Demo Day Wrap-up

Seven technology-focused startups pitched their business plans to a packed house at the Pittsburgh Opera yesterday at the 10th Demo Day in the last five years of Innovation Works AlphaLab incubator. The event also included a University Preview, where five companies developing technologies at local universities explained their research and pitched their companies to investors as well. Technologies previewed ranged from cloud-based predictive analytics to a power-generating shoe insert to novel cancer detection technology.

Tune into 104.7 FM this Saturday from Noon to 1 pm to hear Audrey Russo and Jonathan Kersting of TechVibe Radio interview all of the companies who presented.

Here is a quick overview of all of the companies that presented:

AlphaLab:

Workshirt - Workshirt uses mobile technology to help people discover, capture and share experiences. Since entering the AlphaLab program in January 2o13, Workshirt has developed two web-based products – Photailor, a demand-driven photography marketplace; and HitchedPic, a photo sharing app specifically for the wedding industry.

PoweredAnalyticsPoweredAnalytics makes it easy for developers and data scientists to use Big Data and predictive analytics to optimize their products and processes. Powered Analytics is a cloud-based platform for automatically creating and operationalizing predictive models in mere minutes.

Woo with StyleWoo With Style is a web app and mobile website that helps style-challenged men know what looks good on them. Woo with Style shows men how to look their best with personalized outfit recommendations from a female perspective.

MeaningfyMeaningfy has built a scalable platform to deliver on-demand market intelligence services to sales and marketing professionals in real time. Meaningfy uses a range of machine learning algorithms to separate relevant information from noise that needs to be filtered out.

SolePowerSolePower is an energy harvesting company bringing a power generating shoe insole to market. The technology captures the energy from walking and converts it into usable electrical power, which is stored in a rechargeable battery attached outside of the shoe via USB connection.

NetBeezNetBeez is a first-of-its-kind network monitoring tool for enterprises that tests and validates a network from the end-user perspective. This unique approach relies on distributed monitoring agents that simulate user interactions with the network and its applications, providing real-time outage detection before users are impacted.

Digital Dream Labs – dreamWare is a platform that bridges that gap between worlds where nostalgic, hands-on learning meets engaging, digital technology. Digital Dream Labs‘ product, children solve simple sequence puzzles in real life that are transmitted wirelessly to a tablet or other electronic device for continued interaction.

University Preview:

LumatorLumator provides intelligent, automated services that optimize how residential electricity consumers buy and use electricity.

SolvvySolvvy uses the wisdom of the Web to intelligently automate troubleshooting.

Institute of Consultative Bioethics – ICB’s EthAssist software delivers a full-fledged, searchable and user-friendly learning CMS that includes current and relevant academic, legal and applied bioethics knowledge.

EuTalk is a mobile app that enables people with communication disabilities (autism, stroke) to communicate.

NanoVision Diagnostics – NVD is commercializing a novel cancer detection technology that conducts an optical analysis which provides earlier and more accurate cancer detection.

Technology and Entrepreneurs

What drives a person to become an entrepreneur is a passion to do something differently. They are not satisfied to do things like they’ve always been done. In the hands of an entrepreneur, technology is often used in unique ways. Many times these ideas leave the rest of us thinking “How did they come up with that?”

Saving Lives with Smartphones

Interview entrepreneurs in Pennsylvania, California, or any other state, and you will hear the same goal — how can we use existing technology to improve people’s lives? Technical pioneers have recognized that a tool to prevent a potentially fatal situation is already in our pockets.

It’s estimated that by the end of 2013, over half of the US population that uses mobile devices will own a smartphone. They are becoming a commodity item that people rely on for communicating, information and now, monitoring their own health.

Azumio, a California based maker of consumer health applications, has developed a smartphone app called Cardio Buddy. The goal of this app is to prevent a heart attack from happening. Using the camera on the smartphone, the app measures the facial coloration of a person. From this information it extrapolates the person’s heart rate and risk of having a cardiac event.

Printing Performance

One of the newest technology innovations is the 3D printer. Since most of us think of printing as words or images on paper, this is an ideal technology for the entrepreneur to employ in ways outside of the norm.

