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Meet the 11 startups in Ascender’s 2023-2024 incubator cohort

From an app teaching music theory to a robotics platform to automate cell culturing, the founders of these young companies will spend the next year furthering their products.

Ascender's 2023-2024 incubator cohort members. (Courtesy image)

As one cohort heads out into the business world, another begins its journey: East Liberty-based Ascender has announced the startups picked for its 2023-2024 incubator.

Specialize in areas ranging from artificial intelligence to childcare to robotics, this group of 11 early-stage companies will participate in a year of programming to get their products ready for the market.

“We continue to refine our business curriculum, add new resources, and expand our mentor network, and as a result, we’re blown away each year by the quality of businesses that choose to put in the work and opt to be part of our Incubator,” Ascender Executive Director Nadyli Nuñez said in a written statement.

Ascender incubator participants. (Courtesy photo)

As an Ascender incubator participant, founders have access to educational programming, individualized mentorship, support in the form of $5,000 in equity-free funding, and up to $20,000 in business assistance.

The goal is to strengthen Pittsburgh’s ecosystem by introducing companies run by entrepreneurs that are capable of competing in the region. In this particular cohort, 57% of founders identify as BIPOC and more than half of the companies are women, nonbinary or gender-conforming founded.

Ascender Innovation Director Annia Aleman, who oversees the incubator, said that where this program may differ from others is that it pursues a tailor-made approach to helping entrepreneurs develop businesses that can last. The program also introduces them to other members of the local business community.

“I can help with connecting with mentors, growing that network, teaching workshops, and any other sort of product management needs that they may have,” she told Technical.ly at the start of last year’s cohort. “They also have access to the larger center team, which we have different types of skills and expertise and backgrounds where we can all collectively help the companies as well.”

Ascender incubator participants. (Courtesy photo)

These are the 11 companies of the 2023-2024 cohort, as described by the press release:

Asher Informatics

Asher Informatics is a software-enabled solutions company activating medical AI for improved outcomes in healthcare systems and private practices to identify the most appropriate and useful clinical analytical tools and facilitate measurement of utilization and demonstrate ROI.

  • Cofounders: Charlotte Kalafut and John Kalafut

Dancers Connect

Dancers Connect is developing a web platform, Danceapply.com, to simplify and improve dance audition registrations for both dancers and organizations.

  • Founder: Jaehee Cho

Intrinsic Media

Intrinsic is a video-facing media company that voices vision through immersive stories mostly relating to the BIPOC sports, art, and business community. Being immersive visual storytellers, Intrinsic also works with brands as a creative agency to develop creative campaigns & strategy, partnerships, content, and more.

  • Founder: Jibril Washington

Kool Image Dolls

Kool Image Dolls is a culturally positive doll company that specializes in designing Black playdolls of color, children’s clothing accessories, and entertainment that promote positive self-identity play, and positive self-identity engagement.

  • Founder: Dominique Scaife​​

London Bridges Child Development Center

London Bridges Child Development Center ​​provides quality play-based childcare to parents with children 6 weeks through 13 years of age.

  • Founder: London Fitzgerald

MitoAI

MitoAI is a laboratory automation device company that specializes in developing an advanced robotic system to automate cell culturing in the life sciences industry.

  • Cofounders: Bingda Li and Xinyu Wang

Noteful

Noteful is developing a smartphone and web app that uses gamification to teach note reading and music theory. Recognizing notes on the staff, quickly identifying intervals by sight or sound, and understanding basic music theory concepts that enhance memory are a few of the skills you can develop using the app.

  • Founder: Becky Billock

Sensify

Sensify specializes in smart solutions to improve waste diversion at the receptacle level. Its flagship product, higi (Helpful Interactive Guidance IoT), is a small sensor package that easily mounts on waste bins, classifying waste while providing real-time audiovisual feedback to guide users on proper disposal and generating insights for facilities and recycling providers.

  • Cofounders: Rishi Basdeo, Shane Deng, and Ryan Leemans

SewForward

SewForward is a nonprofit cut-and-sew studio doing high-quality small-batch manufacturing for entrepreneurs. The organization then uses the funds to teach free sewing classes, enabling low-income individuals in our community to discover creative expression and financial freedom through employment and entrepreneurship.

Solt DB

Solt DB is a public benefit company making biology easier to understand. The company’s unique business model, in which 100% of revenue is generated from subscriptions to investment research for biotech stocks, keeps the core platform free and open — so you can leave the hype, clickbait, and corporate sponsors behind.

  • Founder: Maxx Chatsko

The Reclamation Factory

The Reclamation Factory brings single-use plastic recycling full-circle by combining automation, advanced robotic manufacturing techniques, industrial design, and an open-source philosophy to recycle post-consumer plastic and turn it into beautiful, durable products under the same roof.

  • Founder: Georgia Crowther
Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: Ascender

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