Milwaukee is a highly accessible tech scene brimming with gritty pioneers.

Inaugural Reverse Pitch MKE: High School Edition supports future entrepreneurs

Since 2017, the Reverse Pitch MKE program has helped companies source innovative ideas to solve business challenges while simultaneously helping founders launch businesses. Winning teams receive prize money, seed funding, direct mentoring, pro bono legal services and co-working space. Northwestern Mutual and the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network participated in the 2020-2021 event, which resulted in three winning teams.

This year, the MKE Tech Hub Coalition collaborated with our partners to extend that same experience to local high school students. Business challenges developed by Northwestern Mutual (focused on securing one’s financial future) and the Froedtert & MCW health network (focused on opportunities to improve access to healthcare through telehealth) were leveraged to create innovative business concepts.

The Young Enterprising Society (YES) provided background on the Business Model Canvas and students were supported along the way by mentors from sponsoring organizations.

“Innovation at the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network is everywhere. It can also come from anywhere. We believe it is essential to provide ways to support tomorrow’s entrepreneurs,” said Mike Maschek, Director at Inception Health.  “We believe that Reverse Pitch MKE – High School Edition is an incredibly valuable program that brings Milwaukee-based businesses together with our future entrepreneurs and important community partners like Young Enterprising Society and the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition to advance the Milwaukee region together.” 

Six teams competed, made up of a diverse group of students from the following high schools: Kingdom Prep, Homestead, Pius XI, Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Ronald Regan, Golda Meir, Marquette, New Berlin Eisenhower, Brookfield Academy, Brookfield Central, Brookfield East and Arrowhead.

Product development ideas ranged from simplified hardware/software solution for telehealth, AI-detected melanoma, tech-enabled youth savings plans, reduced cost to telehealth services by leveraging health care students, a youth stock investment platform and tech-enabled mental health support for teens.  The first-place team specifically proposed a simplified software and hardware interface to make telehealth more accessible to senior citizens.

“At Northwestern Mutual, we recognize that anyone can be an innovator with the right mindset and access to the right tools” said Beth Cole, Digital Innovation at Northwestern Mutual. “Through programs like Reverse Pitch MKE – High School Edition, we are continuing to build and support the vibrant tech education ecosystem in southeast Wisconsin and help create a diverse tech talent pipeline. The creative pitches that local students developed during Reverse Pitch MKE – High School Edition under the mentorship of Young Enterprising Society demonstrate the talent and passion we have in our community.”

Two of the teams submitted their idea to the State of Wisconsin’s YES! Business Plan Contest for students in middle and high school and have been selected to advance to Phase 2 of the competition.

The steering team was comprised of representatives from the MKE Tech Hub Coalition, Northwestern Mutual, the Froedtert & MCW health network and the Young Enterprising Society (YES), with additional support from the Milwaukee Bucks. In addition to monetary awards and swag, the first-place team was awarded a paid internship with Northwestern Mutual, the second- and third-place teams were awarded the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to participate in the collegiate pre-internship program, which focuses on the impact and ethics of data and artificial intelligence. The remaining high school teams were offered a scholarship to participate in The Commons Career Accelerator program to support continued professional skills development.

All teams are to be congratulated for their hard work on their projects. If you are interested in receiving information about future events, please email contact@mketech.org.

 

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