Carnegie Mellon University

mcginnis student presenting

April 04, 2018

Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship names 2018 McGinnis Venture Competition winners

After three rounds of competition, graduate track team Zensors and undergraduate track team EmbroQuant claimed the top spots in the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship’s 2018 McGinnis Venture Competition on Tuesday, March 27.

The McGinnis Venture Competition pinned 32 student teams against one another to compete for $60,000 in investments. Teams were judged in three rounds on video pitches, executive summaries and mini-business plans. For the final round, nine graduate and five undergraduate teams pitched to a live panel of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Throughout the competition, participants received mentorship and guidance from alumni entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to help them to raise capital and receive feedback.

Zensors took first place in the graduate division winning $25,000. The team includes School of Computer Science doctoral students Gierad Laput and Anhong Guo, alongside Assistant Professor Chris Harrison, Associate Professor Jeffrey Bigham and researcher Anuraag Jain of the Human Computer Interaction Institute.

Zensors provides artificial intelligence-powered visual sensing that can run on existing cameras to create smart offices, shops and restaurants for data-driven answers to critical business questions. It provides users with analytics to inform best operating practices, information on how to best utilize a given workspace and real time notifications for operations.

EmboQuant, the first place undergraduate team, took home $4,000 in investments. The team is comprised of current Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences undergraduate student Julia Luo, teaching assistant at Johns Hopkins University Prateek Gowda and Tatiana Gelaf.

EmboQuant designs smart catheters, which aids in making embolization safer and more productive. Embolization is the primary treatment procedure of liver cancer, and the new design will improve the standard of care for patients in need.

This year’s third and final round coincided with Frank Demmler’s 30 year anniversary of becoming an entrepreneurship professor at Carnegie Mellon.

“We’re very fortunate Frank is part of our team,” said David Mawhinney, executive director of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship and associate teaching professor of entrepreneurship. “His expertise is invaluable, as it’s based on real-world experiences and gives students a personal perspective.”

Additionally, first-year graduate student in the Public Policy and Management program at H. John Heinz College Tania Taloute was announced the winner of the Choolaah Grand Challenge, a university-wide competition which generated ideas in the food and customer service industries. Choolaah is a fast-casual Indian barbeque restaurant which recently opened in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood. Taloute won a $1,000 cash prize, a year of free Choolaaah, a paid internship and dinner with the co-founders.

The McGinnis Venture Competition is made possible by an endowment from Gerald E. McGinnis, founder of Respironics. The 2018 competition was sponsored by Choolaah, Rough Draft Ventures and EQT.


Graduate Track:

  • First Place: Zensors
  • Second Place: TalkMeUp
  • Third Place: Nabla Ascent

Undergraduate Track:

  • First Place: EmbroQuant
  • Second Place: InvenTower