The Thread Pitch

The Thrival Innovation+Music Festival rocked East Liberty this weekend, a celebration of the youthful entrepreneurial spirit rising up in the region, capped by a fist-pumping, two-day music festival.

For those following the innovation scene in Pittsburgh, it was a week jammed-packed each day with events. Among the highlights, NEXTpittsburgh hosted an evening at AlphaLab Gear, “What’s Next for Tech?” featuring a look at five of the most successful startups in the region and drawing a crowd of 170.

The Allegheny Conference also capitalized on the occasion, bringing in a dozen journalists and bloggers from across the country, Canada and Israel for the “Pittsburgh Tech Crawl,” an extensive four-day tour of the technology scene that culminated in the Thrival Festival.

The Thrival Festival got underway Friday evening with a kickoff at the offices of Google in Bakery Square and an Entrepreneurial Showcase. Several local leaders spoke eloquently on the momentum and energy being generated by the growing community of incubators, accelerators and startups working in the East End.

It’s time for the young people of the region to take their place at the adult’s table and establish their identity, said Ian Rosenberger, CEO of Thread, in an impassioned address to the crowd.

“This is 21st Century Pittsburgh,” said Councilman Dan Gilman waving his arm around him. “Look out the window and you can see from where we’ve come and where were going to go. We have a grassroot effort here that’s going to make Pittsburgh a worldwide leader.”

“The Pitch” competition, held on Saturday morning at AlphaLab Gear, was the central event of the week, sponsored by PNC. Thread International, the social enterprise started by Rosenberger that takes trash from the streets of Haiti and spins it into thread and products like Moop handbags, won the esteemed prize of $25,000.

Thrival is a is a fundraising event organized by East Liberty accelerator Thrill Mill to raise money for workshops, education forms and funding for the winner of the “The Pitch” competition. The extravaganza grew out of the annual Business Bout, which began as a backyard barbecue held annually by Luke Skurman, Thrival board chair and Niche founder, and Bobby Zappala, CEO of Thrill Mill.

Six other startups that competed in “The Pitch” were FutureDerm, a scientifically slanted skin-care company; Conversant Labs, makers of voice-enabled apps for the visually impaired; Lifeschel, an app and product that designed to deter sexual predators; Imagine Careers, a tech-driven platform for talent agencies; Nymbus, which allows musicians to connect with fans through their smartphones; Diamond Kinetics, a platform that analyzes baseball skills and AthleteTrax, a sports scheduling and communications platform.

“Everyone has come together to raise the tide of our economy,” said Zappala.

Regarding lessons learned, Zappala adds: “Thrival this year definitely demonstrated the appetite for a large-scale event celebrating the many achievements around Pittsburgh. We definitely didn’t make a ton of money, but I’m confident we did well and certainly put ourselves in a position to grow next year!”

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared...