On April 15, the final of eight pitch competitions across the nation came to Pittsburgh’s Tech Shop in Bakery Square, the last step before the final face off  for a national prize of $50,000 in startup capital and other prizes.

The contest is the brainchild of AlphaLab Gear, a leading product accelerator based in Pittsburgh, and TechShop, the nation’s premier ‘maker’ facility providing tools and knowhow for do-it-yourselfers. The AlphaLab Gear National Hardware Cup aims to find the top ideas in hardware (that is, tangible products, as opposed to software or services) in each of the eight cities where TechShop has a location. Winners from competitions earlier this year in Detroit, Washington D.C., Austin, Phoenix, San Francisco, Redwood City and San Jose will compete Wednesday, May 6 in the grand finale at AlphaLab Gear’s offices in East Liberty.

“There are so many great ideas for products that entrepreneurs dream up from their work experience as a designer or engineer, a university project that a team of students is trying to solve, or just an imaginative leap from an individual,” said Ilana Diamond, managing director of AlphaLab Gear. “We want to tap into all these brilliant ideas and give entrepreneurs a way to fund and commercialize their vision.”

The final regional contest here in Pittsburgh kicks off with a panel of local venture capitalists, investors and entrepreneurs sharing thoughts on hardware startups. Panelists include Alex Frommeyer of Beam, Dawn Rucker of L3, Don Morrison of Blue Tree Allied Angels, Josh McElhattan of Startbot, Ryan Zafris of Adam’s Capital and Zach Malone of Draper Triangle. Then six teams will give a four-minute pitch to panel of judges. The winning team will receive $1,000 cash, a single year-long TechShop membership, Fusion 360 software and support from AutoDesk.

That team will compete against winners from the seven other cities at the grande finale on Wednesday, May 6 at AlphaLab Gear. Both competitions are open to the public, but seating is limited. Register for the April 15 event at TechShop here, and for the May 6 event at AlphaLab Gear here.

More information is available at AlphaLabGear.org/HardwareCup/

NEXTpittsburgh

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Written by Leah Lizarondo

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman has launched a $250,000 Crowdrise campaign for The Braddock Promise—and becomes the first municipality outside of Pittsburgh to offer its residents a college scholarship, administered by the Pittsburgh Promise.

This is the latest effort in the mayor’s ongoing campaign to renew the town that has struggled since the fall of the steel industry in the region.

The Crowdrise campaign aims to raise funds for 9 Braddock students graduating this year. In the fundraising video, the mayor talks about coming to Braddock in 2001, helping youth complete their GEDs. Fetterman saw many with great potential but lack of resources to fund a college education limited their opportunities. Since then, one of Fetterman’s goals has been to “do something about this gap between ability and ambition and the reality of attending college. The Braddock Promise would alter the trajectory of this community for generations,” he says.

The Braddock Promise — managed by The Pittsburgh Promise and The Pittsburgh Foundation—will offer the same Promise scholarship benefits to children in the municipality. Kids who attend Braddock’s public schools, Woodland Hills and Propel Braddock Hills, will receive up to $10,000 a year to fund their college education if they meet the 90% attendance and 2.5 grade average requirements.

The Braddock Promise gives Shiane Adams — mother of Raemon Prunty, a straight-A student from Braddock — a renewed sense of optimism. “If this door was opened, more kids will see this and say, we do have hope.”

The Braddock Promise from Braddock Redux on Vimeo.

Fetterman also hopes that The Braddock Promise will begin a movement throughout the county. “One of the important things is that it opens the dialogue to offer the Promise to other communities like Wilkinsburg.”

Fetterman adds, “The need is so much stronger—as Pittsburgh continues to grow and become more livable, you are going to create this ring of poverty around the city. How absurd is it that a kid growing up in McKeesport doesn’t have access to this? It’s so important. I understand that you have to draw boundaries somewhere but to me the county is much more reasonable than the city line. There are a lot of school districts in the county that are struggling and this is just one more thing that can be done.”

Fetterman

The Braddock Promise is a significant salvo in the Mayor’s third term in office—a tenure that has been characterized by a nationally documented entrepreneurial and envelope-pushing approach to urban renewal.

