ImaginePittsburgh.com

On the heels of Zagat’s proclamation in December that Pittsburgh is America’s No. 1 food city, The New York Times recently weighed in:

“Everybody seems so young. And everybody’s talking about restaurants. If there are scholars who hope to study how a vibrant food culture can help radically transform an American city, the time to do that is right now, in real time, in the place that gave us Heinz ketchup.”

The full essay by Jeff Gordinier, “Pittsburgh’s Youth-Driven Food Boom,” is below and here (along with a photo slide show from Pittsburgh-based photographer Jeff Swensen).

PITTSBURGH — It hits you as soon as you get to town.

There’s the purple-haired free spirit at the Ace Hotel who gives you the lowdown on outlaw poetry gatherings and killer pizza. There are the art kids offering tips at the Andy Warhol Museum, and the tyro entrepreneurs strategizing over cocktails at the Tender Bar & Kitchen in Lawrenceville, the neighborhood along the Allegheny River that is shifting from a desolate zone where your laptop might get stolen to the place where butcher paper in the windows signifies a bumper crop of new restaurants. There’s the 25-year-old Uber driver who shoots you a crucial heads-up: “The best bartender in the world is working tonight.”

Everybody seems so young. And everybody’s talking about restaurants. If there are scholars who hope to study how a vibrant food culture can help radically transform an American city, the time to do that is right now, in real time, in the place that gave us Heinz ketchup.

In December, Zagat named Pittsburgh the No. 1 food city in America. Vogue just went live with a piece that proclaimed, “Pittsburgh is not just a happening place to visit — increasingly, people, especially New Yorkers, are toying with the idea of moving here.”

Kelly Sawdon, an executive with the Ace chain, said the company spent years trying to raise money to convert a torn-and-frayed Y.M.C.A. into a hip hotel because the “energy” of the city suggested a blossoming marketplace. Food, she said, has been the catalyst.

For decades, Pittsburgh was hardly seen as a beacon of innovative cuisine or a magnet for the young. It was the once-glorious metropolis that young people fled from after the shuttering of the steel mills in the early 1980s led to a mass exodus and a stark decline.

“We had to reinvent ourselves,” said Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh’s mayor.

And they have. Over the last decade or so, the city has been the beneficiary of several overlapping booms. Cheap rent and a voracious appetite for culture have attracted artists. Cheap rent and Carnegie Mellon University have attracted companies like Google, Facebook and Uber, seeking to tap local tech talent. And cheap rent alone has inspired chefs to pursue deeply personal projects that might have a hard time surviving in the Darwinian real estate microclimates of New York and San Francisco.

No one can pinpoint whether it was the artists or techies or chefs who got the revitalization rolling. But there’s no denying that restaurants play a starring role in the story Pittsburgh now tells about itself. The allure of inhabiting a Hot New Food Town — be it Nashville or Richmond, Va., or Portland (Oregon or Maine) — helps persuade young people to visit, to move in and to stay.

Recent census data shows that Allegheny County’s millennial population is on the rise. People ages 25 to 29 now make up 7.6 percent of all residents, up from 7 percent about a decade ago; the 30-to-34 age group now comprises 6.5 percent, up from 6 percent.

Years ago, local boosters proposed a tongue-in-cheek advertising campaign starring a mascot called Border Guard Bob, who would dissuade young people from abandoning the city’s Rust Belt remains. “That has changed dramatically,” said Craig Davis, the chief executive of Visit Pittsburgh. He said the median age in Pittsburgh is 32.8, well below the national figure, 37.7.

That’s good news for tourism; 2,800 hotel rooms have been added in Pittsburgh since 2011. “We’re really using the food scene as a driver of that,” Mr. Davis said. “There’s a reason to come to the city.”

It is also good news for business and culture leaders who seek out young employees and customers. When job candidates arrive, the new wave of restaurants is brandished as a selling point.

“The food scene in Pittsburgh is actually responsible for our landing some best-in-the-world types of people,” said Andrew Moore, the dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon and a founder of Google’s first office in the city.

Google’s presence has since expanded considerably — and almost in sync with the restaurant surge. Pittsburgh’s mayor said the food boom had played a pivotal role in restoring neighborhoods, evidence of an “entrepreneurial attitude throughout the city.”