New Balance is a manufacturer of high-performance shoes for athletes. They are now using 3D printing to create an even better product. Using various measuring and data capture methods, they collect information from individuals about their running habits. This data is analyzed and a customized pattern for the bottom of the shoe is created for that individual using a 3D printer. As the process evolves, New Balance hopes to be able to print running shoe soles for anyone. They even see the potential of being able to print an entire shoe someday.

If We Can Print a Shoe, Why Not a House?

Entrepreneurs are not afraid of thinking way outside of the box. They are able to envision concepts that most of us dismiss as completely impractical. That’s why we need entrepreneurs.

Universe Architecture is a Dutch company that will attempt to print a house on a 3D printer. They will use a specially constructed printer that produces 6 x 9 meter hollow sections that will be filled with reinforced concrete. This is exactly the kind of project that entrepreneurs enjoy doing to help redefine how we can use technology.

Entrepreneurs Define Our Technology

We have access to many technologies. Some of it we rely on every day. Entrepreneurs in Pennsylvania and around the world look at how we can use it in innovative ways, often leading to the creation of even better technology.

Closing the Deal: AlphaLab prepares companies for life after Demo Day

By Matt Pross, Staff Writer

You don’t often hear the terms balance sheet, financial model and cash flow statement thrown around in conversations around the proverbial water cooler, but after spending some time at AlphaLab’s Southside offices, it would seem that financial terms like the aforementioned were recently added to popular lexicon. On top of building companies from the ground up in about four months, the entrepreneurs at AlphaLab all take a crash course in finance before pitching to investors at Demo Day in mid May.

To ensure that its portfolio companies understand and are conversant in the necessary particulars to close investment deals, AlphaLab brought in a variety of experts over the last few weeks to answer questions regarding the financial side of building a company as well as gaining investor interest and closing funding deals that will set a company up for future success. Representatives from Birchmere Ventures, Pittsburgh Equity Partners and Cohen & Grigsby P.C. all spent considerable time with the AlphaLab companies answering questions and sharing war stories from previous relevant experiences. These roundtable sessions were eye-opening to say the least and really helped me to understand all of the financial variables that must be understood and planned for to start and grow a successful company.

A consistent theme throughout all of the roundtable sessions was the importance of coachability. Like anyone who invests their time and money in a person, project or company, venture capitalists desire to work with and invest in entrepreneurs that will listen to their advice and avoid costly mistakes that others have made in the past.

“Coachability is very important to us,” Ed Engler, Manager Partner at Pittsburgh Equity Partners (PEP), said. “You can listen to others, take their advice and avoid their mistakes, or you can ignore them and make all of the same mistakes yourself, which happens to be very expensive for your investors.

“On the other side, entrepreneurs need to look for the right investor as well,” he continued. “You want an investor who can provide mentorship, experience and information that you don’t already have. Like any healthy relationship, the relationship between investor and entrepreneur should be give and take. You also want to make sure that your expectations and goals are aligned with your investors.”

Engler and his partner, Steve Robinson, have provided mentorship to every AlphaLab round since it’s founding in 2008. Robinson echoed his partner’s advice regarding finding the right fit in an investor.

“You want to look for value-added investors,” Robinson, Managing Partner at PEP, explained. “People that bring more to the table than just money. Also, you need to make sure you are totally aligned with a VC before you take their money in terms of expectations for the company and the direction it will take.”

Of course, at the incredibly early stage that all of the AlphaLab companies are at currently, the exact direction that each company will eventually take is not set in stone. But, as both Engler and Robinson said, it’s all about being on the same page with investors, being realistic regarding customers and future goals, and most importantly, being honest about every aspect of the business.

“Integrity is the most important thing to us when we are doing our due diligence,” Engler explained. “Just like every other potential investor, we will call every customer that is mentioned in your pitch to check and make sure the information we received is accurate. Never embellish customer numbers when speaking with investors because we will find out!”

