Demo Day 1

Pittsburghers are the cool kids now.

The sentiment was echoed throughout the day as budding entrepreneurs, investors, CEOs, mentors, and university partners, among others, came together yesterday at Stage AE. They were there not just to view the latest crop of promising startup companies in the area to go through the accelerator programs at AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear, but also to celebrate how far the region has come as a thriving entrepreneurial community.

“Startup communities are taking shape from the Strip District to Lawrenceville, Uptown to East Liberty and even here on the North Side; there are clusters forming and they’re having positive impacts on our community,” said Richard Lunak,president and CEO of Innovation Works, the investment company that backs AlphaLab, in his opening address.

Lunak, whose company will soon be moving to the North Side, also remarked on the progress of the event and how, just a few years ago, it was held at the AlphaLab facility on the South Side with the hope of 100 attendees.

With over 800 people pre-registered for demo day at Stage AE, the many comments comparing the event to a rock show for up-and-coming entrepreneurial stars were fitting.

Chief Executive of Allegheny County Rich Fitzgerald noted Pittsburgh’s ability to continually scale up, mentioning the support in partnerships with local universities and how the city’s livability will continue to draw outside talent and form an even stronger foundation to build upon.

“We’re just so proud of the work that continues to happen here,” he said.

As one of the top accelerators in the country, AlphaLab is certainly a good place to start.

Fourteen companies presented, including six of the seven startups that entered the AlphaLab network in February of this year. The full rundown consisted of AbiliLife, AE Dreams, Bansen Labs, CapSen Robotics, Emplified, EthosIO, Maven Machines, PathVu, Rorus, Seekahoo, StreamMe, Suitable, TravelWits and Trusst Lingerie.

It was hard to judge what was more impressive: the progress many of the companies have already made in a short time span or the diversity of ideas that crossed the stage.

AE Dreams, a company bringing internet connected toys to children (without the screens), presented their first product, Turtle Mail. Turtle Mail prints messages to children that appear to be coming from their favorite toys, “inspiring imaginative playtime.”

Rorus demonstrated how their innovative new personal water filters can be used to save lives and provide timely efforts in natural disaster relief.

Maven Machines gave a glimpse of how truck driving accidents can be prevented and monitored with new wearable technology for drivers that protects drivers from fatigue and distraction.

Whether it was making sidewalks a priority in GPS navigation or turning the bra industry upside down, the Pittsburgh startups that presented were marked by unique and innovative ideas.

And at the rate things are going, that’s not about to change anytime soon.

“Grassroots organizations are sprouting up it seems like every day,” said Lunak. “There seems to be an event an entrepreneur can go to for education, advice and networking almost every night in Pittsburgh and on most nights multiple events. It’s really cool and it wasn’t always that way.”

Ian Mikrut

Ian Mikrut is a writer, proud Pittsburgh native and Grove City grad. When he's not at local concerts or trying in vain to improve his golf game, you might find him at DeLuca's in the Strip.