“Ten years ago, you had some visionaries, some young people who had a dream of owning their own restaurants,” Mr. Peduto said. “They took a risk — they really did believe the place had this amazing potential.”

One of those pioneers was Domenic Branduzzi, who opened a spot calledPiccolo Forno in the Lawrenceville area 11 years ago as a way to showcase the specialties that his family had brought to western Pennsylvania from Tuscany.

“I’m an O.G.’’ — an original gangsta — “in the neighborhood,” Mr. Branduzzi said on a recent afternoon as customers filled the cocktail bar atGrapperia, a second Lawrenceville spot of his, which was celebrating its first anniversary. “If I ever want to be transported to my grandmother’s kitchen when I was a kid, I taste one bite of the lasagna.”

In the early days of Piccolo Forno, Mr. Branduzzi was warned that Pittsburghers weren’t likely to take a chance on old-school items like rabbit or wild boar. “People thought it was crazy and that it would never sell,” he said. “And now I can’t take rabbit off the menu.”

Being shielded from crushing rent increases allows Pittsburgh chefs to take risks and cook the way they want to cook without constantly fretting about going under.

“Pittsburgh is the land of opportunity for chefs,” said Justin Severino, another Lawrenceville pioneer whose Cure, which he opened on a dingy stretch of Butler Street in 2010, has won national accolades. He’s got a second baby in Lawrenceville now, too — a brand-new Basque-style pintxos restaurant called Morcilla.

A veteran of the acclaimed Manresa, in Northern California, Mr. Severino, now 38, fled the Bay Area when he realized that he couldn’t even afford a beer and a sandwich with friends, let alone a vacation or a house. In Pittsburgh he saw the capacity for ownership, and change. “While the rest of the country was floundering, Pittsburgh stood on the gas and reinvented itself as a city,” he said.

This is not to say that creating Cure was easy. Lawrenceville still has its fair share of graffiti and abandoned storefronts, but “you should’ve seen that neighborhood five years ago,” Mr. Severino said. “I got to know the prostitutes who worked the corner. I got to know the drug dealers who hated my guts.” He was always calling the police; thieves broke into Cure repeatedly.

Through it all, he stuck to his philosophy: “I’m just going to do what I want to do without regard for what people say they want.”

Early adopters like Mr. Severino, Mr. Branduzzi, Sonja Finn of Dinette,Kate Romane of e2, and Richard DeShantz of Meat & Potatoes proved that chef-driven cuisine could flourish alongside steel-town fixtures likeTessaro’s and Primanti Brothers. The next generation is grabbing that message and running with it.

At Whitfield, the new restaurant inside the Ace Hotel, Brent Young, a native son who had helped build the Meat Hook butcher shop in Brooklyn, lobbied passionately for a job conceiving the whole-animal-fixated menu, and brought in the locally grown chef Bethany Zozula and the pastry chef Casey Shively to run the kitchen. Whitfield opened in December; reaction was quick and unexpected. “On New Year’s Eve, we had a line around the building,” Ms. Zozula said.

In the Strip District, the marketplace zone that Mayor Peduto referred to as “the heart of western Pennsylvania’s food culture,” Ben Mantica and Tyler Benson, two 20-something entrepreneurs who met in the Navy, are bringing the model of a tech incubator to the food world. Their Smallman Galley consists of four kiosks in which different chefs showcase their cooking for 18 months. The chefs pay no rent; the hope is that they’ll build a following and create their own restaurants.

Mr. Mantica and Mr. Benson see Smallman as a way to cater to the tastes of the young employees of Apple, Uber and Google who are starting to occupy new apartments in the area. “We’ve seen this huge demographic shift in Pittsburgh, and now it’s a matter of, ‘What do those people want?’” Mr. Benson said.

To the northeast of Smallman Galley, in Lawrenceville, the chef Csilla Thackray and the restaurateur Joey Hilty, both in their 20s, are trying to carve out their own slice of the marketplace with the Vandal, a casual restaurant that’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Mr. Hilty grew up near Pittsburgh, and said he had plans to leave for New York or Oregon after college, but “I had too much debt. So I slowly figured out what my contribution would be to the city.” He is glad he stayed. Lawrenceville, he said, is “very youthful and it’s full of unbridled enthusiasm for this stuff.”

