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
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
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
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
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 Advertising.com.
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
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
"At that point, we were pretty sure that we had lost,"
"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
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.