MACATHON: where Problems and Solutions meet Time

St. Paul, Minn. – 110 Macalester students making up 21 teams will work more than 24 hours non-stop during Macalester’s sixth Macathon, beginning at 4:30 p.m., Friday, November 10, and ending at 8 p.m. Saturday, November 11. Macalester students will compete for cash prizes and the opportunity for feedback from successful alumni entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors. No preparation work is allowed. Everything for the competition must be produced within the 24-hour period.

Macathon, Macalester’s overnight innovation, technology and creativity contest with over $2,000 in cash prizes, is a mash-up of a computer hackathon and a business start-up competition where students solve a real-world and relevant problem by building a product (website, physical product, mobile app). Macalester students form teams of three to six participants, and the three teams that come up with the most innovative tech-enabled product or service for either the commercial or nonprofit sector, will win. To succeed, Macathon teams need a mix of technical, business, design, communication and general creative skills.

At the beginning of the competition, each team is paired with a group of four to five alumni judges. Judges are brought in from across the country specifically to mentor and evaluate Macathon teams. Each team will prepare and deliver to the judging panel a nine-minute verbal/visual presentation of their product or service. Students will be judged on their identification and understanding of a real-world problem, their solution, and their presentation. The three highest-scoring teams in the final will be awarded cash prizes.

Macathon final presentations will be in the John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center, Saturday, November 10 at 4:30 pm. Six finalists will be announced and make presentations at the event.

Macathon Alumni Judges and Advisors

Mark Abbott ’96
Chief Legal Officer / Compliance & Information Security Architect at Atomic Data, LLC
Abbott is Chief Legal Officer and also Compliance Architect at Atomic Data, a Minneapolis-based enterprise cloud and managed services provider with operations around the world. Abbott started his first technology company with two friends and a fistful of credit cards in 1995. Since then, he has been an adviser and leader in multiple technology services and consulting companies, taking a few years off in the early 2000s to complete a JD and an MBA from the University of Minnesota. Abbott enjoys working with small and early stage companies, creative problem-solving, and quirky music.

Mutaz Alnaas ’17
Macathon Champion and Transfer Pricing Economist, EY
Alnaas was an international student from Libya who recently graduated with the class of 2017, studying economics and data science. He participated in Macathon for the past three years – since he found out it existed – and each year his team placed in the top three. Macathon is one of his favorite events, because, he says, it is always exciting to see what the teams come up with. And this year he feels privileged to be a judge.

Steve Arnold ’72
Co-Founder and Partner Emeritus, Polaris Partners
Arnold is a co-founder and partner emeritus at Polaris Partners, a venture capital and growth equity firm investing in cloud infrastructure, data sciences, internet products and services, healthcare technology and life sciences, among other domains. Using a “VC portfolio” model, he currently donates his time to work with a group of non-profit organizations focusing on innovations in learning sciences applied to K-12 education. He is chairman of the board at the George Lucas Educational Foundation, which is conducting research on best practices and telling the stories of “what works” in education. He is also chairman of the board of Enlearn, which is developing a personalized adaptive learning technology platform, and Healthy Minds Innovations, which is designing and building products and services based on the discoveries at the Center of Healthy Minds, and affective neuroscience lab at the University of Wisconsin. He is also chair of the Advisory Council for Angela Duckworth’s Character Lab. This is his fifth Macathon.

Paul Cantrell ’98
Visiting Instructor, Macalester College; Independent Software Consultant; Developer & Designer, Bust Out Solutions; Composer/Pianist; Founder & Artistic Director, The New Ruckus
After graduating from Macalester in computer science and math, Cantrell has created software for clients ranging from tech startups to Fortune 500s to arts nonprofits. He now regularly returns to Macalester, like a swallow to Capistrano, to teach computer science and run the Dev Garden ( He leads a secret double life as a composer, pianist, and music entrepreneur.

Martha Danly ’76
Principal, Martha Danly Consulting
Danly is a strategy consultant working with technology startups in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a leader in product, marketing, and operations, she has developed teams pioneering a wide range of new products and platforms, including B2B marketplaces, online auctions, video streaming, speech recognition, and mobile apps. She has worked with dozens of startups and has two IPOs under her belt as VP of Marketing at Onsale and Ventro, plus a successful exit as Chief Operating Officer of World Energy. With a passion for UX design and agile development, she thrives on building leadership and entrepreneurial teams. Danly graduated with a BA in Linguistics from Macalester and a PhD in Experimental Psychology from Harvard University. She loved mentoring and judging her first Macathon this past February and can’t wait to return in November.