But there is ambivalence as well. Young restaurateurs know how gentrification works; they’ve witnessed it in Brooklyn and San Francisco. Rents rise. People get squeezed out. “We all see where it’s going to be in five years,” Mr. Hilty said. “The barrier to entry’s going to be so high.”

Ms. Thackray added, “It’s really cool — and then the bubble bursts.”

Like winning the lottery, being crowned a Hot New Food Town can complicate things. Despite his trailblazing, Mr. Severino has noticed how Lawrenceville’s newer inhabitants view him as something of a square. “Most of those hipsters hate me,” he said with a laugh. “They’ll go out of their way to tell me what a yuppie I am.”

Some of the more thoughtful leaders of Pittsburgh’s cultural youthquake find themselves vexed — worrying that the city they wanted to live in could turn, over time, into its glossy and expensive opposite, a place that evicts older residents and prices out younger ones.

“Look, I like good coffee, I like good bread, I like good food,” said Adam Shuck, 29, who writes an e-newsletter called “Eat That, Read This” and is developing The Glassblock, a web magazine about the city. “I’m torn. I love this stuff, and I’m not going to say I don’t. I welcome and applaud this changing Pittsburgh.”

On the other hand, “there’s also a part of Pittsburgh that has been left out of this excitement,” Mr. Shuck said in an email. “Poverty, food deserts and lack of opportunity and access in historically marginalized communities are big problems in Pittsburgh, and all of the praise and celebration can ring a bit hollow when you consider these realities. Nitro coffee and slow bread are not at the top of your list when you can’t even get to a grocery store.”

The present is exciting in Pittsburgh. The future? That depends.

“We just have to stay vigilant in how Pittsburgh’s redevelopment takes place,” Mr. Shuck said, “fostering the conversation and pressuring government and private capital to work together to do it right.”

If You Go …

Ace Hotel 120 South Whitfield Street; 412-361-3300; acehotel.com/pittsburgh.

Cure 5336 Butler Street; 412-252-2595; curepittsburgh.com.

Dinette 5996 Centre Avenue; 412-362-0202; dinette-pgh.com.

e2 5904 Bryant Street; 412-441-1200; e2pgh.com.

Grapperia 3801 Butler Street; 412-904-3907; grapperiapgh.com.

Meat & Potatoes 649 Penn Avenue; 412-325-7007; meatandpotatoespgh.com.

Morcilla 3519 Butler Street; 412-652-9924; morcillapittsburgh.com.

Piccolo Forno 3801 Butler Street; 412-622-0111; piccolo-forno.com.

Primanti Brothers 1832 East Carson Street; 412-325-2455; primantibros.com.

Smallman Galley 54 21st Street; 412-315-5950; smallmangalley.org.COMMENTS

Tender Bar & Kitchen 4300 Butler Street; 412-402-9522; tenderpgh.com.

Tessaro’s 4601 Liberty Avenue; 412-682-6809; tessaros.com.

The Vandal 4306 Butler Street; 412-251-0465; thevandalpgh.com.

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Pittsburgh has jobs: more than 20,000 across 10 counties. Tap into ImaginePittsburgh.com to explore southwestern PA’s trending careers and industries.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.

 

Bonnie Pfister

Whether it’s because of — or in spite of! — the presence of family, to enjoy four seasons amid distinctive topography, or to advance a career, Pittsburgh is increasingly a place that people come back to.

And why not?

PensStanleyCupmemeThere’s plenty going on in the Pittsburgh region to keep you busy and happy in terms of career and fun. We’re affordable enough that you won’t be a slave to your rent or mortgage. Got an idea for a new product or service? Our entrepreneurial ecosystem — including such incubators and supporters as  AlphaLab, AlphaLab Gear, TechShop, the Three Rivers Venture Fair and the SBDC (at Duquesne University, but open to all) – is notable for its camaraderie. As AlphaLab alum and Jazz Founder Don Charlton puts it, “if you can get a bit of momentum, you’ll have an entire city trying to help you.” The annual Thrival Innovation + Music Festival has grown into a not-to-miss event. And our restaurant scene is awesome.

Cool jobs. Hot industries. Longstanding employers doing cutting-edge R&D in healthcare and with materials and metals that will make airplanes and autos faster and more fuel-efficient.

With more than 20,000 jobs open today across southwestern PA, surely there’s one — or many — that would be winners for you. Come on; the if the Pens could bring the Stanley Cup back to Pittsburgh, isn’t it time for you to come back, too?