TEQ Startup Project: Bruno Works

As part of the TEQ Startup Project (TSP), we’ve been hanging out at AlphaLab getting to know the latest class of tech startups. We’re also making our rounds to check out Pittsburgh’s co-locating spaces. These are the sweet parts in the city where startups are sharing spaces and resources and, hopefully, ideas, too! Here’s a little insight on Bruno Works:

The colocation craze that has swept through Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods has now entered downtown with Eve Picker’s latest real estate venture Bruno Works.

Bruno Works is bike friendly!

Bruno Works is bike friendly!

Located at 945 Liberty Avenue above the ToonSeum, Picker’s Bruno Works has created an affordable option for startups looking to land their first professional digs. She also runs her businesses No Wall Productions and We Do Property from the site.

The well-worn wood floors, brushed steel, warm color palate, pervasive smell of fresh coffee and all around kick-ass vibe of the space appears to be a fitting place for young tech companies to call home. Picker likes to call them “tiny little startups.”

More than a dozen individuals have claimed desk/office space and Picker says there is room for at least 40 to fill the two floors.

Having made a name for herself as an expert in inner city regeneration, specifically downtowns, Picker believes colocation sites like Bruno Works are perfect for creating synergistic connections.

“One of the best things about Bruno Works is the low cost rent, the place is ideal for small businesses and entrepreneurs who are looking for an office space

Bruno Works space gives entrepreneurs a flexible and warm work environment.

Bruno Works space gives entrepreneurs a flexible and warm work environment.

in a prime location, such as Downtown Pittsburgh, who may be operating on a small budget,” said Taylor Durham, CEO of Dark Horizon Studios, a start-up video production company.

“The layout of Bruno Works is incredible because it’s not the traditional cubicle office I think so many of us are used to. There’s an open kitchen area, multiple conference rooms, a lounge area and an open space studio to gather for large projects or meetings. Honestly, I don’t think you’ll find anything like this in the area that presents this cozy, laid back atmosphere in the middle of a fast-paced, bustling business district like Bruno Works, it’s definitely a rarity.”

Amenities at Bruno Works include a make station, mail boxes, high-speed internet, as well as printing, faxing, copying and shredding. For a small upgrade in cost, tenants can even get a permanent window seat. There is also a flex pass option to access the Beauty Shoppe in East Liberty.

Learn more at brunoworkspgh.com

Up next: more goodness from AlphaLab and Revv Oakland is ready to celebrate 1 year housing tech startups…Keep yinz dial tuned right here.

Classing Up AlphaLab

Phil Anderson dropped serious SEO knowledge on the AlphaLab companies.

Phil Anderson dropped serious SEO knowledge on the AlphaLab companies.

AlphaLab is more than just physical space for technology startup companies to launch. It’s not just the plywood offices, desks, meeting spaces and well-stocked kitchen to fuel 18-hour work days.

Perhaps the most important aspect is the knowledge sharing. AlphaLab sets up regular information sessions on business basics that can easily be overlooked in the heat of getting a company off the ground.

This past week, AlphaLab brought in alum Phil Anderson of BudgetSimple to give the fledgling companies a primer on Internet marketing and search engine optimization.

Apple laptops were glowing in a semi-circle complete with pizza, wings and breadsticks as Anderson imparted valuable knowledge on this often-neglected topic that can make a true difference in a startup’s plight.

Digital Dream Labs’ Justin Sabo said these types of courses are truly helpful. He admitted that developing an SEO and Internet marketing strategy has been high on his list, but focusing attention to it has been tough. The hour-long presentation put it back on his radar screen.

Anderson kept the presentation engaging, fun and relevant by actually reviewing some of the AlphaLab companies’ web sites and marketing strategies. Anderson talked candidly about his experiences marketing his Beerby and BudgetSimple apps while providing tips to avoid common Google AdWords strategy mistakes and e-mail marketing insight.

Anderson said he enjoys being able to provide knowledge and help guide the next wave of entrepreneurs.

Yet another installment in the TEQ Startup Project (TSP) where Techburgher and TEQ have been following the current class of AlphaLab companies. We’re also exploring other facets and resources for Pittsburgh’s tech startups. Up next is Bruno Works. Look for more coverage in TEQ magazine and TechVibe Radio.