The past years have brought the beautiful Naia Page Community Center, The Free Store and The Braddock Youth Project—whose longstanding relationship with the community the Mayor credits as key in contributing to the youths’ successful transition to college with The Braddock Promise.

Early entrepreneurial entries in the town Include Ink Division printing and Fossil Free Fuel, one of the first alternative fuel companies in the region.

Shauna Kearns. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Last year, Kevin Sousa’s Kickstarter record-setting Superior Motors brought attention to the town. Its projected Spring 2015 opening is one of the most anticipated in the industry. But Sousa is not the only food industry talent to put down roots in Braddock. The Brew Gentlemen brings craft beer enthusiasts from all over the region and—also set to open in the spring—The Braddock Oven, as envisioned by young baker Shauna Kearns, will be one of the first of its kind on the East Coast.

Last month, the Allegheny Health Network opened an Urgent Care facility in Braddock, five years after the UPMC hospital in town closed down. Fetterman says, that “made the ribbon-cutting so symbolic. It’s been five years to come back full circle and in a way that is much better for Braddock strategically.”

This year, Braddock continues its transformation from abandoned town to a place of possibilities.

According to Fetterman, a Strip District-based technology company has bought property in Braddock with plans to move its headquarters in town.

Photo from Braddock Redux

Bill Barron, a developer whose projects have played a significant role in Lawrenceville’s renewal, has taken on the redevelopment of Braddock’s Ohringer building into a mixed-use facility. Fetterman underscores the significance of the project slated to begin this year. “Ohringer represents the first time that we have been able to bring in a private developer who will create commercial and residential spaces without the assistance of a lot of government entities.”

Last year, Trek made leases available for the Creative Studios at 501 Braddock Avenue at the heels of “The Overlook,” its housing development on the former grounds of the UPMC hospital.

Trek

The arts, what many consider an optimistic canary in urban development, are also making strides. Street artists have long been attracted to the town’s grit and their work punctuates the one square mile town. Unsmoke Systems, in what used to be an abandoned building, has been hosting independent art exhibits for the past few years.

The spring will bring two major theater productions to Braddock. Bricolage will produce an experiential performance that will take the audience throughout town on a bus. Barebones Productions also announced that its May 2015 production, American Falls, will be shown in Braddock.

Community work continues.

Boilermakers Local 154 has launched its “Guns for Opportunity” program, naming Braddock as the first location. The program will exchange free training in the union’s welding program for firearms surrendered.

Bridget Miller, working with Gisele Fetterman, will bring The Erase Project to residents. The project will offer free removal of gang-related and inappropriate tattoos that may prevent individuals from getting jobs or simply moving on with their lives.

To his gentrification critics, Fetterman minces no words.

“Displacement? 90% of all the people who have lived here have already left. You can’t get 90% of people to agree on something these days. But at one point, 90% of people in Braddock agreed that it’s not the place they want to live.

“This isn’t a case of pushing the ‘wrong’ people out and bringing the ‘right’ people in. Let’s bring people in to re-energize the community and in the meantime, we have an unflinching commitment to improve the quality of life for all residents—through the Promise, through the best summer youth employment program in the county, the community center, new playgrounds, The Free Store. There is a balanced approach in what we do,” he says.

“Everything that we do is based on keeping in the balance—if we don’t bring in these things, we are not going to grow a community and we don’t want to create the stereotypical nest of social service agencies and payday loan shops. That doesn’t help grow neighborhoods.”

Fetterman says it’s just the beginning.

“It will never be done. It is constantly evolving and growing. I’d like to think we’ve got a good head of steam and we’re headed in the right direction—to continue to move in a positive trajectory and become a place where people desire to live.”

“Braddock is coming back from a very difficult place. It hit bottom around a decade ago. The return to some semblance of normalcy and some positive energy is something we never take for granted,” Fetterman says. “I never stop and say well we’re almost done because we have so much work still.”