Find your new job at ImaginePittsburgh.com.

 

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh / Written by Leah Lizarondo

According to CNBC, almost 13 percent of the U.S. working-age population was in the process of starting or running a new business last year — a 67-percent jump from 2010. Forbes notes that “an increasingly diverse cross-section of individuals is leaving large organizations and pursuing the creation of their own businesses.”

This year, you may be one of the new crop of individuals looking to make your mark. If so, you’re in luck—Pittsburgh has a rising number of coworking spaces and shared resources that will help you launch your new venture with less risk and a growing community of like-minded individuals that will provide inspiration and support. These facilities offer month-to-month leases and turnkey amenities that allow you to plug-and-play from Day 1.

Entrepreneurs and freelancers of all kinds—from coders to cooks—have access to a wide range of options all over the city. To start you off, here is our comprehensive guide to Pittsburgh’s coworking spaces.

FLEXIBLE OFFICE SPACE

The Beauty Shoppe in East Libery- Photo by Rob Larson
The Beauty Shoppe in East Libery- Photo by Rob Larson

 The Beauty Shoppe

Where: East Liberty

6101 Penn Ave.,  Pittsburgh, PA 15206

How much: Starts at  $50/month for students for  flexible membership and  $100 for non-students.  Private offices start at $350.

Why: The Beauty Shoppe’s  tagline “Work Beautifully” says it all. Founders Rabih Helou and Matt Ciccone are obsessed with the way people work, and it shows in the thoughtful design.

 

Cube Creative Space

Where: East Liberty

5877 Commerce St., Pittsburgh, PA 15206

How much: Private offices start at $350/month.

Why: Cube in East Liberty offers affordable, short-term lease office space for companies that have outgrown the shared spaces. With communal kitchens, lounges and amenities, Cube offers the best of communal and private office spaces.

The X Factory

Where: Point Breeze

6901 Lynn Way, Pittsburgh, PA 15208

How much: Pricing is flexible. Contact Howard Eisner at 412-855-3353 or howardeisner [at] gmail [dot] com.

Why: At five stories and 250,000 sq. ft. it is one of the largest shared spaces in the city.

Revv Oakland

Where: Oakland

3710 Forbes Ave. Pittsburgh, PA, 15213

How much: Desks start at $150/month.  Private offices start at $500/month.

Why: In the heart of the neighborhood with Pittsburgh’s top universities, Revv Oakland boasts a distinctive lineup of startups, including Uber, NoWait and StitchFix.

Catapult

Where: Lawrenceville

4327 Butler St, 2nd Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15201

How much: Catapult starts with$10 day passes and flexible desks at $50/month. Offices start at $250.

Why: Located in Lawrenceville, the coworking space offers not only desks but regular networking events through its Meetup group and an open device lab where developers can test their work on multiple devices.

StartUptown

Where: Uptown

1936 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15219

How much: Rates start at $150/month.

Why: StartUptown launched before “coworking” was a thing—the space is bright and cozy and houses companies ranging from design to bio-engineering startups. Mentorship is available for companies who are interested. The space is located in the Keystone Innovation Zone, which makes companies eligible for a number of benefits, including tax credits.

StartUptown @PFEX

Where: Uptown

1727 Blvd of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

How much: Rates start at $150/month.

Why: The beautifully redesigned old building goes back to its roots with a movie-themed aesthetic. There are offices on two floors and conference rooms for small to large meetings.

BrunoWorks
BrunoWorks

BrunoWorks

Where: Downtown

945 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15219

How much: Rates start at $50/month for students to $250 for full membership.

Why: Right in the heart of downtown, real estate innovator Eve Picker’s coworking space was born out of the desire to optimize excess space. The product is a beautiful, lofty workspace with amenities that include office and art supplies plus photo backdrops and light kits.

21st Street Coffee

Where: The Strip District

2002 Smallman St. Pittsburgh PA 15219

How much: Desks can be used daily for $10, weekly for $30 and $100 per month.

Why: Everyone’s coworking entry point has been coffee shops. 21st Coffee has formalized that by devoting a section in the loft space of the café where coworkers get the basic amenities plus a 20% discount at the coffee shop.

Work Hard PGH

Where: Allentown

744 E. Warrington Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15210

How much: Memberships start at $45/month.

