Powered by NEXTpittsburgh / Kathy Serenko

UpPrize, the social innovation challenge created by The Forbes Funds, returns this year to once again challenge our community to find new solutions to critical social issues.

Hosted in partnership with BNY Mellon and Bridgeway Capital, the purpose of UpPrize is to invest in novel ideas big and small that are more effective, efficient, just or sustainable than the current approach.

This year, the competition will take applications for two challenge areas: Healthy Food, which seeks products and services that “will increase access to affordable healthy foods for vulnerable and underserved communities” and Impactful Technology, to identify products and services that will “improve nonprofit service delivery and/or the lives of vulnerable populations in Southwestern Pennsylvania.”

Each challenge offers a total award purse of $350,000, which the winners and finalists will use to further develop and implement their ideas.

The competition debuted last year by challenging Pittsburgh entrepreneurs to create new social tech tools that addressed independence, coordination and access. The 2015 UpPrize round received more than 100 applications from Pittsburgh area entrepreneurs.

This year, UpPrize will expand to include all of Southwestern Pennsylvania. It will also increase its outreach to nonprofits, women, and people of color to encourage them to apply.

“The door of opportunity is wide open. And everyone is welcome,” says Kate Dewey, president of The Forbes Funds. “We’ve got a tremendous network of partners this year that are all of one mind to build a network of doers, makers, thinkers, entrepreneurs, techies, and givers that make this region great and distinguishable for all. We are just at the beginning but given the momentum, it is not whether it will happen, just when.”

Dewey says they chose to focus this year on finding ways to increase access to healthy foods after their work with various agencies made them realize the magnitude of the problem.

“We all know the importance of eating healthy food to our overall health,” says Dewey. “But convenience is a diet killer. You go to areas like Sheraden in the West End, and there is nothing there that would enable someone to eat healthy without taking a bus to a grocery store. When you think outside of Allegheny County, you can clearly see areas that don’t have access to healthy foods, except possibly seasonal farmers markets nearby. Food deserts contribute to unhealthy eating lifestyles and impact lives for the long term.”

What would change look like? More healthy food options in corner stores, opening a small grocery business, or operating a food truck are some examples.

“When you look at that piece of the challenge area, it’s not a technology-oriented solution,” adds Dewey. “It’s about creating access in ways that give people an opportunity to live well through eating good foods.”

The other challenge, Impactful Technology, has two aspects. One involves for-profit tech companies helping nonprofits develop tools to make them more competitive and efficient, and better enable them to advance their missions. The second part of the challenge calls for solutions to improve the lives of the homebound, homeless, a child in need, or victims of crime, as examples.

“How we live, work and care for one another as a community is radically changing,” says Dewey. “This social innovation challenge hits at a time when we’re rethinking those approaches to the benefit of all.”

To determine the best ideas, Dewey says they expanded their advisory group to include more nonprofit representatives, including Kevin Jenkins of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation and David Tinker from ACHIEVA.

Last year’s winners included Conversant Labs, Marinus Analytics and Personal Health Recording for Quality of Life (PHRQL).

Conversant Labs, a company founded by CEO Chris Maury after he was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease, won the first place prize of $400,000 to create voice-enabled apps for the visually impaired.

“We wouldn’t be here today if not for the UpPrize,” says Maury. “The award has helped us to continue serving the blind community and set us up for creating a sustainable business.”

The second place prize of $200,000 went to Marinus Analytics for their work in developing crime-fighting technology used by law enforcement and victim services organizations to stop human trafficking in western Pennsylvania.

The third place winner PHRQL (pronounced “freckle”) received $200,000 for creating a health and nutrition-based education tool that helps people manage their diabetes, lose weight and improve their health.

“The UpPrize challenge inspired us to look at how our technology and expertise could be applied to a low-income and food insecure population—something that wasn’t even on our radar,” says PHRQL CEO Paul Sandberg. “With the prize money, we were able to run a pilot, adapt our existing solution, and design a new business model. Now we think the opportunity could be much larger than our original market.”

The 2016 UpPrize social innovation challenge will kick off with a free networking event hosted by NEXTpittsburgh on Thursday, October 6 at AlphaLab Gear. Free childcare for kids 3 years and up is available on a limited basis. Email for details.

Applications will be accepted between October 1 and November 30. Nonprofits are strongly encouraged to participate. Startups, established firms, students and government agencies are also eligible to apply. Download the UpPrize information here.

Finalists will be selected by January 2017. An awards ceremony will take place in March 2017.

Questions? Email for answers.

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Looking for a job?‘s got ‘em — more than 20,000 open positions on our powerful, 10-county job search aggregator, updated nightly.

