After nearly 2,000 votes cast across four rounds of voting, the inaugural INNO MADNESS champion from Pittsburgh Inno's first-ever bracket-style competition can now be announced.
Having secured 69% of the 368 votes cast in the final round, MindTrace Technologies succeeded over runner-up Honeycomb Credit for the crowing title of INNO MADNESS champion. The victory for MindTrace — a health care spinout from Carnegie Mellon University that has developed a machine learning platform for neurosurgeons that aims to simulate surgical plans and predict a patient's potential cognitive outcome all before surgery even begins — is the result of three other back-to-back-to-back victories throughout the tournament's duration, obtaining about 1,000 votes from Pittsburgh Inno readers amid a competition that started out with 16 startup companies.
According to Max Sims, MindTrace's co-founder and CEO, it's the personal connections that the startup has made with others over the past few years that ultimately is what he thinks led to the startup's championship finish. The victory, he said, is also a testament to the continued impetus the startup is experiencing as it readies itself for outside investments and the upcoming Demo Day event from AlphaLab Health, the local health care-focused accelerator from Pittsburgh-based startup investment group Innovation Works and the Allegheny Health Network, which counts MindTrace and four other companies among the ranks of its current cohort.
"We are very grateful to our network for being engaged in this and willing to donate their time to vote for us; we've made a very concerted effort over the last two years to really build out not just our Pittsburgh network but our national health care network," Sims said. "For us, it's more wind in the sails heading into the Demo Day for AlphaLab, it's more wind in the sails heading into our pre-seed round and our seed round later this year. For a company that's spent zero dollars on marketing, I think for us this has been a lot of fun and definitely a tip of the hat to Honeycomb…for us to be at the same stage with them, in fact, I'm very thankful that they were a part of this with us and all the other teams."
Sims also said that this year's tournament and the excitement it brought with it could also serve as a sort of illustration of the broader accelerations that have been seen in Pittsburgh's budding startup ecosystem in recent months.
"Pittsburgh is really on an upswing right now and I think the city can feel that momentum in the startup community, in the startup ecosystem. I think in the health care niche that MindTrace sits within that we're feeling that as well," Sims said. "For us, it's been a fun ride and we look forward to the next one."
And while only one victor could be crowned, second place finisher and business crowdfunding platform Honeycomb Credit also spoke to the level of enjoyment the startup had by participating in this year's tournament, with its CEO and co-founder George Cook stating that Honeycomb had an all-hands Slack channel devoted to creating new ideas to drive its fans to participate in the poll.
"It was a lot of fun, the team had a really good time with it," Cook said. "It was a fun opportunity to take a step back. We're so in the weeds on a day-to-day basis of what Honeycomb is doing, it was fun to see ourselves up against 15 other amazing startups in Pittsburgh and realizing that the ecosystem here is growing so much and there's some really exciting stuff happening that I don't think about every day."
Pittsburgh Inno Madness was a bracket-style challenge where readers voted to advance companies based on one question: Who would you invest in? Its first of four total rounds of matchups began on March 1, and each round lasted for one week.
This year's tournament featured the following local startup companies, all of whom were selected to participate based on Pittsburgh Inno reader nominations, which were then narrowed down by Inno's editorial team:
- Allvision IO | spatial data and analytics company developing solutions that can process lidar, imagery, video and trajectory data from mobile mapping systems for use in applications like those relating to transportation infrastructure, asset management and GIS
- Arch Access Control | provides cybersecurity solutions for the small- to medium-sized business market through the use of end-to-end risk mitigation solutions
- Cardsona | networking app for professionals, volunteers, hobbyists or activists that focuses on helping people with common interests make sustaining connections
- Carnegie Foundry | robotics and AI venture studio that is looking to scope, mature and commercialize IP and advanced prototypes that are already market-tested and ready for new and expanded applications
- de-bias | Software as a service (SaaS) platform that surveys members of organizations to provide assessment data that can then lead to internal planning aimed at addressing biases
- Dization | connects various software tools used by small businesses to provide analytics and analysis of data that can then help companies more effectively run their business
- Farm to Flame Energy | provides affordable and renewable power to areas that lack it via a scalable generator capable of using multiple plant-based feedstocks for smokeless and odorless electricity generation
- Honeycomb Credit | small business loan crowdfunding platform where businesses can borrow funds from their own customers and fans
- Idelic | truck driver performance management platform built specifically for fleet professionals that aims to predict and prevent crashes, reduce driver turnover and lower insurance costs
- Kloopify | procurement solution provider that enables and measures sustainable supply chain management, from supplier selection to collaboration
- MindTrace | software developer creating tools that aid neurosurgeons in surgical planning through its machine learning platform, which claims to simulate surgical plans that can then predict a patient's potential cognitive outcome before surgery
- Selling Later | platform connecting future home sellers and buyers directly, up to a year before a house hits the market, to offer home sellers more time and flexibility before they decide to move out of their home
- STACK | software development firm focused on aligning resources to improve patient care across the world through several health care domains including pharmacies, professional associations, higher education institutions and certification groups
- Sustainible | helps organizations determine the likelihood of business success and provides customized evaluations and suggested refinement strategies to increase the overall impact of an enterprise
- TouchWood Labs | maker of a modular IoT unit that embeds into an assortment of materials that can then turn any surface into an interactive digital display
- Tronix3D | 3D/additive contract manufacturer and innovation center that develops unique parts and prototypes for organizations