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The AlphaLab Startup Accelerator Program

on Tue, 02/26/2013 - 10:35

In mid-February, the National Venture Capital Association released its 2013 list of the best fifteen cities for tech startups. While Silicon Valley was the obvious frontrunner, with San Francisco coming in first and San Jose finishing second, Pittsburgh managed to rank thirteenth on the register. “Combine a great university like Carnegie Mellon and a state that is working to attract entrepreneurs and startups with legislation like the Ben Franklin Partnership and other state programs, and you come to Pittsburgh,” NVCA president Mark Heesen told about the selection. “Pennsylvania has been encouraging this type of high-tech entrepreneurial business for more than thirty years.”

Although AlphaLab has only been in existence since 2008, it has also played a significant role in the local startup scene. Twice a year, the South Side organization conducts an intensive twenty-week “accelerator program” for up to six companies, offering funding, mentorship and office space in the process. Weekly educational sessions are likewise held with both local venture capitalists as well as executives from the growing list of successful startups in the region, all geared towards helping with the development of new products and services. Free legal advice, meanwhile, is provided by law firm Cohen and Grigsby. AlphaLab is part of Innovation Works, the largest and most active seed-stage investor in the region, and the AlphaLab “startup accelerator program” includes a $25,000 grant from Innovation Works in exchange for a five percent stake in each company.

AlphaLab has assisted in the launch of numerous Pittsburgh startups through the years, including Workshirt—whose HitchedPic app allows guests to add personal touches to wedding photos—and job recruitment company The Resumator. The list of projects that have been nurtured through AlphaLab is equally impressive, as well as diverse, ranging from fashion software designed to teach men how to dress (Engineered Style), to a new manufacturing procedure for gluten-free beer (Aurochs Brewing Company), to a social platform designed to streamline the college admissions process (CollegeZen). With the year 2013 now in full swing, AlphaLab is once again accepting applications for its next installment of the accelerator program. The deadline for applying is April 8th, and a free information session for perspective startups is scheduled for March 6, 2013, at the AlphaLab offices on the South Side.

Carnegie Mellon University is one of the leading technological and scientific research universities in the country, and the fact that many of its graduates have launched successful businesses no doubt played a major role in Pittsburgh ranking thirteenth on the National Venture Capital Associations list of best cities in the United States. AlphaLab, however, has also served a significant role in the early development of local startups, assisting budding entrepreneurs with a wide range of ideas to likewise achieve success—not only adding to Pittsburgh’s growing reputation within the field but enhancing it as well.

Anthony Letizia (February 26, 2013)

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