XLerateHealth and LaunchIT alum, Jake Miller, and his company, Toggle Health, won the 2017 Venture Sharks Competition at the Venture Connectors Luncheon Wednesday.

The company makes a sterile, wireless computer controller for use in the operating room so that surgeons can manipulate computer images like scans and X-rays without having to scrub up afterward.

Miller said that his device “could save surgeons hours per surgery,” hours that the surgeons could be using to make more money. The outer shell of the controller is disposable, so Toggle Health will continue to make money on each controller selling replacement shells. He likened the revenue stream to what Keurig does with its K-Cups.

Venture Sharks organizer Larry Horn, left, and winner Jake Miller | Photo by Amy Higgs

Miller is already working full time at Toggle Health. He and his team have already received a $75,000 grant from Nucleus.

While Toggle Health may have been the big winner, landing $5,000 in cash and $32,000 in services, the upstart and 10th Startup Weekend winner, Phil Brun, with the fire alarm for the deaf software, LifeBit, won both the audience favorite and the alumni-funded “best pitch” awards and took home close to $1,100.

Brun praised his “seven brilliant team members” for the less-than-a-month-old company that won Startup Weekend and then advanced to the finals of Venture Sharks in less than a week. He said that he and the team have been working nights to further the product.

Judge and serial investor Bob Saunders said that LifeBit “is a very clever idea, and I don’t say that often.” The roar of the laughter that followed that remark was confirmation that he rarely shares public praise.

The other competitors met with varying degrees of success with the judges.

Chris Blakeley’s Credit Fair-e is a payday loan alternative that gives small loans to people with mediocre credit. He drew a gasp from the crowd and questions from the judges for his 36 percent interest rates. “Are you predatory?” judge Elizabeth Rounsvall asked. He explained that his company was not legally considered predatory.

Herelancer, led by co-founder Rachel Dickey provides a local marketplace where companies and individuals can “shop” for a freelancer to perform temporary work. Judge Vik Chadha, managing director of GlowTouch Technologies, mentioned that the idea would be easy for a competitor to duplicate.

Max Kommor of META Construction Technologies promised that META’s software Blacktop could save contractors building roads and bridges from losing money while waiting for an asphalt truck. “It is as easy to get a truck from Blacktop as it is to get a ride from Uber,” he said. META came in second in the audience voting.

Lou Kelmanson, president, Kelmanson Holdings, rounded out the judging lineup. John Williamson, vice president of product at Altruis, emceed the event.

The previous winners of Venture Sharks, Switcher Studio, Logjustrips, Revio, Wicked SheetsU.S. Chia and Surgical Serenity Solutions, judged the alumni “best pitch” contest.

There was originally only four companies competing, but Herelancer was disqualified due to concerns about an “appearance of impropriety” because the company was co-founded by Zack Pennington who is on the Venture Connectors board. Herelancer still competed for the audience prize and Credit Fair-e was brought in as the fourth competitor for the grand prize.



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