A Chicago-based entrepreneur and ex football player scored first place in this week’s Elevator Pitch Olympics in Madison, WI, with a plan to help track student athletes’ health.
The competition was held as part of the 2014 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium, which took place in Madison from November 12-13. The competition saw eighteen entrepreneurs try to woo a panel of investor judges with ninety-second pitches about their businesses.
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, pitch competition winner Tyrre Burks played professional football in the Canadian Football League. His company, Team Interval, has created an application that acts as a universal health record for student athletes. “As a high school football coach, I have no clue what injuries my students have from one season to the next,” Burks explained in his pitch. “I actually need to know that Johnny had two concussions…or that one of my students has diabetes and needs to take medication before practice.”
By keeping a record of everything from major injuries to routine physicals, Burks hopes to ensure that parents, coaches, and academic administrators are all on the same page. So far, the biggest challenge Team Interval has faced has been digitizing the student physical forms. At the moment, Wisconsin and the Illinois High School Association use paper forms for student physicals, but Burks hopes that this cumbersome system will soon be replaced by one that is entirely digital.
At the moment, Team Interval is working on collecting as much data as possible about students’ injuries. They’re not just interested in the injuries themselves; they’re also interested in the wider context. Where did the injuries occur? What was the student wearing when it happened? Burks hopes that this level of detail will give athletic directors a bird’s eye view of their player base.
Burks’ presentation received high marks from judges including Tim Keane, director of Golden Angels Investing, and Bob Okabe, board director of the Angel Resource Institute. Okabe said that the application would be a boon for liability-obsessed school officials. “I’d buy it just to avoid being sued,” he said.
The judges also honored Madison-based Ben West. A former employee of Verona, WI-based healthcare software maker Epic, West wants to make it less painful for physicians to file reports for the Physician Quality Reporting System. According to West, these reports can be so burdensome that many physicians have opted out of the program altogether even though the government offers financial incentives for those who take part by submitting data on a number of healthcare quality measures. “There are eight hundred thousand physicians who leave four billion dollars on the table ever year,” he told the judges. His company, Concinnity, produces software that will allow them to fill out these forms with the click of a button.
Most of the judges were impressed with West, and he won praise for his credentials and his delivery. However, John Philosophos, partner at Great Oaks Venture Capital, was troubled by unanswered questions. “Is this a feature or a business? Is this a good idea that can be readily replicated by others, or have you built something that you can really build enterprise value around?” he asked.
The competition’s third winner was Steve Visuri of Waukesha, WI-based FloraSeq, who won the ‘People’s Choice’ award based on the votes of the audience. His plan was one of the more unusual: he wants to facilitate stool transplants. Although they are extremely helpful in combating a range of gastrointestinal ailments, it can be difficult to find donors for the procedure. Visuri wants to fix that by setting up a stool bank. “This is the epitome of one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” he said.
This year marks a milestone for the symposium: it’s been thirty years since the first annual venture conference was held in Madison. Although the event has gone by many names over the years, the focus remains the same. “At its core, this conference is about giving [early stage companies] a chance to present to investors and others who can move those businesses along,” explained Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council and one of the symposium’s organizers
“In a state where we don’t come near the top–in fact, we’re closer to the bottom in terms of overall company startups—these kinds of formats allow those companies to start and hopefully improve their odds,” he continued. But a symposium can only do so much, and it remains to be seen whether the grand ideas that were on display at the Olympics will be viable in the long run.
As for Burks, he has nothing but praise for the symposium, calling it an “awesome” experience. “I learned a lot on the finance side. The running your business sections were informative to me.”