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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 7, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 33
Mosh Pit Streak Continues

The four sophomores who sold the judges on their plan to market an all-in-one catheterization syringe: Jeffrey Choi, Stephanie Huang, Stephen Chen and Jason Hsu. All are biomedical engineering majors.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

JHU team takes top prize for sixth time in regional business plan contest

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

A team of four Johns Hopkins undergraduates used a concept for an all-in-one syringe to storm to victory in the 2007 Mosh Pit, billed as the "world's coolest business plan competition."

The contest, established by the Greater Baltimore Technology Council in 2002, is open to all full-time and part-time students from Maryland colleges and universities. A Johns Hopkins team has won each of the first six years. In this year's competition, a JHU team also finished second.

The members of this year's winning team, Veros, created a long-term business plan for a modified syringe with a pre-pressurized vein confirmation chamber attached. The syringe would be used during central venous catheterization procedures and can tell the user conclusively if a vein has been punctured correctly, reducing the risks of hitting an artery and streamlining the catheterization process.

The device was created last year by a group of students enrolled in the Department of Biomedical Engineering's Design Team course.

The Veros team members — who were awarded a $10,000 first prize and a year of free office space at the Baltimore Development Corp.'s Emerging Technology Center incubator, located at Johns Hopkins at Eastern — were Stephen Chen, Jeffrey Choi, Jason Hsu and Stephanie Huang, all sophomore biomedical engineering majors. Chen was part of the modified syringe's original design team.

The students' journey began in March, when their concept was among the 40 ideas, out of roughly 130 submitted, selected for this year's event. In late March, team representatives took part in "The Pit," a one-day event where the student entrepreneurs could make a 90-second pitch to recruit advisers and team members, if needed, from among a crowd of gathered students, faculty members and industry representatives.

Following the event, the teams had less than two weeks to come up with a two- to five-page business plan that employed technology as a significant part of the company's service. Veros devised an eight-year plan for the company that covered such issues as marketing, start-up funding and revenue projections. The general plan was to integrate the modified syringe into existing central venous catheterization kits to take advantage of the manufacturer's distribution channels.

"We identified four major players in the market, and from there we had to figure out what would convince them to include our product," Chen said. "First, we had to establish demand in the medical community, and then outline the benefits for the companies themselves — tell them why they would want to join up. We also had to find out how to convince hospital purchasing committees to want our product."

To devise the plan, the team members communicated primarily by e-mail. On days when they were all together, the students worked in a study room in the Charles Commons residence hall, including a couple of all-nighters spent there. To assist them with their plan, the students created an advisory board made up of Johns Hopkins faculty. They also were helped by contest-provided business adviser Matthew Kraft of

Veros was one of seven student teams selected to take part in the finals, held on April 26 at the Columbus Center in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Six of the seven teams featured at least one Johns Hopkins student.

At the finals, each team had five minutes to present its plan to a panel of judges, who were allowed 10 minutes to ask questions of the students. The judges — Rick Geritz, CEO of BDMetric; Jenny Morgan, principal at Sterling Partners; Jason Pappas, CEO of EntreQuest; and Steve Walker, president of Walker Ventures — each had $5 million "Mosh Pit dollars" to invest in any combination of teams. The team that garnered the most investment dollars won.

Chen said he was slightly nervous about the presentation and opted for Veros to go first. He said he thought the pitch went well, but the team members got nervous when the panel of judges didn't have many questions.

"At that point, we were pretty sure that we had lost," Hsu said.

"But in the end," Chen said, "we found out they liked the way we answered the first couple of questions, so they had nothing left to ask."

Huang said that the team followed the advice of one of the competition's directors and kept its answers short and sweet.

The students are still determining what to do with the incubator space and their winnings, which they can spend any way they wish (a realization that caused them all to flash big grins).

Finishing second in the Mosh Pit competition was cVision Medical Solutions, whose business idea is a medical device that uses ultrasound technology to noninvasively measure central venous pressure. The team members, all in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins, are graduate students Vikram Aggarwal, Ani Chatterjee and Yoonju Cho; and undergraduates Jason Chiang and Wai Yim Lam.


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