St. Paul, Minn. – 99 Macalester students making up 20 teams will work more than 24 hours non-stop and overnight during Macalester’s seventh Macathon, beginning at 4:30 p.m., Friday, November 9, and ending at 8 p.m. Saturday, November 10, 2018. The top three teams will receive a total of over $2000 in cash prizes.

Everything for the competition must be produced within the 24-hour period. Macalester students will compete for cash prizes and the opportunity for feedback from successful alumni entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors. No preparation work is allowed.

What exactly is Macathon? It’s a mash-up of a start-up competition and a hackathon.  A start-up competition where entrepreneurs, inventors, and design-thinkers compete to come up with new and disruptive ventures. A traditional hackathon is a contest where brilliant computer programmers and other technologists compete to improve, break, build, and create new systems.

But Macathon goes beyond that. To succeed, Macathon teams need a mix of technical, business, design, communication, and creativity.

Ultimately, Macathon is an idea-building challenge that moves liberal arts into action, fosters innovation and connects alums and students.

At the beginning of the competition, each team is paired with a group of 4-5 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 with cash prizes totally over $2000.

Prototype Test
To better credit programming and/or other technical work, a “prototype test” will be conducted with each team on Saturday, prior to the team presentations. This is the team’s opportunity to share with the judges specifics about the technology used, process, and/or completed coding.

The team’s product or service must be the original product of the team and its members and created during the event. However, team members are encouraged to consult peers, interested faculty, Macathon judges and planning committee members with any questions about the viability or development of their concepts and presentations. Macalester College has no claim to the concepts, ideas, products, and services developed during and for the Macathon.

Details for the 2018 Macathon

Who:  99 Macalester students making up 20 teams

What:  Non-stop from 4:30 p.m. Friday, November 9, ending 8 p.m. Saturday, November 10, 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 9, between 7 – 9 p.m.*

Final presentations and Awards ceremony:  4:30 p.m., John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center, (click for map), Saturday, November 10. Six (team) finalists will be announced and make presentations at the event. After their presentations, the winners will be chosen. 

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

2018 Judges and Advisors

Mark Abbott ‘96
Chief Legal Officer and Compliance Architect, Atomic Data
Mark 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.  Mark started his first technology company with two friends and a fistful of credit cards in 1995. Since then, Mark 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.  Mark enjoys working with small and early stage companies, creative problem-solving, and quirky music.

Marisa Brandt ’99
VP Engineering, White House Custom Colour
Marisa Brandt spent nearly a decade supporting enterprise and large institutional customers as a system administrator, solutions architect, and cloud engineer prior to leading Product Strategy for Dell’s Cloud Manager offering. She recently became VP of Engineering at White House Custom Colour, where she oversees a wide range of internal and external software development projects. Marisa holds a B.A. in English from Macalester College, an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Minnesota, and an M.B.A. from the Carlson School of Business.

Paul Cantrell ‘98
Instructor (NTT)
After graduating from Macalester in computer science and math, Paul 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 artistic director of The New Ruckus (

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

Anna Graziano ‘13
Associate Director of New Product Development, Privia Health
Anna Graziano is the Associate Director of New Product Development at Privia Health. Privia Health (Arlington, VA.) combines practice management and technology services to enable one of the fastest growing medical groups in the U.S. The New Product team brainstorms, incubates, and tests innovative solutions that disrupt healthcare and bring meaningful change to providers and patients.

Shasha Jumbe ’94
Co-founder, Context AI
An all-conference performer and standout in both track & field and soccer after arriving on the Macalester campus from Harare, Zimbabwe, Shasha Jumbe was a two-time NCAA Division III triple jump national champion and earned All-Midwest Region Soccer honors twice. His distinguished professional career (at Amgen, Genentech, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, co-founder of Context AI) has spanned innovative data science applications to connect individual and population scale data for precision public health and personal health empowerment.