Why: Work Hard PGH is a coworking space that fosters deliberate collaboration—members are welcome to mine the expertise of its community of digital and freelance professionals. Work Hard PGH offers desk space and basic amenities as well as production facilities such as a green screen room, podcasting and VO booths.

PGH Green Innovators CoWorkshop

Where: Lower Hill District

Energy Innovation Center (EIC), 1435 Bedford Ave., Suite 140, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

How much: Furnished desk space rates range from $300 to $425/month.  Email tbartnik@pghgreeninnovators.org for more information.

Why: PGH Green Innovators welcomes individuals and non-profits working on green economic development. Located in the Energy Innovation Center, PGI is part of the Keystone Innovation Zone, which makes companies eligible for a number of benefits, including tax credits.

Alloy 26

Where: North Side

100 South Commons, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

How much: Membership starts at $99/month

Why: Alloy 26, the largest space of its kind in Western Pennsylvania with 50,000 square feet of flexible workspace, is opening its permanent location in April. Part of the massive urban renewal project Nova Place, Alloy 26 occupants will find themselves in an emerging technology space only minutes from downtown.

Whetstone Workgroup

Where: Sharpsburg

2310 Main St., Pittsburgh, PA 15215

How much: Access to space starts at $125/month

Why: The newly opened Whetstone Workgroup marries coworking for freelancers with on-site childcare for entrepreneurs with kids. In addition to office space, Whetstone offers workshops, software access and special events tailored to freelancers. Located in the same building as La Dorita (see below).

Soon to come:

Think Tank Pittsburgh

Think Tank’s website indicates that they are currently looking for space in the downtown area.

Maker Places

TechShop

Where: East Liberty

192 Bakery Square Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

How much: Membership starts at $95/month for students and $125 for individuals.

Why: TechShop is a workshop and prototyping studio that provides access to an impressive array of tools and maker technologies. The 16,000 square-foot Bakery Square location is equipped with world-class tools and equipment including computers with design software. TechShop also hosts classes and networking events for makers, creatives and innovators.

Hack Pittsburgh

Where: Uptown

1936 5th Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15219

How much: Membership dues are $30/month plus three hours of volunteer work.

Why: Hack Pittsburgh is as much a community as a coworking space. Members get 24/7 access to the shop, all tools and resources. Additionally, Hack Pittsburgh hosts classes, workshops, Meetups and field trips to Maker events.

Open Floor

Where: Millvale

2 Sedgwick Street Millvale, PA 15209

How much: Spaces are $250/month.

Why: Open Floor is exactly what it says. Housed in an old ammunition factory, makers have access to space for work. Tenants supply their own equipment, and Open Floor provides utilities. There are currently about 15 makers whose projects range from metalwork to cut & sew manufacturing.

Shared Kitchens

The Pittsburgh Public Market- Photo by Brian Cohen
The Pittsburgh Public Market- Photo by Brian Cohen

 The Market Kitchen at  Pittsburgh Public Market

Where: The Strip District

2401 Penn Avenue,  Pittsburgh, PA 15222

How much: Members pay a  $100 annual membership fee  along with an hourly rental  fee of $17.50. Cold and dry  storage are also available for  rent.

Why: The Market Kitchen is the largest, state-of-the-art, fully licensed, multi-station kitchen facility in the city. Members have 24/7 access to equipment that ranges from a 40-quart mixer to a 60-gallon kettle, combi ovens, reach-in refrigerators and mentoring services.

La Dorita

Where: Sharpsburg

2312 Main Street, Sharpsburg, PA 15215

How much: Members pay a $200 security deposit, a monthly membership fee of $20 and a tiered hourly rental rate that starts at $15.

Why: La Dorita has a licensed and fully equipped commercial kitchen designed for caterers and small businesses. Equipment includes a Southbend six-burner range with standard oven, full-size imperial convection oven and a single door refrigerator & freezer.

Soon to come:

The Grange in Millvale

Where: Millvale

524 Grant Ave., Millvale, PA 15209

How much: TBD

Why: Millvale is creating a “restaurant cluster, local production and specialty processing” facility for food entrepreneurs. When fully operational, The Grange will house a fresh food market and shared office space for agricultural-based DIY businesses.

