Pitch perfect: Student startups compete for funding at third annual Student Venture Showcase

Posted on May 29, 2024 by Johns Hopkins

A wearable device that immediately detects an opioid overdose and administers naloxone won first place at the third annual high-stakes Student Venture Showcase.

Asher Varon, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, pitched ViVE, a medical technology startup that serves as a safety net for individuals with opioid use disorder. The startup is developing the disposable, non-electronic device.

Alongside Varon, six other student startups from across all Johns Hopkins schools stood before a panel of successful venture capitalists and a live audience to pitch their ideas.

The Student Venture Showcase, hosted by Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, is a direct example of Carey’s focus on providing students with the resources and knowledge to pursue entrepreneurial projects. From entrepreneurial specializations in the MBA and Master of Science programs to experiential learning opportunities that help bring early-stage ventures to life, the showcase reflects Carey’s dedication to fostering innovation among students through learning experiences inside and outside the classroom.

“We’re delighted to serve as the focal point for the annual Student Venture Showcase and bring together innovators and entrepreneurs from across Johns Hopkins institutions,” said Carey Dean Alex Triantis.

The primary sponsor and founder of the event, Jon Kling (Real Estate and Infrastructure ’04), describes the event as preparing for trial.

“The students must think of every possible question that the judges could ask and be prepared with answers,” Kling said. “It’s a learning opportunity on both ends–preparing for the pitch and making sure every angle of the business plan is covered, and then the constructive feedback that is given at the end. It’s beneficial on every level.”

Kling is the founder and chief executive officer of Municipal Acquisitions, a private real estate investment firm. He is also a member of Carey Business School’s Dean’s Advisory Council and the Johns Hopkins Real Estate and Infrastructure Advisory Board.

Kling’s firm sponsors the showcase and provides the $25,000 non-dilutive grand prize. He has also invested in past students’ early-stage ventures to help support their entrepreneurial journeys.

The idea that led to the creation of the Student Venture Showcase originated from Kling’s academic freedom to think creatively in the real estate program at Carey.

“That creative space is a great incubator of ideas. I wanted to create a forum for budding entrepreneurs and encourage that spirit in students,” Kling said. “The quality of participants this year was unbelievable. The creativity and understanding of what the market wants was exceptional. Each presentation–in my mind–was a fundable business, either as-is or with a little mentorship.”

Kling has said in previous years that he wanted to see more audience participation, and this year’s investment in the experience was a success. The showcase let the audience vote for the “audience choice award,” which went to Carey MBA student Tito Porras for his startup pitch, Owlsted.

Owlsted is a surgical data science company that aims to revolutionize surgical performance analysis and improvement. The platform’s primary goal is to enhance surgical precision and optimize operating room efficiency by integrating real-time data analysis into surgical practices. The startup focuses on leveraging AI to offer precise, actionable insights that can directly impact surgical outcomes and team performance.

“The Student Venture Showcase offered a unique platform to present my startup alongside some of the most promising ventures at Johns Hopkins,” Porras said. “It provided exposure and invaluable feedback from experienced judges and a diverse audience. I would strongly encourage other Johns Hopkins startups to apply, and for the Johns Hopkins community to attend. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn about the remarkable innovations and efforts of students across Johns Hopkins institutions.”

The showcase is also sponsored by Johns Hopkins Technology Venture’s Pava Marie LePere Center for Entrepreneurship and HopStone Capital, a student-led group that offers students an immersive experience in the world of venture capital.