Zersha Munir

A city comprised of 10 counties, and an aggregator that pulls from more than 900 job boards to bring you its 26,705 jobs (as of March 25). ImaginePittsburgh.com makes your job search easier than ever by perusing, picking and posting the most recent and versatile listings in your area. Here is a tiny sampling:

Intermediate Programmer at Federated Investors

Administrative Assistant at Giant Eagle

Interactive Group Account Director at MARC USA

University Librarian at Duquesne University

Associate Director of the Annual Fund at Seton Hill University

* * * 

Check ImaginePittsburgh.com regularly for more career opportunities and news about the region. You can also sign up for our monthly eNewsletter, or follow us by RSS feedFacebookTwitterLinkedIn or our other social media channels.

Zersha Munir

Consider yourself an innovator? BNY Mellon wants to hear your ideas! In collaboration with The Forbes Fund, BNY Mellon presents the UpPrize Social Innovation Challenge to support entrepreneurs dedicated to solving Pittsburgh’s problems. Entrepreneurs — from students to startups to established firms — are welcome to submit their products or product ideas in solution to any of the three UpPrize challenges for prizes of grant and investment money. The challenges include:

Independence: What products might better equip people to be caretakers of themselves and their neighbors?

Access: What products might reduce physical barriers to accessing services and opportunity?

Coordination: What products might help multiple organizations better coordinate how they distribute goods and services to those in need?

UpPrize encourages purpose-driven innovation and offers $800,000 in grants and investments, as well as additional benefits and supports for a total prize value in excess of $1 million. Community partners and advisers include Google, Carnegie Mellon University and the Idea Foundry. Submissions simply require a  two-minute video discussing your team, product and vision, and should be submitted using YouTube or Vimeo. Submission deadline is Wednesday, April 15 at 5 p.m EST. 

Have some ideas? Then visit the UpPrize site for more information and to enter the challenge.

Next, register to attend NEXTpittsburgh’s UpPrize networking event, Mix It Up, on March 24 at 5:30 p.m. at Alpha Lab Gear to spend an evening with Pittsburgh’s local leaders and innovators. Event partners include Mayor Peduto, Fygment, Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partners and several local establishments, all who came together to plan a night of networking exercises and fun.

UpPrize competition eligibility guidelines and FAQ’s can be found here. Further questions can be tweeted at “@UpPrize” on Twitter or emailed in.

it rotator
Click the image to check out our info graphic about the tech opportunities in the Pittsburgh region.

Did you know there are nearly 10,000 IT-related jobs OPEN NOW in the 10-county region? They cut across entertainment, energy, advanced manufacturing, healthcare/life sciences and financial services.

Google, Disney, Intel, Apple and Yahoo are among the companies that have chosen to locate in the Pittsburgh thanks to the top-rate talent emerging from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and 34 other area colleges and universities. And such Fortune 500 companies as BNY Mellon, PNC Bank, PPG Industries, H.J. Heinz, U.S. Steel and CONSOL Energy are always in the market for the best IT talent.

Learn more about the Pittsburgh region’s IT sector        ~       Search for jobs by keyword or company

Affordable Living Among Smart, Friendly Natives and Newcomers
In Pittsburgh, you can have both a decent place to live and a decent social life. You won’t have to sacrifice fun in order to pay the rent on a remote apartment, or stack up with roommates to live in the heart of the city.

Housing costs are generally half of what you’d find in Boston, more than 60 percent less than in Washington D.C. or Silicon Valley and 80 percent lower than New York. The Economist, Forbes, NerdWallet and others regularly include Pittsburgh among the nation’s most-livable cities. Pittsburgh has an innovative restaurant scene, abundant recreational options amid lush topography in four seasons and a robust cultural life from the classical to the cutting edge.

We have the country’s second-largest population of college-educated young people after Boston. Artists and creative people are increasingly moving from larger cities because here they can afford to both launch their dream career and buy or rent a house in hip neighborhoods like Lawrenceville, East Liberty, Downtown and the South Side.

Rich Ecosystem for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Pittsburgh is also the location of choice for dynamic startups and established firms in entertainment and internet technologies, big data, robotics and more. It is home to such companies as Schell Games, DeepLocal, The Resumator, 4Moms, ShowClix, ANSYS, Duolingo, Digital Dream Labs, Ness Technologies, Smith Micro, Netronome and Astrobotic – which is on track to be the first private company to land on the moon.

