A wearable baby monitor that lets you check in on your baby anywhere. A video game company that wants to bring paintball to gaming systems. An interactive touch display embedded below the surface of materials such as wood and plastic. And yes, a high-tech chewing gum, designed by a chemical engineer.
These are just a few of the 13 startups coming out of the East Liberty-based AlphaLab (focused on software) and AlphaLab Gear (hardware) accelerator programs. They’ve all got a chance to build something bigger, and pitched their ideas to the public during AlphaLab’s First Look event on Wednesday afternoon.
“AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear are programs of Innovation Works, the region’s main supporter of tech startups — providing investment, know-how, and connections to some of the region’s most exciting tech companies, to help them get their innovations off the ground and growing,” explains AlphaLab Senior Program Manager Aaron Tainter.
Successful companies that have been assisted by AlphaLab include Wombat Security, Bossa Nova Robotics, JazzHR, ALung Technologies, CivicScience, Vivisimo (acquired by IBM), ModCloth (acquired by Walmart) and Nowait (acquired by Yelp).
Trek Gum has already won AlphaLab Gear’s Hardware Cup.
“I hate to tell you this, but the average millennial has actually admitted to going two or more days without brushing,” says Emily Siegel of Trek Gum.
“What we’ve learned is that there are no sustainable and portable oral care products, which is what younger consumers are actually looking for, based on current trends. Luckily for us, we can fill this gap in the market with Trek Gum. So Trek Gum is a biodegradable chewing gum that cleans teeth on the go. And we do this by using all-natural antimicrobials and micro-abrasives to physically remove plaque from people’s teeth while they chew.”
Siegel says she works with “an experienced gum developer, who spent over 18 years at Wrigley in the R&D department. So if you’ve ever chewed 5 Gum or Hubba Bubba, this is who created it.”
There were several hundred companies that applied, notes Leah Simoncelli of AlphaLab Gear. The selected companies “received anywhere from $10,000 grants to $50,000 of investment.” Normally companies also get office space, but this year they ran their programs virtually. All companies they invest in must maintain a significant presence in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Innovation Works has also been building a new program, called AlphaLab Health, in partnership with Allegheny Health Network. It’s a healthcare and life sciences accelerator for early-stage startups. This cohort will kick off in 2021.
Here are this year’s 13 AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear companies:
▪ Ahemet Antidotes: Ahemet Antidotes provides specifically targeted medicine that combats the current antibiotic resistance in today’s world. They are replacing low-grade livestock antibiotics with their organic biologic to reduce antibiotic resistance, while also keeping animals safe and healthy.
▪ Benchtop Bioreactors: Benchtop Bioreactors is building the next generation of devices for screening therapies without the need for animals, providing researchers and biopharma companies with a simple and modular hardware/software platform for conducting, monitoring and automating fluid-based experiments in the cell and tissue engineering space.
▪ CHELA: CHELA Marketplace helps emerging designers that serve niche markets by connecting them to consumers in locations previously inaccessible. With quality, transparency and uniting people through fashion at the core of everything they do, CHELA wants to support creative and independent designers in their effort to reach new markets.
▪ Connect Wolf: Connect Wolf makes a wearable baby monitor and app that gives parents a virtual peek into the nursery to check on their baby when they aren’t together.
▪ Footbridge for Families: Footbridge enables rapid response funding to families facing a financial crisis, filling an immediate gap that other funds can’t. The award-winning startup harnesses partnerships with third-party organizations and frontline professionals to identify families with this need. This unique approach allows them to act as an intermediary to divert families from more expensive outcomes.
▪ GIGO Games: GIGO Games is a game studio focused on developing games and IP to bring the billion-dollar eSports market to a much wider audience. Founded by experienced game designers, GIGO Games has secured licenses from across the industry to bring the team-based extreme sport of paintball to computers and consoles around the world.