ACT Operations Research Chooses Pittsburgh for Growth

PAt Callaghan runs ACT OR's Pittsburgh presence.

Pat Callaghan runs ACT OR’s Pittsburgh presence.

When Italian-based ACT Operations Research (ACT OR) decided to grow its North American footprint, Pittsburgh was a logical choice to set up shop. After all, Pittsburgh is close to many of ACT OR’s partners, research universities, customer base and home to seasoned software business development executive Patrick Callaghan.

He took on the role of building ACT OR’s stateside presence in 2012, and he is ecstatic about the opportunity to be part of a math-based engineering company that provides advanced forecasting, optimization and simulation services.

Callaghan worked closely with ACT OR during his days at Rockwell Software and was always impressed with the company’s capabilities and approach to business.

“It was a natural fit for me,” said Callaghan. “What I like about the company is that we want to be world renown for what we do and we are driven by results.

ACT OR is set up with two distinct business lines. ACT OR’s Optimization & Simulation Division provides proprietary math based modeling  for demand and risk based forecasting, simulation and optimization. Its Process & Control Division upgrades and optimizes plant/facility performance and safety with control systems design and simulation.

Callaghan explained that ACT OR works in a multitude of different industries, including manufacturing, retail, distribution and warehousing. The company is also doing research and development in the financial industry by working with hedge funds to optimize returns.

ACT OR is always looking into new uses of the technology and finding ways to improve it.

“We have strong university ties and constantly do research and development for improvements and new technologies,” Callaghan said. He noted that ACT OR will not add new features to its software until they have been thoroughly researched and proven to help customers.

What makes ACT OR unique in the marketplace, according to Callaghan is its use of neural networks to model complex relationships between inputs and outputs or to find patterns in data. Couple that with its expertise in learning machines and genetic algorithms, and the business really starts to charge away from the competition.

Formed in 1996, ACT OR is a privately held company headquartered in Rome with offices in the UK and USA (Charlotte, N.C. and Pittsburgh)


Risk Discovery Announces New Services and Added Locations

Entrepreneurial  Resource Group (ERG, llc) and Granite Bridge Advisors Inc., announce the formation of a joint venture to launch Risk Discovery Services, JV , with business locations in Boston and Pittsburgh

Enterprise Risk Discovery Services identifies operational risk within a business, pinpoints, prioritizes, documents and proposes tactical strategies for ameliorating those risks before someone else does – or a business failure or disaster occurs.

Risk Discovery is based upon the premise that “Risk and Value are Opposite Sides of the Same Coin.”

These services are partly in response to the recent Dodd-Frank enactment that increases personal liabilities for members of the board and executive team members, and to the fact that risks exist in all quarters of business and need to be uncovered or discovered and controlled or eliminated.

The RISK DISCOVERY staff brings the abilities needed to locate and personify risks, establish priorities that reduce or eradicate risks in a reasonable time frame and document the actions needed to be taken to protect the business, stakeholders, brand and reputation of your business.

The return on this investment can be impressive and Risk Discovery Services issues a third party, independent opinion of business risks.

Get more information at

Reflections from Interim Demo Day at AlphaLab

By Matt Pross, Staff Writer

As part of its Startup Project, TEQ magazine has embedded itself at local startup incubators to gain firsthand experience into the world of tech entrepreneurs working to get companies off of the ground. I attended Interim Demo Day at AlphaLab on March 5 and listened to several investor pitches and subsequent feedback from the crowd, which included AlphaLab alumni, experienced entrepreneurs who have received funding in the past, and executives from Innovation Works, the most active seed stage investor in the country. Here are some thoughts from my experience at Interim Demo Day:

After sitting through Interim Demo Day over at the AlphaLab startup incubator on the South Side, I’m very glad that I haven’t attempted to start a company. Before I was privy to the entrepreneurs’ practice pitches and the subsequent feedback from the mentor-packed audience, I just didn’t know the types of questions investors ask themselves before they pull the trigger on a relatively high-risk venture investment.

After getting about 15 minutes to present their pitch, each entrepreneur fielded questions like:

1) Who is your target customer(s)?