Why Pittsburgh? Because the region has a robust startup support network. AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear, Tech Shop, the Pittsburgh Technology Council, the Pittsburgh Life Science Greenhouse and Idea Foundry are among the organizations that help innovators turn ideas into enterprise.

Pittsburgh also helps entrepreneurs find startup capital through such nationally recognized groups like Innovation Works.

 

Click HERE to check out our infographic about the tech opportunities in the Pittsburgh region. Pass it on to friends itching to get back to the ‘Burgh.

 

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh
Written by Laurie Bailey

ub21In 1989, when Bill Generett, Jr. left his Point Breeze home for Morehouse College in Atlanta, he vowed he would never return to Pittsburgh. But after earning a bachelor’s degree and subsequently a Juris Doctorate from Emory University, practicing law in Atlanta for 14 years and then in D.C. and even a stint in Shimabara, Japan teaching English, he returned in 2004 and hit the ground running.

Generett, 43, actively serves on several nonprofit boards and advisory committees, including the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, Pittsburgh Economic and Industrial Development Corporation, Phipps Conservatory, Innovation Works and more.

As the new president and CEO of Urban Innovation21, Generett manages the organization’s public private partnership, connecting the region’s successful innovation economy to underserved communities. Taking an entrepreneurial approach to developing programs among local, regional and national stakeholders, he and his team have been recognized nationally for their work. Just last week he spoke at ImaginePittsburgh and NEXTpittsburgh’s The NEXT event: 5 Innovators Shaping Community.

As the inaugural president of Urban Innovation21, what is your biggest challenge in connecting the successful innovation sector with underserved communities?

The region has done very well in terms of transforming its economy. I’m excited because we played a role in that through the Keystone Innovation Zone (an incentive program that provides tax credits to for-profit companies less than eight years old within specific industries and boundaries). Part of our mission is to always make sure that communities that aren’t connected are included. Stakeholders are focusing on that issue, but we all have a lot more work to do.

There is an education component that we really have to figure out–how we can make sure that we are teaching our kids and getting the right education for jobs in the new economy, making sure we’re giving our kids a good STEM education, especially in our public schools. We also have to work to make sure students attending our colleges and universities are getting exposure to internships and job opportunities in the new sectors.

We have a very large internship program. We pay students from Duquesne, Point Park, Carlow and CCAC to work in tech and innovation companies and also advanced manufacturing companies. We do about 100 internships per year. I wish we could do 1,000 or 2,000. That’s what the need is.

We need to figure out how stakeholders across the region can provide more opportunities like that for our students because the reality is if you don’t have an internship these days, if you’re not exposed to industry, your chances of getting a job are pretty slim.

If you take UPMC and PNC (who have their own internship programs) out of the mix, we have the largest innovation economy internship program in the region. Sixty percent of the participants are women, which you generally don’t see, and 40 percent are African American; we are really proud and excited about that. A lot of our students are first-year Community College, Pittsburgh Promise recipients.

What is your vision for Urban Innovation21?

We have some good programs that are going well. We are actually going across the county talking about inclusive innovation and the best practices that cities and innovation sectors can use to include more (people) so that’s good. At this point we want to figure out how we can help others who are starting to do the work that we do so that they can have an impact and collectively, we can really create an impact.

What does success look like?

Success looks like having a city where we are not talking about any kind of inequality – there will always be differences, but (a city) where the differences aren’t so stark. One of the things that it’s hard for me to accept is that for as great we are doing, African Americans here are the poorest group of African Americans in the top 50 metropolitan areas in the country. We have these statistics that are polar opposites in many ways. Success is seeing that gap closed.

As a newly appointed member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (advising U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker), what knowledge will you take with you from Pittsburgh when working with those from other regions of the country?

Our innovation started in 2007, and we are really one of the first organizations in the country to work in high growth clusters to disconnected communities. What we’re seeing nationally, whether it’s urban or rural areas, is that the innovation sector is trying to figure out how to do that. I think we’ve done some things exceptionally well. I have a wonderful board that has allowed me and our team to really take an entrepreneurial approach to this issue because there is no road map. We are taking that to the National Advisory Council.

