Ilana Diamond. Photo by Alex Jones.
Ilana Diamond. Photo by Alex Jones.
Ilana Diamond. Photo by Alex Jones.

As Managing Director of AlphaLab GearInnovation Works’ accelerator which provides hardware startups with investment, mentorship and connections—Ilana Diamond helps entrepreneurs make rapid progress through the early stages. Follow the Squirrel Hill resident from the Northside to Larimer—and many stops in between—as she prepares for the largest celebration of tech startups in Pittsburgh.

Monday, April 25

After picking up my morning latte, I’ll head over to Innovation Works’ new headquarters at Nova Place. IW’s Monday meeting is where I catch up with the amazing people who are supporting startups and tech investors around the country. We’ll get updates on 412Build—our free summer program for high school students to design, build and market products of their own creation. We’ll also discuss AlphaLab Gear’s plans for hosting the National Hardware Cup Finals, where the  best early-stage hardware startups from across the U.S. come to Pittsburgh to compete for the  $50,000 Startbot Grand Prize investment.

Packed house at Stage AE for Demo Day, the largest celebration of tech startups in Pittsburgh.
Packed house at Stage AE for Demo Day, the largest celebration of tech startups in Pittsburgh.

In the evening I’ll head over to Oakland for Pitt’s Celebration of Innovation. One of the best parts of my job is getting  to hang out with student entrepreneurs, university staff, AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear folks, and other entrepreneurial friends.

Tuesday, April 26

Tuesday starts with Demo Day Dress Rehearsal at Stage AE. Demo Day is the culmination of our nationally ranked AlphaLab & AlphaLab Gear accelerator programs. Founders will pitch their companies to an audience of  800+ investors and tech enthusiasts, with another 500+ viewers watching online via Livestream.

We’ll spend the morning and early afternoon running through company presentations on stage, checking A/V, finalizing  display tables, and making last minute adjustments. It’s always exciting to see how far our companies have come in just a few months. Many of the company founders only had an idea, or an early stage prototype when they joined us. Today they’ll be showing off  working products, customers and revenues!

I’ll  close the day in Uptown judging the Enterprise Forum’s Pitch Fest. Startup founders from across the region will pitch their companies and get expert feedback from investors and judges. The audience will be full of startup founders and tech innovators, so it’s a friendly crowd. It will be all pitches, all day for me on Tuesday.

The AlphaLab & AlphaLab Gear team meet with Dick Zhang of Identified Technologies;
The AlphaLab & AlphaLab Gear team meet with Dick Zhang of Identified Technologies.

Wednesday, April 27

It’s D-Day. We’ve been counting down to Demo Day for eight months, and today is the day! I’ll get to Stage AE by 7:30 a.m. for last minute instructions and group photos. We’re expecting a big crowd but the Innovation Works teams are Demo Day pros, so it will run like clockwork. IW Communicator in Chief Terri Glueck will keep everything organized back stage, while Rich Lunak kicks things off with an update on entrepreneurship in the region. Jim Jen and I are  up next. It’s our job to  hand it over to the stars of the show: our portfolio companies.

After the pitches, Afshan Khan, will lead a workshop for manufacturers and supply chain partners on “Best Practices for Working with Startups,” based on her 15+ years as CEO of a U.S.-based factory, while upstairs, the AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear companies will meet with interested investors. After it’s over, we’ll  unwind and  celebrate with the companies at Bar Louie.

Thursday, April 28

On Thursday, I’ll swing by Zeke’s drive-thru coffee shop in Larimer, before heading over to weekly office hours at AlphaLab Gear. Program Manager Chris Millard and I will meet with all of our companies for 30 minutes each. That’s six hours of back-to-back meetings! We’ll review progress, make connections, problem solve, and this week, we’ll also debrief on Demo Day and discuss plans for raising the next stage of investment.

Chris Millard, Ilana Diamond & Josh McElhattan discuss companies.
Chris Millard, Ilana Diamond & Josh McElhattan discuss companies.

Thursday afternoon Chris and I will hold open office hours for startups interested in applying to be part of AlphaLab Gear’s next cohort. We’ll answer questions about the program, make connections to mentors, and chat about what life’s like for companies at AlphaLab Gear. Applications are open until May 30, and we’re always interested in meeting with folks that are thinking about how our accelerator could make their company more successful.

Friday, April 29

Friday I’ll start the day with early morning yoga at Schoolhouse Yoga. Then I’ll head over to AlphaLab for applicant interviews. Jim Jen, Aaron Tainter and Jenn Van Dam have been reading applications day and night for weeks, to select the ones we’ll interview today. Since AlphaLab Gear works with physical product companies, it’s a nice change to learn about what’s new in the software world at AlphaLab. If past years are any indication, all the companies will be amazing!

Friday night is family night for me, so I’ll head home and cook dinner with family, rehash the week and argue politics.

Saturday, April 30

Saturday mornings I head over to Club One in East Liberty for a morning dance class. I’ll spend the afternoon running errands and checking in by phone with each of our three kids. You might see me on Forbes Avenue picking up my dry cleaning, with a Starbucks cup in one hand and my cellphone balanced on my shoulder.

Ilana Diamond. Photo by Alex Jones.
Ilana Diamond. Photo by Alex Jones.

Saturday night we have dinner reservations with friends at Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, before heading over to Quantum Theatre’s production of The Master Builder.

Sunday, May 1

Sunday mornings start with an exercise class and then coffee with girlfriends. If the weather’s nice my husband and I will take an afternoon walk in Frick Park with our dog Wiley, and stop by Rita’s for a lemon ice (Wiley prefers the vanilla custard).

I’ll spend the evening catching up on emails to be ready for next week. I need to prepare for Monday, when I’ll rise, rinse, and repeat!

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.