Carnegie Mellon University

Keith Block Entrepreneurship Competition

For this year’s Keith Block Entrepreneurship Competition, students had the opportunity to develop an innovative business or non-profit startup plan at the intersection of technology and society. Under the guidance of CMU's faculty experts, students participating in this event were charged with proposing a business venture that solves an existing problem in the marketplace while also addressing a pertinent societal need. For many students, the competition served as a promising testbed for a future capstone project or entrepreneurial venture.

This year, submissions to the competition responded to a wide variety of societal needs that included protecting sensitive data, supporting better health outcomes in Neonatal ICUs to facilitating collaboration in clincial research, preventing opioid addiction using IoT, and improving the very nature of the digital lives that consumers are living today. In prior years competition entrants have used mobile apps, service platforms, algorithms and everything in between, to reduce agricultural waste, promote financial literacy, and improve the safety of our roads and highways.

By focusing on innovation with a social impact, the competition aims to promote the mission of Carnegie Mellon University’s Block Center for Technology and Society, which focuses on leveraging artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies to shape the future of work and address the societal impacts of technological change to promote shared prosperity. The Center was established in 2018 following a generous donation from Keith Block (HNZ ’84), a member of CMU’s Board of Trustees, and his wife, Suzanne Kelley.

2020 Fall Winners


block-enterpreneur-ortiz-somma.jpgLeft to Right: Michael Sun(Heinz), Amy Tang(Tepper), Sky Zhang(Heinz)


In this time of social isolation, more and more people thirst for real human connection and Catchup believes they can create deeper connections than existing platforms have allowed. We want to change the situation of people choosing whom to pair with by mainly looking at photos. We desire to pair people based on their true common interests, starting from food. Our application, CatchUp, means to help people not only find their significant others but also adapt into a new environment by finding the food mates. The application is designed to heavily rely on Machine Learning algorithms to find the similarities between the individuals, and users will have options to decide what to do after being paired. From there, beautiful stories begin...


block-enterpreneur-ortiz-somma.jpgLeft to Right: Erica Fu(DC), Kaylin Li(DC), John Wang(MCS), David Wu(CIT), Emilie Zhou(DC)


We are ConvoClips, a website designed for high quality online communication. During this time of COVID, online communication is becoming more and more important in our lives. Yet, the current methods of communication are sorely lacking. Whether it’s the inconvenience of setting up more engaging modes of communication, or the lack of clarity and connection in discussions, there’s just something missing. By providing an online forum site that implements simple and intuitive video-clip making features, ConvoClips allows for more engaging and dynamic remote conversations with the click of a button.


block-enterpreneur-ortiz-somma.jpgLeft to Right: Sanmoy Karmakar(Tepper), Bharath Kumar(Tepper), Tony Tao(Tepper), Aditya Thakkar(Tepper)


Our solution is a data-driven opioid addiction prevention system that combats the opioid crisis. We use an IoMT-connected device that provides data analytics to doctors and identifies signs of addiction in patients so that early intervention could be put in place. The bottle will be locked and will have the necessary safety mechanisms to prevent accidental and purposeful overdoses. Our device can also be utilized by drug rehab centers to provide nurses and patients with an efficient and private mode of monitoring that will strengthen recovery rates. Capsa is looking to provide a cost-effective and innovative product to end the opioid crisis that claims thousands of lives every year.

2020 Summer Winners


ML Code Security

Today, the estimated average cost of a single security breach is $3.86 million. By detecting the code signatures of malicious actors who have embedded malware on employees’ computers, ML Code Security’s AI-based software program introduces an additional security layer over sensitive data in order to validate a given employee’s identity without compromising the efficiency of the authentication process.

Team: Matias Rosner Ortiz and Jason Somma


Respiratory Medical Device

Out of the nearly 4 million babies born in the United States every year, approximately 300,000 are sent to the Neonatal ICU. Through the use of a nasal interface for facilitating Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), this team aims to provide better health outcomes for babies in Neonatal ICUs and overcome existing issues inherent to conventional nasal CPAP interfaces, such as nasal septal erosion.

Team: Osama Mohamed

2019 Winners

First Place

2019 Keith Block Case Competition First Place

TechFaced is a fraud prevention service that protects makeup consumers from falling victim to counterfeit makeup product scams. By providing a free app to confirm the authenticity of makeup products, consumers could be sure of the quality of their makeup, and legitimate makeup brands would be better equipped to shut down counterfeit producers and protect their brands.

Team Members: Sana Lakdawala (Dietrich) and Sabrina Romansky (Dietrich)

Second Place

2019 Keith Block Case Competition Second Place

Asymmetrics guides an individual’s process of choosing the optimal health care plan. To do so they proposed a decision support system that displays the plan that results in the lowest total expected cost for the person and explains the terms of the selected plan in a friendly and comprehensible manner.

Team Members: Lindsay Graff (Heinz), Laura Goyeneche (Heinz), Rosana Pineda Guzman (Heinz), Jana Macickova (Heinz), and Alvaro Gonzalez Magnolfi (Heinz)

Third Place

2019 Keith Block Case Competition Third Place

StudentSaver is a budgeting app and decision support tool for individuals with student loan debt. The app uses machine learning and behavioral nudges to simplify the confusing decisions around student loans, to improve user communication with loan servicers, and to increase user interaction with their finances. The app offers live e-consultations with experts in student loan debt and will eventually also have a bot on the platform to answer simpler questions. The app will specifically be marketed towards employers, as employee wellness is a growing interest of many companies.

Team Members: Michelle Degutis (Heinz), Steffi Nazareth (Heinz), and Lois Weisfuse (Heinz)

2018 Winners

First Place

Members of SensorX

SensorX is a data collection and analytics venture that repurposes discarded smartphones and converts them into mobile data collection points. By repairing and installing these sustainably repurposed smartphones at data collection points, SensorX would enable governments, non-profit organizations, and researchers to track endangered species via live feeds, monitor areas of toxic waste and rising sea levels and gather other important data by leveraging the smartphones' on-device sensors.

Team Members: Karl Xiao, Natalie Hong, Yunxiao Wang, Katarina Hansen and Heng Zhang

Second Place

Members of Team Polineq
Team Polineq (WorkCert)

WorkCert is a blockchain-based certification software for training individuals in the manufacturing and construction fields. By providing both job training and employment opportunitiesWorkCert aims to address the labor gap through the creation of a targeted marketplace to increase competition and benefit employees.

Team Members: Lorretta Sackey, Jordan ThomasEugene Leventhal, Tania Taloute and Michael Coutinho 

Third Place

Members of Women Protectors Team
Women Protectors

Women Protectors is a mobile app for connecting victims of domestic violence in Mexico with legal resources, medical assistance and psychological support. Through the use of machine learning techniques, Women Protectors would provide users with clear, personalized guidelines to make informed decisions based on their mobility, living situation and other vital factors. 

Team Members: Natasha Gonzalez Deprez and Daniel Fernandex Davila