I’m the head of the subcommittee, the Democratization of Innovation. The goal is to figure out how innovation can impact more people, looking at the types of things that can be implemented without legislative approval relatively quick. What you see across the country is that nobody has been able to do inclusive innovation well. But because of our foundation community and corporate community we’ve been able to start working on the issue before many others started to concentrate on it.

B.Generett-24 (1)You’ve been an entrepreneur, executive, corporate attorney and teacher. What’s next?

I tell students that everybody has to think like an entrepreneur.  I love the work that I’m doing as long as I feel like I’m having impact. I’m going to do this; where I do it, how I do it, in what capacity I do it, I’m not sure, but I love this work. I feel this utilizes all my skills. It’s interesting, when I started I thought, “oh, I’ll probably do this for a year or two.” I’ve gotten other offers to do other things, but I really love the work.

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

You know, there are several. We were one of the last Keystone Innovation Zones formed. People didn’t really understand there was value in the work connect.  Fast forward, now we are one of the most successful Keystone Innovation Zones in the state and I’m really excited about that.

Through its Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone (PCKIZ) program Urban Innovation21 has supported 98 high-growth companies since 2007. These companies include The Resumator, NoWait, AllPoint Systems, Bit-x-Bit, Special Pathogens laboratory, ShowClix, Ebenefits, Pikimal and dbMotion.

Thirty-two high-growth companies have started up, relocated and are growing in the Hill District/Uptown community. The neighborhood’s image has changed and a wide array of economic development projects is taking place.

I’m also excited about the fact that we’ve really brought to the U.S. “inclusive innovation.” That’s a term that‘s a philosophy that was pioneered in Europe, China and India.  It basically says that when we look at innovation policy we have to look at the policy that supports as many people as possible, and that’s a philosophy that we’ve utilized. We’re seeing the inclusion movement really catch fire throughout the country.

I’m also excited about tech companies and community-based business with internships and that we’ve been able to help folks who didn’t think they could get that job and that there wasn’t a place for them in this new economy. When those connections are made and those people are getting a job and are going to school and getting their PhD’s in engineering—those stories keep me going.

Ever feel discouraged?

There are times because you know I can be our biggest cheerleader, but I’m also the most critical of what we do. When I get too discouraged something good happens in terms of how (people) were impacted by the work. What’s cool is that Pittsburgh is doing great, and you now have a lot of people that are saying “let’s work and seriously work so that all communities are connected.”

What brought you back to Pittsburgh?

Well, it was really my wife (Gretchen Generett, from Richmond,VA who is a professor at Duquesne) who said “did you think about Pittsburgh?” when we were thinking about moving (from the Washington, D.C. area). I went back and kind of looked at it through new eyes. We just decided we wanted to raise our kids in a smaller city.

Did you have a strong mentor, someone who truly inspired you to achieve success? If so, do you think of that person when you’re working to improve underserved communities?

I’ve had a lot of mentors. It really started with my parents, my father (William Generett, who passed away in 1996) was a prominent doctor in town. My mother (Mona Generett) is really where I get my passion for working for community. She’s had many positions; the last was the vice president of community development at Dollar Bank. She is really my mentor when it comes to this work.

Have you ever failed? How did it make you stronger? 

It’s interesting, I don’t look at it as failure. I look at it as learning. I have an incredible board. I have an incredible board chair (Scott Lammie of UPMC Health Plan, Inc.). He has been a mentor for me. We’ve had some successes and some things that didn’t go like I wanted them to go, but I learned from it. You learn more often from things that don’t go well.  I had a business (Comforcare Senior Services), and that business didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to turn out. I ended up selling it for a loss. The woman I sold it to was able to take it and turn it into a very successful business. Although I liked the business, I wasn’t really happy and I’m happy doing this work.

What’s the one thing you wish you could change in Pittsburgh?

That we appreciate cultural differences. We are one of the least diverse cities. There really isn’t the appreciation of cultural differences.

How do you relax?

I love to read and play with my kids (William III, 13 and Gabrielle, 7). They are both very active, and I just like to get engaged with what they are doing. I like quality time with my wife and spending time with family and friends.

Best book you’ve read all year?

David and Goliath by Malcom Gladwell. I like motivational and history books.

Favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh?

The Savoy and Pho Van (in the Strip District).