2018 UpPrize winners celebrating on Oct. 11, 2018. Photo by NEXT staff.

The Pittsburgh-based UpPrize Social Innovation Competition announced its winners for 2018 tonight at the Carnegie Science Center.

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 makers of training tools for entrepreneurs to creators of services that connect underserved populations with the wider world.

In first place, winning $150,000, is TalkMeUp, an artificially intelligent chatbot that helps train users on interviewing, pitching and other communication skills.

The winner of the $100,000 second prize is C.C. Busy, a voice-activated platform made to assist childcare professionals.

Third prize winner of $50,000 is Sign-Track, which uses facial recognition software to translate expressions for the benefit of the blind.

The $10,000 audience favorite was Virtual Senior Academy, which specializes in interactive courses and virtual support networks for the elderly.

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.

At the awards ceremony, former Forbes Funds president Kate Dewey said the variety and vision of the projects spoke to the unique character of the Pittsburgh nonprofit community.

“There is no other place in the United States that has centered on community innovation like Pittsburgh has,” she said.

Dewey went on to say that our city may one day be able to adopt a slightly modified version of the famous Trenton motto: “Pittsburgh makes. The world benefits.”

Bill O'Toole

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