Spring Garden entrepreneur wins $100,000 Rise of the Rest competition
Spring Garden Township entrepreneur and Device Events founder Madris Tomes makes her pitch for a $100,000 investment from AOL founder Steve Case during the Rise of the Rest competition in Harrisburg Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Jason Addy
Spring Garden entrepreneur Madris Tomes had just four minutes to convince investors she will transform the medical-device data industry, but she made her time count.
Tomes walked out of the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center with a $100,000 check to jumpstart Device Events, after winning AOL founder Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest competition that saw nine business leaders from southcentral Pennsylvania go head-to-head Tuesday, Oct. 10, for the six-figure investment.
With the oversized prize check in hand, Tomes said she will hit the ground running to scale her business from an operation with one full-time employee — Tomes — into one that can improve patient safety nationwide.
“I am really looking forward to building my team here in York,” Tomes said, noting the money will help Device Events hire more staff and attract major hospital networks as clients.
Tomes describes Device Events as an online tool that allows hospitals, patients and doctors, among others, to identify problems with medical devices months or even years before federal agencies can issue a warning or recall on the device.
When Tomes was asked when the $100,000 will start being put to good use, her answer made it clear the plan she had laid out to Case and the other five judges is ready to go.
“Tomorrow,” she said.
After announcing Tomes as the winner — and after the celebrations that ensued — Case said Tomes’ expertise in medical-device data from her time with the federal Food and Drug Administration, coupled with the need for innovation in health care industries, made Device Events the right investment for him.
“It felt like a differentiated product with an entrepreneur that understood that space well,” Case said.
While some of the other businesses competing in Rise of the Rest required more time to secure additional investments, Case said Tomes seemed ready to use the money immediately.
“She’s been at it for a while, so it’s more about scaling it to the next level” than building from the ground up, Case said.
After taking time to process her six-figure win, Tomes said she also wanted to thank Ben Franklin Technology Partners for investing $125,000 in Device Events over the summer and telling her to apply for the Rise of the Rest competition.
Mission accomplished: The York County Economic Alliance has been one of Tomes’ biggest supporters since she was announced as a finalist for Rise of the Rest.
After Tomes scooped the huge investment, YCEA President and CEO Kevin Schreiber said he was “not surprised in the slightest.”
“York can be proud that our hometown girl won,” Schreiber said.
Though Tomes won the grand prize, Schreiber said central Pennsylvania will benefit long into the future from the Rise of the Rest tour's visit to the region.
Case and the Rise of the Rest competition was the catalyst for York, Lancaster and Harrisburg to begin an "unprecedented" relationship as partners instead of competing against each other.
"Mission accomplished for Madris. Mission accomplished today for central Pennsylvania," Schreiber said after Tomes' win. "I think we put our incredibly best foot forward and knocked it out of the park today."
Schreiber said YCEA and other regional groups will now try to build on the momentum and enthusiasm created by the competition.
Next wave of innovation: York City entrepreneur and robotics guru John McElligott was instrumental in bringing Case and the Rise of the Rest tour to the region, convincing Case and his team to come to the area by showing that York and towns like it can be the epicenter of the next wave of innovation and technology.
The Rise of the Rest tour launched at McElligott's Fortress Academy in York City Tuesday, Oct. 10, before Case and his team traveled to Lancaster and Harrisburg for the pitch competition.
The tour will make stops in Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Green Bay, Wisconsin, over the course of the next week, with Case awarding a $100,000 investment in a company from each city.
York was by far the smallest city on the Rise of the Rest tour, McElligott said, which shows that revolutionizing technology industries from small cities "isn't a pipe dream. This isn't crazy talk."
Given his extensive background in investment and venture capitalism, Case is "uniquely qualified" to find businesses, such as Device Events, that can shake up entire industries, McElligott said.
"He's quite frankly the most influential (venture capitalist) outside Silicon Valley," McElligott said. "You're not going to get somebody who knows how to invest in communities like ours more than him."