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Wondering about your career future? Check out  ImaginePittsburgh.com to explore southwestern PA’s trending careers, industries and the more than 20,000 jobs open now on our custom-built aggregator, updated nightly.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.

Bonnie Pfister

Every week it seems another national publication deems Pittsburgh to be the “next” Brooklyn, Portland, San Francisco, etc. It’s flattering, although we don’t happen to think we need to be the next anything. The attention just underscores what we already knew: good things are percolating here. Cool jobs. Hot industries. Longstanding employers doing cutting-edge R&D in healthcare and with materials and metals that will make airplanes and autos faster and more fuel-efficent.

The point is, isn’t it time you came home and became a part of it all? Um, yes. Because jobs.

There are more than 20,000 jobs open today across southwestern PA. You can explore them all at one place: ImaginePittsburgh.com. That’s the region’s digital hub for information about hot careers, industries and employers. Our custom-built aggregator pulls listings from such sites as LinkedIn, Career Builder, Monster and quite literally a thousand others – so you don’t have to. Here are just a few of nifty places now hiring on our site:

For talented techies, creatives and professionals, Pittsburgh has jobs at the local offices of Google and Apple. It’s home to the headquarters of fashion retailers ModCloth and American Eagle.

Technology meets design meets user experience at home-grown hotties like art/tech/design/ad studio Deeplocal, award-winning translation app developer Duolingo, event-ticketing pioneer ShowClix and robotic stroller-maker to the stars 4Moms.

Wonksters thrive at global talent management consultancy DDI (Development Dimensions International), change-management company TiER1The Rand Corp. and offices of the major global management consultancies.

And these are just a few of what’s on offer. There are jobs for communicators at finance companies, for accountants at design firms, and for SAP specialists and other IT-focused positions virtually everywhere. Us, we’re partial to our Featured Employers, companies large and small who seriously care about building a talented workforce that will keeps Pittsbugh on this postive trajectory.

Click on ImaginePittsburgh.com, add us to your favorite read-it-later app and check us out early and often. We want you back!

 

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh / Written by Kym Lyons

The new batch of companies in East Liberty-based accelerator AlphaLab includes a virtual travel agent, a company that aims to improve online product recommendations, and a platform to connect nonprofits with sponsors for their major events.

Founded in 2008, AlphaLab helps to launch innovative technology companies through 20-week programs that offer funding, guidance and office space. Its successful start-ups include NoWait, ShoeFitr and Jazz (formerly The Resumator, founded by ImaginePittsburgh.com Neighbor Don Charleton.)

The startups of AlphaLab’s 15th cycle are at different phases of readiness but all have at least some experience to speak of, says executive director Jim Jen (who is also an ImaginePittsburgh.com Neighbor). Most have done some form of customer validation, and some have products and revenue already.

“This group of companies is well-aligned to the trends in the industries they’re tackling,” he adds.

It was a highly competitive process to whittle down the field of companies—their largest ever—and drew from a national applicant pool. Three of the seven companies are from out of state.

They’ll spend the next several months availing themselves of all the resources, networking and training the incubator has to offer.

ViaHero
CEO Greg Buzulencia has a modest goal for his startup. “We just want to revolutionize the travel agent space,” he says with a chuckle, “like Airbnb did for the hotel industry.”

ViaHero curates customized travel recommendations from experts who have either traveled extensively to your destination or are locals. It flips the revenue model on its head, by compensating the person providing the guide information, Buzulencia says, rather than the hotel or airline trying to sell the most lucrative trip. For instance, an expert on Barcelona might advise visitors to order Cava instead of Sangria and avoid certain touristy areas in favor of more authentic local hangouts.

He’s only got five experts signed up so far, but Buzulencia is focused first on making the experts’ recommendations robust in one location, and will scale the platform from there. His dream location to get expert travel guides: Cuba, which is a newly-available travel destination for some (but not all) Americans.

“There’s so much pent-up demand, and there are so few people who have traveled there,” he says. “It’s the kind of place a lot of adventurous people are going to want to go.”

Endorsevent

Planning a fundraiser on a shoestring budget? Endorsevent will help connect you with brands to help sponsor part of your event. The goal is to connect small organizations and nonprofits with small and medium companies who are looking for branding opportunities.

