Pittsburgh Technology Council Releases State of the Industry Report

The Pittsburgh Technology Council (PTC) today released its annual State of the Industry Report providing detailed analyses of technology and advanced manufacturing-related industry clusters and contains an expanded section on venture capital activity in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The SOI report compares three years of data for each of six industry clusters, four years of university data and two years of data on venture capital activity in the region.

The reporting period covers a portion of the recent recession, but it ultimately highlights a region that is poised for future growth. Companies in the fields of advanced manufacturing/materials, environmental technology and energy technology added more than $1.2 billion in annual payroll and expanded employment by 6,500 jobs.

Among other positive indicators, the life sciences, advanced materials and energy groups experienced positive traction across the board in the number of companies, employees and in annual payroll.

The SOI report was released at the opening of the PTC’s Made in PA Expo, which featured more than 70 manufacturing-related businesses that participated in a major job fair, supplier forums and a legislative reception.

“As we host Chevron Ventures, Aquion Energy and TechShop at this year’s Made in PA Expo, the synergies that have been created over the past decades amongst the Pittsburgh region’s technology, advanced manufacturing, energy and environmental clusters are on full display,” said Audrey Russo, President and CEO of the PTC.

“The results of this report clearly demonstrate the magnitude and importance of the technology and manufacturing sectors to the success of our region,” said Petra Mitchell, president and CEO of Catalyst Connection.

The State of the Industry Report notes that early stage companies benefitted from an infusion of nearly $400 million raised through 82 venture rounds from 2011-12.

“We have created a life sciences commercialization and investment ecosystem that is generating enormous support from angel investors and top-tier national venture firms as evidenced by the fact that 35% of all venture capital investment in our region over the past two years has been in life sciences companies,” said John W. Manzetti, President & CEO of the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse.

“The information in this year’s report reinforces the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s commitment to improve PA’s business climate to ensure access to growth capital for entrepreneurs and create a current and future pipeline of highly skilled employees that are the lifeblood of the Pittsburgh region’s innovation economy,” said Russo.

Download the report at http://www.pghtech.org/news-and-publications/state-of-industry-report.aspx.


PTC Reunites FORE Systems Founders


FORE Systems founders and executives recounted the history of the company and provided lessons learned along the way to a crowd of aspiring entrepreneurs.

The Pittsburgh Technology Council took a trip down memory lane with former FORE Systems founders and executives last night. They even provided the crowd with some valuable tech business building lessons learned along the way.

Onat Menzilcioglu, Founder, VP Engineering and President; Francois Bitz, Founder; Eric Cooper, Founder and CEO turned Chairman of the Board; Thomas Gill, President and CEO; and Mike Green, Global VP of Sales all gathered for a panel discussion recounting key milestones along the path of FORE Systems meteoric rise to tech stardom.

Founded in 1990 to supply a US Naval Research Laboratories request for development, FORE initially produced Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) network interface cards for SBus- and TURBOchannel-based computers in addition to ATM adapters for Silicon Graphics computers.

FORE created a memory-based ATM switch that captured a strong portion of the ATM market. Other technologies include Internet Protocol, Gigabit Ethernet and Firewall switching. FORE Systems also supported advanced dynamic routing protocols.

The name FORE was an acronym of the founders’ first names: Francois Bitz, Onat Menzilcioglu, Robert Sansom, and Eric Cooper. It was acquired by London-based GEC in 1999 for $4.5 billion to complement its Marconi Communications business and to increase its presence in North America.

The panel discussed how they navigated their growth in Pittsburgh (including raising capital and building their team), what they learned along the way, and the effects they have had on Pittsburgh’s current entrepreneurial community.

TechVibe Radio recorded an exclusive interview with Eric Cooper after the event. Listen right here.

cellpig’s cellhelmet Protects iPhones Like No Other Product

Mike Kane of cell pig.

For as long as Greensburg native Mike Kane can remember, he always wanted to run his own business.

“My dad always said, ‘You have to get a stable job,’” recounts Kane. “I never wanted a stable job!”

Kane was never about working for the proverbial man and has always been in business for himself. First with a landscaping business, and now with a fast-growing cell phone accessories company – cellpig™ (cellpig.com).

He started cellpig with long-time friend Bryan McHenry and a couple hundred dollars worth of cell phone accessories to sell on eBay.

At first, business was slow and his landscaping venture paid the bills. Then it exploded from selling three to four products a day to hundreds. Now, cellpig is at its next evolution.

“We wanted to go niche and thought that Apple products were the way to go,” exclaims Kane. “What better company coattails to ride than Apple?”

cellpig debuted cellhelmet™ this spring – a unique concept to not only protect your pricey iPhone 4 or 4S from wear and tear with a sleek case, but also provide one year of accidental damage coverage. The product has been making both national and local headlines.

Kane says it eliminates the need for monthly insurance premiums and is good for unlimited repairs and one replacement. Water damage is not covered.

cellhelmet costs as much as other high-end case, like an OtterBox, but includes the unique damage coverage. It can be used on new, used, unlocked and jailbroken phones. cellhelmet is only available to U.S. and Canadian residents.

Staying true to the region, Kane explains that the phone case was designed and is manufactured in western Pennsylvania. “It was exciting to find competitive pricing to manufacture cellhelmet right here,” says Kane.

Kane is excited to get cellhelmet on the market, noting that competitors’ protective cases tend to turn a slender iPhone into an awkward brick.

Moving forward, Kane says cellpig might look at similar products for iPads and iPods. With sales of Apple products going through the proverbial roof, Kane might have accidentally found himself a stable job.



BodyMedia Raises $12 Million


BodyMedia is expanding into mobile health markets.

BodyMedia, Inc., pioneers of wearable body monitors, today announced the completion of a $12 million funding round. The new influx of capital will help the company expand into new mobile health markets, develop new products and applications, and extend its 70-patent IP portfolio. Majority investor in the round is first-time participant Comcast Ventures, joined by previous investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson ePlanet, Draper Triangle Ventures, Ascension Health Ventures and InCube Ventures.

Get more details here.