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POWER PITCH

by John Jonelis

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

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

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

Showcase – Chandra Gangavarapu

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

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

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

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What Do the Judges Say?

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

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

John Lump — Judge

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

Swelly – Tyler Stock

“I saw several interesting businesses.

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

Some really cool ideas here.”

Blabl – Ayan Agarwal

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

Rethink Numeracy – Akshaya Raghavan

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

Moises Goldman – Judge

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

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

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

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

Jim Gerry with Joshua Orr of Fast Exit

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

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

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

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

OneNote Quiz – Maxwell Orr

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

Shop Cheetah – Catelyn Rounds, Julian Kroschke

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Entrepreneurship

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

Heat2Heal – Sushil and Pranav Upadhyayula

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

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

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

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IMSA Fast Facts

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

The IN2 Entrepreneurship Center at IMSA

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

Dr. Carl Heine, Director of IMSA TALENT

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

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

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

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

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

Yoda

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

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

This is just brilliant!

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

Award Ceremony

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17 Student Teams

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

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

Blabl– Ayan Agarwal

 

Social Good Category Finalists & Winners

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

Heat2Heal– Sushil Upadhyayula & Pranav Upadhyayula

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

Fast Exit – Joshua Orr

STEM Category Finalists & Winners

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

Shop Cheetah – Catelyn Rounds & Julian Kroschke

 

Other Competing Teams

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

Flameless – Sivam Bhatt & Nikhil Madugula

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

 

Go to Part 1 – THE NAME IS IN2

Hope you enjoyed Part 2 – POWER PITCH

Read Part 3 – INQUIRY & INNOVATION

 

 

IN2 Contact Info

Address – 1500 Sullivan Rd. Aurora, IL 60506

Website – https://www.imsa.edu/

Carl Heine – heine@imsa.edu

Britta McKenna – bmckenna@imsa.edu

Tami Armstrong – tarmstrong@imsa.edu

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Photography by John Jonelis

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

THIS AIN’T NO LEMONADE STAND

20160402_143634-JAJ TLoop Lonagan—Verbatim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tech Ventures

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

Social Ventures

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

Other Ventures

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

Also read – RAW TALENT

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

Photo credits – IMSA & John Jonelis

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

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Deal

Sharks

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

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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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