MADISON – Two young companies emerged as judge and crowd favorites in the 11th annual Elevator Pitch Olympics competition during the 2015 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium, held Nov. 4-5 in Madison.

The 15 companies selected by the conference steering committee delivered 90-second pitches to a panel of investor judges, who scored each presenter and provided feedback about each product, potential markets and the presentation itself. Nearly 200 members of the audience independently voted on the presentations for a “People’s Choice” award.

First place in the judges’ scoring and the “People’s Choice” award was Whitcomb Technologies LLC, which is developing a patented prototype for a helmet to reduce impact force and the potential for concussions, especially in sports.

The helmet uses air cells to slow impact energy. Dr. John Whitcomb of Elm Grove, who treated concussions for more than 30 years in hospital emergency rooms, came up with the idea based on his understanding of the physics of rigid-helmet impacts and the long-term effects of head injuries.

Second place in the judges’ scoring went to Dr. Chris Kaufmann of IotaMotion, a new company from Iowa City, Iowa. Kaufmann is developing a cochlear implant electrode positioning system that enables future electrode advancement without compromising residual natural hearing. Following cochlear implant surgery, hearing deteriorates in up to 50 percent of patients because current electrodes cannot be repositioned to account for the decline. The system being developed through Kaufmann and University of Iowa Health Care would allow for repositioning.

Judges were: Mark Bakken, Health X Ventures; Scott Button, Venture Investors; Walker Fuller, River Cities Capital Funds; Lorrie Keating Heinemann, Brightstar Wisconsin Foundation; Tim Keane, Golden Angels; Laura King, Golden Angels; Tim Philosophos, PhiloFive Angels; and Bob Wood, Wisconsin Investment Partners.

Other companies selected for the Elevator Pitch Olympics were: Field59, Gain Sight, Genome Surveillance, GloKude, Interactive Degree Planner, IFO, Kurbi, Lake Country Outdoor, LEDsens, Nobo, Social Voucher, Telematic and TraknProtect.

The competition capped a conference that included speeches by  are Zach Halmstad, founder of JAMF Software; Sue Marks, founder and chief executive office of Cielo; and Mike Splinter, the former chairman of Applied Materials and Intel executive. Gov. Scott Walker addressed the conference before the Elevator Pitch Olympics. The conference also featured:

  • Twenty-eight presentations by companies in the Wisconsin Angel Network
  • “Office Hours,” which were meetings with subject experts on a variety of topics in small discussion groups.
  • SBIR/STTR awards luncheon to recognize 39 grant recipients from the past year.
  • The 2nd annual “Excellence in Entrepreneurial Education” award, won by Thomas “Rock” Mackie.
  • The “First Look” forum featuring selected campus-based technologies.
  • An exhibit hall showcasing more than 40 Wisconsin companies.
  • A Nov. 3 “Wisconsin WOMEN Reception” (Women, Opportunities, Mentors, Networking, Entrepreneurs) with a presentation by Sue Marks.
  • The induction of Silicon Pastures founder Jeff Rusinow into the Tech Council’s Investor Hall of Fame.

The Tech Council produces the conference. Sponsors were: Aberdean; Adana Holdings; Alliant Energy; American Family Insurance; American Transmission Co.; AT&T; Ascendancy Advisors; Aurora Research Institute; Baird Capital; Baker Tilly; BDO; BloodCenter of Wisconsin; BMO Harris; Boardman & Clark; Carroll University; City of Fitchburg; Concordia University; Cresa Madison; Dane County Regional Airport; Dedicated Computing; DeWitt Ross & Stevens; Eppstein Uhen Architects; Findorff; Fine Point Consulting; First Business Bank; Functional Biosciences; Gates & Brovi; Godfrey & Kahn; Google; HealthX Ventures; HP Enterprise Services; Keane Consultants; M3 Insurance; Madison Gas & Electric; Makin’ HEY Communications; Marquette University; Marshfield Clinic Applied Sciences; Medical College of Wisconsin; Michael Best & Friedrich; Midwest Prototyping; MIOsoft; Morgridge Institute for Research; Murphy Desmond; Neider & Boucher; Nelson Schmidt; NEW Capital; Pendio Group; Promega Corp.; Quarles & Brady; RDC National Inc.; Red Arrow Production; Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren; Setter Roche; Skyward; Smith & Gesteland; State of Wisconsin Investment Board; Summit Credit Union; University Research Park; UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations; UW-Milwaukee Research Foundation; UW-Oshkosh Business Success Center; Venture Investors; WERCBench Labs; Whitewater University Technology Park; Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek; Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.; Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority; Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership; and WTN Media.