Jonah Kaplan ’16
Operations Manager, Target (New Ventures and Accelerators team)
Jonah Anders Kaplan ’16 currently works on Target’s New Ventures and Accelerators team, where he works with startups shaping the future of retail. His responsibilities include sourcing and evaluating startups, connecting founders with mentorship and resources, and supporting pilots/partnerships with Target’s core business. Jonah was an early-adopter of Entrepreneurship at Macalester where he helped to build the Mac Startups program. In his spare time, Jonah is an aspiring Iyengar yogi and can often be found standing on his head.

Audrey Kohout ’14
MBA Candidate at Kellogg School of Management
Audrey spent four years at Target. She focused on developing and implementing investment and partnership strategies with startups spanning the consumer goods market and retail technology. Additionally, she spent a summer with Knife Capital in South Africa focusing investments in South African technology startups. She graduated from Macalester in 2014 and is currently a student at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management in Chicago.

Dave Mao ’97
Business Development Manager, Amazon Web Services – Jack of All Trades
After barely graduating from Macalester with a major in Music and a minor in Magic the Gathering, Dave Mao ’97 began working in Information Technology because, “It was really easy and paid well.” 20 years later, he still has no idea what he’s going to be when he grows up, but so far he has managed to convince employers on three continents who really should know better to hire him for such jobs as: Office Temp, IT Consultant, Patent Translator, Marketing Specialist, Customer Service Manager, Project Manager, Sales Engineer, Solution Architect, Enterprise Architect, Startup Founder, Venture Capitalist, and Unemployed-Guy-Who-Doesn’t-Shave-Regularly. Dave has an MBA from Columbia Business School, works as a Business Development Manager at Amazon Web Services, lives in Seattle with his wife Laura ’99 and daughter Lucy ’37, and still plays way too many video games for a respectable adult. 

Heather Mickman ’98
VP of Platform Engineering + Practices, Optum Tech (United HealthGroup)
Heather Mickman is VP of Platform Engineering + Practices at Optum Tech (United HealthGroup). Throughout her 20+ year career in technology, she has built APIs to unlock enterprise data, created awesome platforms, led Ops organizations, and built supply chain software for Fortune 50 companies. Heather has a passion for technology, building high performing teams, driving a culture of innovation, and having fun along the way.

David Sielaff ’90
Founder at Critical Hit Technologies
Leaving Macalester with a CS and Math degree in hand, David Sielaff made his way to Silicon Valley for the .com days of last century. When Microsoft acquired the startup where he was the Chief Software Architect, David moved north to Seattle. He continued with Microsoft for 16 years in a variety of engineering leadership positions. Since leaving Microsoft in 2015, he has co-founded two startups, both of which he is still involved with running. Critical Hit Technologies develops software for app developers. The political-tech startup ToSomeone builds data analytics software for progressive political campaigns and non-profits. David is an active investor and advisor in early-stage technology startups, especially in the social impact space. This has led to his involvement in competitions such as Social Venture Partners Fast Pitch and the New Media Ventures Innovation Fund.

Philippa Werner ‘09
Philippa Werner graduated from Macalester in 2009 with a major in Economics and a minor in Mathematics. She worked in finance and wrote part-time before transitioning to a full-time writing career, and now writes both under her own pen names, and for several ghostwriting clients.

Steven Witt ‘99
Operating Partner and Co-founder, DataTribe
Steven Witt is DataTribe’s Operating Partner and co-founder. DataTribe’s mission is to commercialize technological breakthroughs originally conceived and developed within the US Intelligence and Defense Communities. Since late 2016, DataTribe has funded and launched eight startup companies. Previously, Steven was a co-founder and CEO of Onyara, an IoT company. Steven built and sold Onyara in 2015 for $42 million after six months in business on a $1.1 million capital raise. Steven is also a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer with a focus on real-time intelligence production and analysis. Prior to joining the CIA, Steven was awarded multiple honors as a member of the US Foreign Service. His public service career included assignments in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Steven concurrently earned an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School. He also has a BA in Computer Science from Macalester College.

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October 30 2018

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