“Let’s say you’re a pizza shop and you want to promote your company,” says Endorsevent CEO Amber Stradford. The pizza shop could provide pizza for a fundraiser in exchange for its name in the program, or its signage at the event, she explains. The Endorsevent platform connects organizations who may not have the resources to hire an event planner or the staff to do outreach to find local companies seeking promotion. Companies can donate funds or in-kind services to organizations with whom they wish to partner.

Stradford, whose background is in digital marketing, funded the building of the platform herself and is hoping AlphaLab can help her build her network here.

Amber Stradford, Endorsevent. Photo courtesy AlphaLab/InnovationWorks
Amber Stradford, Endorsevent. Photo courtesy AlphaLab/InnovationWorks

Twined

Twined is a response to all the lousy product reviews which leave consumers wondering which opinions are real and which ones are paid for by brands, CEO Phil McKeating says. Twined will enlist what it calls “tastemakers” to offer recommendations based on product reviews, McKeating says.

Its tastemakers are handpicked from around the web based on their expertise in a given subject matter.

“So instead of random crowdsourced reviews, we offer recommendations,” McKeating says. “Instead of finding out what a restaurant is like on Yelp, we’d get the opinion from someone like a qualified food critic.”

He envisions most of Twined’s recommendations being valuable to young families, “who don’t have time to read a dozen reviews, but might need help picking out baby products.”

Clarabyte Solutions

Time to purge that old hardware or device? Clarabyte has a three-pronged group of digital solutions, says CEO James Deighan. Say you’re looking to sell your old smartphone. Clarabyte’s software will allow you to purge and destroy the digital data, provide automated hardware testing to determine if all the parts are in working order, and then let you list it for sale on several e-commerce platforms, like Amazon and eBay, all at once.

Skick’D
Some $50 billion in credit card rewards go unredeemed by consumers, says Matthew Kennedy, founder of Skick’D. Under new regulations, that doesn’t make banks happy because it creates liability on their balance sheets. Skick’D would connect consumers with highly-tailored offers that will let them redeem their rewards points so everyone walks away happy.

Matthew Kennedy, Skick'D. Photo courtesy AlphaLab/InnovationWorks.
Matthew Kennedy, Skick’D. Photo courtesy AlphaLab/InnovationWorks.

Mighty
Think of Mighty as a concierge service for contractors in the home improvement industry, suggests CEO Mike Regan. Instead of bids for service like one might find on sites like Angie’s List, Mighty would manage all the contractors needed on a particular home improvement job. “It will aggregate contractor services the way Uber aggreggates driving,” Regan says. He’s working to make Mighty scalable during his stay in AlphaLab.

Flagtag
Remember the old game Capture the Flag? Combine that with location-based advertising and you’ve got the general concept of Flagtag, says CEO Omar El-Sadany. Its target audience is college students, who would use the Flagtag app to find nearby food and drink specials from advertisers, on a geolocated map. The first person to claim the deal would then clear all the other nearby users’ “flags,” adding a competitive aspect. The app is still in private beta, El-Sadany said, and he and his team are hoping their time at AlphaLab will get them ready for launch.

 

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Looking for a job? ImaginePittsburgh.com features more than 20,000 open positions on our powerful, 10-county job search engine. Find yours today!

Congratulations to Maggie’s Farm Rum Distillery in the Strip District for making the Nov. 15 issue of Wine Spectator. It is one of six artisanal distilleries recognized as “among the most distinctive and exciting producers” among the 750+ small distillers operating in the United States today.

TimRussellMaggiesFarmRotatorMaggie’s Farm (also known as Allegheny Distilling) is Pennsylvania’s first producer of a commercially-available craft rum dating back to Prohibition. All products are distilled from scratch on the Spanish-made copper still just behind its cocktail bar on Smallman and 31st Street. Maggie’s Farm aims for smooth yet full-bodied spirit.

“Founder Tim Russell’s approach to distillation is: by hand, by ear, by nose, by palate, on that simple still,” the article notes. “Russell says, ‘That’s part of what “craft” is. Rather than pressing buttons and looking at what an LCD screen tells me, I know what the temperature is. I know what the proof is. I know how the distillate tastes. That’s how I learned to distill.’ ”

Check out the Nov. 15 issue on newsstands now, or stop by Maggie’s Farm in person to taste the rum during its limited cocktail hours on Friday or Saturdays. Bottle sales are Wednesdays through Sundays.