UpPrize finals event. Photo by Erika Gidley.

The Pittsburgh-based UpPrize Social Innovation Competition has announced its finalists for 2018. The competition — organized by The Forbes Funds, a supporting organization of The Pittsburgh Foundation, in collaboration with the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania — provides financial support to start-ups and nonprofits looking to apply cutting-edge technology to critical community needs.

UpPrize has awarded more than $2 million to local start-ups and entrepreneurs since beginning in 2015. This year’s list of finalists ranges from training tools for entrepreneurs to services that connect underserved populations with the wider world.

C.C. Busy is a voice-activated platform to assist child care professionals.

Virtual Senior Academy specializes in interactive games and virtual support networks for the elderly.

Autonomous from Hera Global Tech is a safety system made by and for women that monitors the user’s heart rate and other health data and reaches out if the user appears to be at risk.

Sign-Track uses facial recognition software to translate expressions for the benefit of the blind.

TalkMeUp is an artificially intelligent chatbot that helps train users on interviewing, pitching and other communication skills.

“Through this competition, we’re able to make the connection between innovation, ideas that ignite change, and make our region a better place for all,” says Kenya Boswell, president of the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Each finalist will receive a $10,000 grant and the opportunity to compete for an additional $300,000 this October. Previous finalists include 412 Food Rescue in 2017, and the Lawrenceville-based Conversant Labs in 2015.

In a press release announcing the finalists, Kate Dewey, senior advisor to UpPrize, said this about Pittsburgh: “We have a significant competitive advantage in this space because of our can-do culture, accelerators, universities, philanthropies, start-ups, innovators, corporate citizens such as BNY Mellon, and a robust nonprofit sector that employs 10 percent of the workforce.”

The final winner will be announced at a ceremony at the Carnegie Science Center on October 11. 

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.