2) What is your exact market focus?

 3) Do you have any customers yet?

The mentors in the crowd really forced the novice entrepreneurs to think how an investor thinks. In hindsight it makes perfect sense: Why would a savvy investor throw money at an idea or an entrepreneur without a proper level of vetting?

Besides the necessary practice each entrepreneur gained from the Interim Demo Day experience, I’m sure that each one took away at least one piece of invaluable advice from the mentors’ feedback. In particular, I remembered one mentor’s comments as being especially eye-opening. He said pretty much the same thing to each entrepreneur that presented: “What pain does your solution solve?” and “Is your product a nice to have or a ‘gotta’ have?” After listening to this feedback, it was quite clear to me the kinds of questions investors ask themselves before pulling out the checkbook. Both of these questions must be easily answered for an idea to be fundable.  That’s reality. Consumers and investors alike will pay for something that solves an important problem. If someone is not willing to pay for a product or service no matter how cool the technology behind it may be, it does not have market value.

With the real Demo Day less than two months away (it’s tentatively slated for either May 14 or 15), I’m sure all of the entrepreneurs in this spring’s AlphaLab class are hard at work honing their value propositions and investor presentations to succinctly answer the tough questions mentioned above. Exercises like Interim Demo Day are a great example of the value that incubator programs like AlphaLab add to Pittsburgh’s burgeoning startup ecosystem. Allowing entrepreneurs to practice and receive feedback before they have to pitch to investors could mean the difference between a successful startup and a nice idea that was never funded. With the national venture capital community paying more and more attention to Pittsburgh’s growing startup scene, having more fundable companies in the marketplace can only help our technology industry and regional economy.

Flippo: Connecting Those Willing to Pay to be Lazy

Flippoo allows users to flipp unwanted tasks to those looking to make extra cash.

Flippoo allows users to flipp unwanted tasks to those looking to make extra cash.

A company created out of laziness? Hell yeah!

That’s how Flippo founder Alec Davis says he got the idea to create an app that allows students to pass off unwanted daily tasks to others looking to make extra cash.

Alec is attending the University of Pittsburgh studying Marketing and French (Oh-la-la!) and has always had a passion for tech startups.

“One day I got home from a long day of classes, and plopped down on my couch only to realize that I had left a binder I needed for homework in my classroom across campus,” he explains.  “I really didn’t want to go back out, so I texted a couple of my friends to see if anybody happened to be in that building walking toward my dorm. None of them were.”

Alec continues, “I got to thinking — colleges are such densely populated places, with people constantly walking the same paths throughout the day — there had to be plenty of students walking from the class building to or past my dorm within the next couple of hours. If only I could get in touch with them, I’d have been happy to pay a few dollars for one of them to bring me my binder on their way. Flippo makes that connection.”

Currently in development, the most difficult part of building Flippo has been literally, building the app, says Alec.

“While some of our founders have decided to learn how to code a little, we all come from non-technical backgrounds, so it has been a challenge finding committed and awesome developers willing to team in exchange for equity,” he says.

Alec sees himself continuing on the entrepreneurial route after college.

“I want to be able to put all of my time into creating something I am passionate about, with other people who are equally inspired,” he says. “I always want to love my work.”

As for next steps, Flippo plans to grow its presence at Pitt. We will focus on what works, and creating an easily replicable formula for market penetration at other campuses all over the country.

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AlphaLab’s PoweredAnalytics and Meaningfy Talk Shop

The TEQ Startup Project is a little more than a month underway. We’ve been hanging out at AlphaLab getting to better know the current crop of entrepreneurs honing their tech ventures toward the culmination of Demo Day in May.

A few weeks into the season, we sat down and talked to PoweredAnalytics’ Collin Otis and Meaningfy’s Andre Lessa about their respective companies and what it means to be part of AlphaLab. We’re excited to capture their thoughts and insights early on. We’re curious how they evolve over the coming months. Stay tuned to Techburgher, TEQ magazine and TechVibe Radio for regular updates.

In the meantime check out a quick podcast with Meaningfy and PoweredAnalytics.