The team from Conversant Labs.
The team at HiberSense.
The team at HiberSense.

HiberSense: HiberSense, a spinout company from the University of Pittsburgh’s Blast Furnace business accelerator, has developed some promising solutions to make homes and businesses more energy efficient. Founded by Jacob Kring and Brendan Quay, along with Pitt computer science professor Daniel Mosse, the startup developed a climate-control system that uses a network of sensors and smart vents to heat and cool individual rooms. Last fall, HiberSense showcased their product to Congress during University Startups Demo Day, an event sponsored by the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer (NCET2). They also put their system to work as a cohort for PGH Lab, a pilot program created by the City of Pittsburgh to involve the local startup community in the process of improving local government.

IAM Robotics: The Sewickley-based startup IAM Robotics has emerged as one of the first companies to deploy robots for commercial warehouse work. Founder and CEO Tom Galluzzo and his team developed Swift, fully autonomous robots designed to recognize, grip and move units weighing up to 50 pounds. The company claims their creations can freely navigate warehouses and move more than 200 pieces per hour, allowing distribution centers to increase efficiency and lower costs. Last spring, IAM Robotics signed a deal to provide their Swift robots and other products to Rochester Drug Corporation, a leading wholesaler that services more than 1,200 pharmacies and home health care stores in the US.

JetPack Workflow: In 2014, Jetpack Workflow, a startup spun out of AlphaLab, launched their cloud-based client management system designed for small- to medium-sized accounting firms and accounting professionals. Since then, nearly 10,000 people have signed up for the application. Even better, the company ended 2016 by integrating their system with QuickBooks Online, making their services available to even more users.

Marinus Analytics founder Emily Kennedy (center) and her team. Image courtesy of UpPrize.
Marinus Analytics founder Emily Kennedy (center) and her team. Photo courtesy of UpPrize.

Marinus Analytics: In 2014, CMU alum Emily Kennedy founded Marinus Analytics, a company dedicated to fighting sex trafficking with technology. Not long after winning the social innovation challenge UpPrize in 2015, the company received nationwide attention for Traffic Jam, a software product used by numerous law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, to identify sex traffickers and rescue victims. The company will continue to help law enforcement stay ahead of criminals with a project funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

OnlyBoth: Healthcare providers improve their standard of care by using benchmarking, which allows them to measure and compare themselves against peers that excel in certain areas. To help them with this process, OnlyBoth, a startup founded in 2014 by Raul Valdes-Perez and Andre Lessa, created the first automated hospital benchmarking engine. The website uses publicly available data from, as well as published rankings, to see how more than 4,000 US hospitals stack up in areas such as treatment outcomes, patient satisfaction and emergency-room wait times. They then launched a similar tool for nursing homes and recently expanded beyond healthcare with benchmarking tools that break down information on 3,143 US counties, 1,889 colleges and the tax systems of 195 countries.

PacketViper: Another name gaining traction in the area of cyber security is the IT startup PacketViper. Co-founded by Daniel T. Gynn and Francesco Trama, the company claims that their trademark IP Filter software gives businesses a low-cost way to significantly reduce threats and network traffic. Last September, PacketViper sponsored the EDGE2016 Security Conference, an event aimed at providing business executives and organizational leadership with valuable cyber security insights from IT experts in various fields.

Petuum: This CMU spinout company has set out to make artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology more accessible and easier to use. Founder and CEO Eric Xing and his team are currently in the process of building a software platform that could be used for a wide range of applications in a variety of fields ranging from banking to energy. Last November, Petuum secured $15 million in initial venture capital funding, which the small tech company will use to set up new offices in Pittsburgh and double its staff.

Qrono: The South Side-based specialty pharmaceutical company works to develop more effective approaches to chemotherapy treatment. Through a $1.5 million contract with the National Cancer Institute, they’re currently advancing the development of their trademarked Qrono’s QARRUS platform, a system designed to deliver chemotherapy directly to cancerous tumors. The method is believed to offer improved cancer therapy by preventing the treatment from affecting a patient’s entire body.

RoBotany. Image courtesy of UpPrize.
RoBotany. Photo courtesy of UpPrize.

RoBotany: RoBotany has combined advanced technology with indoor vertical farminga method of growing without soilto harvest produce year-round. Based in a climate-controlled Oakland warehouse, co-founders Austin Webb, Austin Lawrence, Brac Webb and Danny Seim use a patent-pending robotics system to grow fresh, local leafy greens and herbs with significantly less water and without the use of toxic pesticides or herbicides. The company plans to expand its production this year by launching a new version of its system and opening a 10,000-square-foot facility.

Sqwad: Fantasy sports fans may soon be rooting for Sqwad, one of the latest companies to come out of the AlphaLab accelerator. As described on its Facebook page, the early-stage startup created an “interactive real-time mobile game” that empowers fans to compete against professional athletes and friends. Unlike other fantasy sports apps, the platform allows users to substitute players live as opposed to sticking with a lineup. The company recently formed a partnership with the NBA to be the WNBA playoffs fantasy game.

Check out the Top tech companies to watch from 2016 and the Top tech companies to watch in 2015.

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.