Local Entrepreneurs Win $50,000 in Ideathon Pitch Competition

Adam Butchy of HEARTio speaks during the Liftoff PGH live event.

Liftoff PGH has always believed in the power young innovators possess to chart a new future for health. To create a novel platform for undergraduate and graduate students in health innovation, Liftoff PGH launched the Ideathon Pitch competition, an opportunity for interdisciplinary teams to present their ideas for big-picture solutions to some of the gigantic problems facing health care. After months of preparation and finalist rounds with guidance from mentors, HEARTio has been declared the winner of the Ideathon, receiving $25,000 in prizes. MindTrace Tech came in second place with a prize of $15,000, and LittleMoochi received a third-place prize of $10,000. The prizes were announced during a live virtual finale on December 15.

"Liftoff PGH was a tremendous opportunity for us. As a healthcare startup, we have not seen many conferences or pitch competitions focusing solely on healthcare innovation," said Adam Butchy, Chief Strategy Officer for HEARTio. "Liftoff PGH and the Ideathon helped to illustrate the promise of the Pittsburgh region for entrepreneurship in healthcare, telemedicine, and digital health. We are incredibly grateful for our participation and are actively exploring some of the opportunities we discovered during the course of the conference."

Ideathon Final Judge Larry Miller, Managing Director of Life Sciences at Innovation Works, said, "What a terrific program the JHF has brought to Pittsburgh. Their vision to make Pittsburgh the center of healthcare innovation took a great step forward with Liftoff PGH. The start-up companies' presentations were excellent and the potential impact on patient care and the reduction of costs to the health system were more than substantial. Thank you Liftoff PGH!"

We are pleased to share our three finalists' exciting projects:

HEARTio takes the uncertainty out of cardiac testing by empowering the most used cardiac test (the electrocardiogram) with a robust algorithm to quickly, comfortably, and accurately assess a patient's risk for cardiac-related death. Team members include Utkars Jain, Michael Leasure and Adam Butchy. The idea started with an experience Jain had with his grandfather, who passed away after having an ulcer misdiagnosed as a heart attack. Jain, having earned his PhD in biomedical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, combined his expertise with fellow bioengineering PhD candidate Adam Butchy to reroute the analysis of routine heart screenings.

MindTrace Tech protects the minds of brain tumor and epilepsy patients by simulating surgical resections and predicting post-operative cognitive outcomes—all before the first incision. The product includes a testing platform and a 3D imaging and mapping model, all precision based. Recent MBA Rochester graduate Max Sims joined Raouf Belkhir, pursuing his master's degree from Carnegie Mellon in psychology, to dive into the neuropsychology and neuromapping markets. They brought fellow CMU alumni Brad Mahon and Hugo Angulo, and the team is currently a part of Optum Startup Studio and the Creative Destruction lab. Steve Fleck of CMU mentored MindTrace Tech for both the semi-final and the final rounds, at the team's request.

LittleMoochi seeks to solve the growing childhood obesity crisis triggered by increasingly unhealthy eating habits. A child snaps a picture of his/her plate, and the LittleMoochi AI engine recognizes the ingredients, analyzes the nutrients, and provides children with personalized food suggestions through the guise of a cute personalized character. Founder Summer Xia, a 2020 graduate of Carnegie Mellon's MBA program, was inspired by her daughter's unwillingness to eat vegetables. After 10 years in product design, she and her team turned their expertise to crafting a compelling game for children to play, while secretly learning healthy habits. LittleMoochi worked with mentors Charlie Schaller of Optum and Laura Carlson of AHN.

To help teams develop their pitches and launch innovations, Liftoff held a 10-week entrepreneurship bootcamp virtually during summer 2020, which 27 teams completed. The three finalists were selected from a pool of 22 semi-finalists who pitched in October. These entrepreneurs represent the best and brightest of our region's next generation of innovators and all possess great potential to change the course of health innovation in their respective focus areas.

Thank you to our Ideathon mentors, who guided our teams as they stepped through the gateway to the startup world. We can't wait to see them develop successful companies.

Read the Pittsburgh Business Times coverage of the Ideathon here: Pittsburgh health care startup wins Ideathon pitch competition 

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