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

Joshua Devine

Looking to land your dream job, start your career or advance in your profession? There are plenty of options – over 25,000 of them across all industries – to choose from. Let help you get started. You can use our virtual one-stop shop and discover information on employers and careers as well as search jobs via our powerful aggregator that’s updated nightly from more than a thousand job boards and corporate websites. With, you can also explore the site’s Featured Employers, as well as many great places to live, play and learn in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Here are just a few of the jobs available now with our featured employers:

Technology Project Manager at BNY Mellon

IBM Domino Administrator at PJ Dick

Inside Sales Representative at Lamar Advertising Company

Senior Engineer – Solidification at Alcoa

Too busy to check these out now? Bookmark or save us to your favorite read-it-later app. You can also sign up for career news about the region through our RSS feedFacebookTwitter or monthly newsletter.


it rotatorWhat is powering the Pittsburgh region’s economy in 2015?

We’re not the single-industry steel town we were at the dawn of the 20th century — although we still make plenty of things, and speciality metals and high-tech materials are dynamic sectors. Just ask ATI (Allegheny Technologies). Or Alcoa. Or PPG. Or Bayer MaterialScience.

Yes, we’ve got the “meds and eds” that helped the region regain its footing after the dramatic downturn in our then-still steel-heavy economy 30 years ago: see the Allegheny Health Network, Highmark, and the state’s largest private employer UPMC.

And then there’s energy — from the development of kerosene in a workshop on Grant Street in 1851 to the first successfully drilled well in world (in Titusville, 100 miles north, in 1859) the Marcellus Shale natural gas development of the past decade.

But IT jobs are in high demand across all of the companies and sectors just mentioned, and of course in finance and business services, which — surprise — are actually the sectors in the 10-county region with the highest number of employers.

Click on the image below to go to’s very cool infographic that spells it all out in easily digestible nuggets. And please: pass it on to the techies you know in other cities who complain about high cost of living and commuting nightmares. There’s never been a better time to stop imagining yourself in Pittsburgh and make it a reality.

it rotator

Kudos to our colleagues Keith Trageser, Phil Cynar and Linda Topoleski, who created this infographic for publication on top IT publications’ websites across the country.


As Fortune’s Erik Sherman recently reported, the list of best U.S. workplaces for women in tech is out, and it has some surprises.

Published by the Anita Borg Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing women in computing, the list praised the historic Pittsburgh bank as a place “where women technologists can thrive.”

You can read more about it here. But BNY Mellon isn’t the only local company looking for top talent in IT. 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 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.



Powered by NEXTpittsburgh

Written by Laura Bailey

After several years of advancing workforce development programs to help veterans, young people aging out of foster care and many others facing difficult transitions, Neighbor Kenya Boswell recently moved into the role of president of BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania. 

A big part of that new is UpPrize, an innovation competition by the foundation and The Forbes Funds that will award $1 million to a Pittsburgh-based entrepreneur or innovator to create solutions that will help nonprofits and the people they serve. The competition is free to enter and the deadline to apply is 5 p.m. this Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Learn more at

It may seem like a daunting mission, but Boswell is up to the task and excited to see the impact of “purpose-driven innovation” – the ability to apply the technological expertise in our region to the nonprofit sector.

“It sort of ripples down to my other interests with youth workforce development, with women’s issues and things of that nature as well,” she says.

What was the inspiration for UpPrize?

It was a collaborative idea between us and The Forbes Funds. BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern PA and The Forbes Funds were looking for ways to identify some common pain points that we have witnessed though our respective philanthropy programs in the nonprofit sector that could be addressed through the use of technology. Codefest (an app-building contest to improve city living) was just one example. And because of the success of Codefest it was really an opportunity to bring it to scale. It’s what we’re calling catalytic philanthropy.

What do you hope for the future of UpPrize?

Our intention is to launch this pilot and really be able to tweak the model to demonstrate the greatest impact and bring it to scale. Success for us would be having the winning solution adopted and implemented at Pittsburgh nonprofits – that’s number one.

What does innovation mean to you?

Typically I think a lot of people look at innovation as needing a radical new idea or change. We look at it really as an opportunity to pivot some sort of existing product or idea to be able to actually create greater impact, particularly for the people it is intended to reach.

What’s the best thing going on in the city right now—besides UpPrize?

We’re looking at the energy and ability to crowdsource solutions in a community. We’re seeing this in a lot of different ways, whether it’s in a technology start-up or funders coming together to collaborate or it’s nonprofits coming together to collaborate. It’s this joint phenomenon of being able to crowdsource new solutions to some of our problems. It’s become more evident in the last three to five years.

Favorite thing to do in Pittsburgh and favorite restaurant?

My favorite thing is actually exploring our great city with my four-year-old, five-pound Yorkie, Bentley.

What I love about living in the East End: I do not have to travel far for good quality food, great customer service. And I love the environment. I always have the opportunity to meet cool, interesting people.

My all-time favorite is Park Bruges in Highland Park.

Kenya Boswell is an Neighbor — friendly people from around the corner and around the world who choose Pittsburgh as the place to advance their career, live, play and learn. Take our quiz to find out which Neighbors have most in common with you!


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.