St. Paul, Minn. – Nearly 100 Macalester students in 20 teams will be competing on campus in the overnight innovation and creativity contest known as Macathon, beginning at 4:30 p.m., Friday, November 8, and ending at 8 p.m., Saturday, November 9, 2019. And at the end of the 24-hour non-stop competition, the top three teams will receive a total of over $2000 in cash prizes. Macalester is celebrating its eighth Macathon this year.

In teams of 3-6 participants, students put their liberal arts education into action and invent a unique and original service or product (website, application, physical product) that solves a real-world problem. No preparation work is allowed; everything for the competition must be produced within the 24-hour period. Macalester students will have the opportunity for feedback from successful alumni entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors.

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 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. Teams 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 totaling over $2000.

2019 Judges and Advisors

Each year, Macalester brings in a diverse group of alumni judges from across the U.S. to mentor and evaluate the teams. Macathon thrives because Macalester alumni bring enthusiasm, expertise, and encouragement to Macalester students.

Paul Cantrell ’98
Instructor (NTT)
After studying computer science, math, music, and religion at Macalester, Paul went into industry, creating software for dozens of companies ranging from tech startups to Fortune 500s to arts nonprofits. Unable to resist Macalester’s siren song, he returned to teach computer science and run the Dev Garden. He leads a secret double life as a composer, pianist, and music entrepreneur, and is artistic director of The New Ruckus.

Beth Desnick ’82
Co-Founder, Evology Creative
Beth is the president and chief strategist of the creative agency, Evology, which focuses on brands that are actively engaged in delivering products and services that add something positive to the world. She’s a life long Minneapolitan and the parent of a magnificent high school senior.

Matt Entenza ’83
Attorney, Entenza Law Firm
Matt Entenza is an Environmental Studies graduate of Macalester. He has law degrees from Oxford University in the United Kingdom and the University of Minnesota. He was DFL Leader of the Minnesota House and represented Macalester for 12 years in the Legislature. His legal practice focuses on helping startups move from idea generation to success, and he serves as General Counsel and Director on multiple startups.

Anna Graziano ’13
Strategy & Innovation Consultant, Privia Health
Anna Graziano graduated in 2013 from Macalester and works in digital healthcare innovation at Privia Health (Arlington, Va.). Her current focus is building technology-enabled teams that reduce physician burnout and improve patient outcomes. Anna lives in St. Paul and enjoys being active, supporting local classical music, and girls’ nights with her Macalester best friends.

Dale Johnson ’69
President/CEO, Greene Lyon Group, Inc,
Dale is a recovering lawyer and risk taker, driven by the goal of making it economically compelling to be environmentally responsible and bearing the scars of hard-learned business lessons from startup to IPO. Never failed, because never gave up. Subscribe to Mark Twain’s statement: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Masami Kawazato ’00
Program Director, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council
Masami Kawazato is a 1.5 generation third-culture immigrant originally from Japan. She moved to Minnesota to attend Macalester College in St. Paul and upon graduation, chose to make Minnesota her home. Over the last 20 years, Masami has worked with and for arts organizations, artists, creatives, and makers in roles at the Walker Art Center, Schubert Club, FEAST Minneapolis, Soo Visual Arts Center, Hennepin Theatre Trust, and Neighborhood Roots. She is currently Program Director with the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, co-directing two grant programs that fund arts projects in our communities and is also the catering coordinator for Bogart’s Doughnut Company. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband Aaron.

Seth Levine ’94
Managing Director, Foundry Group
Co-founder of Foundry Group, a venture capital firm in Boulder, Colo. Seth works with startups around the country and around the world.

Dave Mao ’97
Customer Engineer at Google
Dave dives headfirst into every swimming pool life throws in front of him. Sometimes, though, he neglects to check how deep the pool is. Or if there is even water in the pool. No matter, the excitement is worth the risk! After all, knocks on the head are life’s best teachers.

Heather Mickman ’96
VP of Platform Engineering + Practices, Optum Tech (UnitedHealth Group)
Heather has been working in tech for 2+ decades across industries and geographies. She is currently VP Platform Engineering at Optum Tech solving really interesting healthcare problems. Heather lives in Minneapolis with her two amazing sons, two cute dachshunds, and one awesome boyfriend!

David Sielaff ’90
Founder at Critical Hit Technologies
David has worked in the tech industry for over 30 years, with companies ranging in size from very small startups to Cray Research and Microsoft. After his startup was acquired by Microsoft, he led teams in Microsoft Research and Windows to modernize software engineering practices. As a software engineer, David’s inventions have been awarded multiple patents. He currently splits his time between consulting with Fortune 100 companies on tech acquisitions, as well as building his own startup. He lives in Seattle with his wife, kids, dog, and way too many computers.

Lee Wallace ’95
Owner/CEO, Peace Coffee
Lee is the owner, CEO and Queen Bean of Peace Coffee, a Minneapolis based company that has been roasting fair trade, organic coffee since 1996. Lee truly thought she was going to be a documentary filmmaker or work at PBS after college, but she found her way into the coffee industry and fell in love. Among other things, Lee loves traveling, hiking, ice hockey, gardening, people with big hearts, her dog Ruby, and her partner Rachel.

Philippa Werner ’09
Prospect Identification Analyst, University of St. Thomas
Philippa graduated from Macalester College with a degree in Economics and Mathematics. While working in financial services, she began a career in fiction writing, which she turned into a small business in 2015. As a freelance ghostwriter, she helped bring memoirs, fiction, video games, and screenplays to life. She has taken a hiatus from ghostwriting to finish a larger individual project, and is now leveraging her analytical talents in fundraising, working in community organizing for reproductive and gender justice, and assisting several friends as they begin a meadery.

Details for the 2019 Macathon

Who: 96 Macalester students making up 20 teams

What: Non-stop from 4:30 p.m., Friday, November 8, ending 8 p.m., Saturday, November 9, 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
Best time to come: Friday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m.
Best time to come: Saturday, Nov. 9, at 4:30 p.m.

Final presentation and Awards ceremony: John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center, 4:30 p.m., Saturday, November 9. Finalists will be announced and make presentations at the event. After their presentation, the winners will be chosen.

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

Learn more about Macalester College at

October 25 2019

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