Beth Desnick ’82
President, Thebe & Co
After graduating from Macalester, Desnick worked in government and the arts as a strategist and manager. Seeing a niche for a progressive approach to business, she formed her creative agency, Thebe & Co, with Thea Nelson, ’83. Now known as Evology, Desnick is currently president and strategic lead at the agency, which based in the Uptown area of Minneapolis.

Seth Levine ’94
Partner and Co-Founder, Foundry Group
Levine is a partner and co-founder at Boulder based Foundry Group focusing on making early-stage technology investments, participating in select growth rounds, and identifying and supporting the next generation of venture fund managers. Foundry investments include companies such as Zynga, Admeld and Fitbit. In addition to his work at Foundry, he is active around the world in the entrepreneurial community and was a founding board member of The Unreasonable Institute, an advisor to Palestinian focused venture fund Sadara, as well as an advisor to a number of other venture funds. Levine is a founding member of the Colorado Chapter of the Entrepreneur’s Foundation, co-founder of Pledge 1% and Colorado Entrepreneurial By Nature. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Macalester College. You can find him on Twitter at @sether or online at

Heather Mickman ’98
VP Data Externalization Services at Optum
Throughout her 20+ year career in technology, Mickman has built APIs to unlock enterprise data, created awesome platforms, led Ops organizations, and built supply chain software for Fortune 50 companies. She has a passion for technology, building high performing teams, driving a culture of innovation, and having fun along the way.

Dan Rippy ’89
Vice President Business Development at Lantheus Medical Imaging
Dan Rippy has been in the life sciences for the past 25 years in general management, business development, and financial roles. Early in his career, he worked in business development and financial roles with companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Bristol Myers Squibb. Rippy has served as CEO of two companies, Allegro Diagnostics (acquired by Veracyte), and Macrocyclics (acquired by ArevaMed). He has significant experience in business, financial, and strategic planning; business transactions (M&A, licensing); and general management in life sciences. He has raised venture capital, secured NIH and SBIR grants, and done deals with an aggregate value of over $1 billion. He has a BA in Political Science and Spanish from Macalester College, an MBA from Columbia Business School, and an MS in health science from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science & Technology (a joint institution of Harvard and MIT). He is also the author of the book, Sizing Up a Start-up (Perseus Publishing: 2000). He resides with his wife, Laura, and their family outside Boston, Massachusetts.

Laura Rippy (Spouse)
Managing Partner of Green D Ventures
Laura Rippy is the Managing Partner of Green D Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests funds from Dartmouth alums into Dartmouth-led technology startups. Previously, she was a CEO, chairman, board member, advisor, and executive in high technology companies. She has helped teams raise money, create business plans, launch or re-launch, choose new strategy directions, partner strategically, hire executive teams, and get acquired. Rippy is active with Boston and Cambridge incubators such as MassChallenge. Her experience spans consumer to enterprise, mobile to marketing tools, SaaS to eCommerce. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in government from Dartmouth College.

David Sielaff ’90
Founder, Critical Hit Technologies
In founding Critical Hit Technologies, Sielaff has returned to his start-up roots, developing new software products and consulting for others in the entrepreneurial world. Prior to that, he held a variety of software engineering leadership positions at companies like Sybase, Intrinsa (a startup acquired by Microsoft) and Microsoft. He is also an active investor and advisor in early-stage technology startups, especially those operating in the social impact space.

Lee Wallace ’95
CEO, Peace Coffee
Wallace is the head of Peace Coffee, a company on a mission to craft a delicious coffee experience with communities around the globe. Based in the heart of Minneapolis, the company has been proudly roasting, pedaling and brewing outstanding fair trade and organic coffee since 1996. Peace Coffee has garnered recognition in a variety of areas – from being named one of the 10 Most Sustainable Coffee Businesses in the U.S. by Civil Eats to being named Best Coffee Roaster by Minnesota Monthly to being named one of the top places to work by Minnesota Business magazine. Named one of Minneapolis’ 40 Under 40 in 2012, Wallace has been at the helm of Peace Coffee since 2006. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening and collecting pets.

Details for the 2017 Macathon

Who: 110 Macalester students making up 21 teams

What: Non-stop from 4:30 p.m. Friday, November 10, ending 8 p.m. Saturday, November 11, teams of Macalester students will compete for cash prizes and the opportunity for feedback from successful alumni entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors

Where: Olin-Rice Science Center (click for map)

Best time to come: Friday, November 10, between 7 – 9 p.m.

Awards ceremony: 4:30 p.m., John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center, (click for map), Saturday, November 10

Contact: Barbara K. Laskin, Macalester media relations, 651-399-3252.

October 25 2017

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