Monitor Wins HSA Contest

The founders of LONO Medical Systems, LLC took home the $3,000 first-place prize in the 2005 Harvard Entrepreneurial Contest last Tuesday for their plan to design and market a device to monitor the heartbeat of a human fetus.

The monitor will pick up sound waves from a mother’s abdomen and transmit them to a central processor. The founders said a key advantage of their design is that it will allow for mobility in the emergency room due to its wireless capability.

This technology, as opposed to the Doppler method currently used by hospitals, does not require sending signals directly into a mother’s body.

Nicholas P. Orenstein ’05, the chief technology officer of LONO, said that the professional advice the company received was the most valuable aspect of the contest, which was hosted by the Harvard Student Agencies’ (HSA) Center for Enterprise.

“That’s really been the best part of this contest—the feedback from these professionals,” Orenstein said.

Forty applicants initially entered the competition and 10 finalists were chosen to give PowerPoint presentations of their business models to a panel of three judges. The finalists received free consulting from experienced venture capitalists in the week leading up to the presentations.

LONO, which was named after a Hawaiian god, is the brainchild of Orenstein, Ezra J. Rapoport ’06, David J. Jakus ’06, and James D. Moran ’05.

According to Orenstein and Rapoport, the idea for LONO started well before the HSA contest.

“About a year ago Nick [Orenstein] and I decided to start an acoustic engineering firm,” said Rapoport, the chief engineer of LONO. “Through one of Nick’s connections in Dallas we came across these investors who had a product to monitor fetal heartbearts in utero. They had tried to create this device before, but it had never been successful.”

Orenstein and Rapoport said they are still designing the monitor itself and that they hope to have a working prototype ready by October.

“Ezra and myself are the two engineers and are going to spend the whole summer designing the equipment and testing it with the doctor advisors we have on board,” Orenstein said.

They said they would use the $3,000 cash prize to purchase the electronic equipment necessary to develop the prototype over the summer.

The company was incorporated this past January, and Rapoport already holds a number of patents in the field of Acoustic Signal Processing.

LONO’s founders were presented with the award and their check at a dinner reception at the Bombay Club last Thursday. The runner-up company—”Fete”—was also honored and will receive free consulting services from business professionals.

Fete’s business plan includes providing catering and party-planning services for Harvard students.

One of Fete’s founders, Amara G. Madu ’06, said she hopes to launch the company this summer to plan study breaks for Harvard Summer School students.

“It was really great to get HSA looking at our company. The consulting experience was amazing,” Madu said.

The contest was judged by a panel of three experienced venture capitalists. This year’s contest differed slightly from previous years in that there was not a separate category for non-profit business plans.

—Staff writer Evan M. Vittor can be reached at evittor@fas.harvard.edu.