Big Ideas Competing for Big Money

Machine Learning Director Keith Callenberg and other UPMC Enterprises team members are judging the University of Pittsburgh’s Big Idea Competition that’s paying out $100,000 in cash prizes. We sat down with Keith after the first round of judging to learn more about his experience.

What is the Randall Family Big Idea Competition and how did UPMC Enterprises get involved?

The Randall Family Big Idea Competition is an annual event organized by the University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute. The competition is an opportunity for Pitt students to bring their big ideas to life and to help them take the next step in startup creation. The competition begins in early February and concludes in a final event on March 21st. UPMC Enterprises has been a sponsor the past several years and is an event partner again in 2019. The event awards $100,000 in cash prizes, including a $25,000 first-place award – so there’s a lot on the table!

What was your judging experience like?

It was a fun and rewarding experience. I judged the semi-finals with fellow Enterpriser Kelly Collier. My group judged 17 pitches over the course of four and a half hours. The organizers created a judging format that mimicked a real-life pitch environment while also allowing the judges to be informal and give honest and constructive feedback. I judged with representatives from ALung and Idea Foundry.

Were there any notable projects?

Seven of our 17 projects were health care-related, which I was excited to see. With these projects, I was able to give some direct feedback that I hope was really helpful for them.

What was the focus of the health care projects?

They were really varied. One was centered around predicting heart abnormalities from EKG data that already had encouraging results. Another presented an idea for an incubator that accelerates pharmacy tech startups by providing them with a realistic testing environment. While another pitched their system for keeping patients connected throughout clinical trials – a major component of the high rates of patient drop-out. One of the projects was co-founded by Eric Ghildyal, a former Enterprises summer associate, so it was cool to see a familiar face.

Sounds like a great time. When are the finals?

The finals are on March 21st at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall. The competition is going to be held on the fifth floor and we’ll have two UPMC Enterprises team members judging, Rob Hartman and Brittany Miller. The event opens to the public at 5:00PM for the finals presentation and reception.

Thanks, Keith!


For more information on the Randall Family Big Idea Competition, visit their website.