particular establishment. And they do it without weapons! Look at this ultra-professional video:

You will find six more videos posted on the Eateria website. They leave no doubt how Eateria Logothis offering works.

And they’re already generating press.




Notes & Links

Judges – This is an intimidating bunch if I ever saw one:

Jed AbernethyJed Abernethy

Big Idea Forum


David BrownDavid Brown

Ungeretti & Harris LLP


Moises GoldmanMoises Goldman PhD

M&J Acquisitions Moises6@comcast.net


Steve SmithSteve Smith

Global Strategy Implementation

(He flew in from Amsterdam for the event.)

The Nameless RabbleThe Nameless Rabble

Yes, the audience votes too.


Nancy MunroMODERATOR – Nancy Munro of KnowledgeShift pulls off this event with her usual aplomb. She’s the Chapter President of the MIT Enterprise Forum, Chicago. And it ain’t at all boring for this old man to watch her erase the whiteboard ten times, either.

LOCATION – This is taking place at a hotbed of innovation, TechNexus, the home of the Illionois Technology Forum. The law firm of Ungaretti & Harris is also a sponsor.  Quartet IdeaShare makes the slick infrared and ultrasound whiteboard display tool that’s helping with all this suffering tonight.

MIT Enterprise Forum

THE TOP TEN COMBATANTS in alphabetical order:

The USS Sirago (SS-485) attack submarine from Wikipedia.

Photography Courtesy of: MITEF Chicago, Steve Smith, Moises Goldman, David Brown, Jed Abernethy, Nancy Munro, Mike Vasquez, Eateria, Wikipedia.




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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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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