Startups

Meet Ascender’s 2022-2023 incubator startups, from a streaming service to a bike dashcam

"This year’s cohort is on a mission to change how we consume media, make healthcare more accessible, enjoy quality skincare products, and make our city safer and more inclusive," Director of Innovation Annia Aleman said.

Ascender's 2022-2023 cohort.

(Courtesy photo)

East Liberty-based incubator Ascender has picked its newest cohort of 10 local startups.

After the 2021-2022 cohort raised over $1.8 million in revenue and investment, Director of Innovation Annia Aleman has high hopes for this group made up of nonprofits, digital platforms and self-care brands.

“This year’s cohort is on a mission to change how we consume media, make healthcare more accessible, enjoy quality skincare products, and make our city safer and more inclusive,” Aleman told Technical.ly on Wednesday. “We’re excited to work with these entrepreneurs and help them define their companies’ visions and grow businesses based on financial stability.”

The Ascender incubator runs a free program for early-stage companies which allows them to spend a year developing their products and services. During that time, they’ll get $5,000 in equity-free funding, networking opportunities, mentoring services and educational programming. Aleman, who oversees the incubator, said that where Ascender may differ from other programs is that it pursues a tailor-made approach to helping entrepreneurs develop businesses that will withstand the tests of time and circumstances.

“I can help with connecting with mentors, growing that network, teaching workshops, and any other sort of product management needs that they may have,” Aleman said. “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.”

Annia Aleman. (Courtesy photo)

To gauge an understanding of which areas need the most work, the program starts with an in-depth assessment to understand the health of an individual business, and from there, Ascender designs programming that will best meet the cohort’s needs. This includes pairing founders with experienced business coaches who meet with them on the weekly basis. Aleman said Ascender tries to balance accountability with ensuring that members of the cohort get to benefit from the wisdom of experienced entrepreneurs so that their own businesses will have a strong foundation once the year is up.

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Among the educational opportunities for cohort members, alumni and interested entrepreneurs is Ascender’s upcoming networking series. Starting August the second Wednesday of every month, free of charge, Pittsburghers can attend up to 10 networking events to hear from local experts, receive a free coworking pass, and meet other members of the local business community.

“We bring in an expert entrepreneur facilitator. They facilitate discussions about how to have difficult conversations with your team,” Aleman said. “How do you look at your finances? How do you make sure that you’re taking care of yourself as you are running a business and things like that?”

After incubator program is complete, the door is always open to alumni, the director said. Sometimes this means having quarterly meetings with Ascender to get updates on their companies and what resources they could benefit from, other times it means getting introductions to other successful entrepreneurs they could potentially work with.

“We love to say here ‘Once an Ascender, always an Ascender,’” Aleman said.

Ascender’s 2022-2023 incubator cohort. (Courtesy image)

These are the 10 startups in the 2022-2023 cohort:

  • Act Up is a creative collective and nonprofit startup geared toward supporting Black LGBTQ artists.
  • BLK DYMND Rewards is a mobile bank cash-back app that lets customers earn rewards by buying products from Black-owned businesses across the country.
  • Dashcam for your Bike is building tools to make biking in the city safer, which includes an app that turns your smartphone into a dashcam. The company was previously known as Robot Armin, and landed an honorable mention on Technical.ly’s 2022 RealLIST Startups.
  • Disability Media Network is a streaming service that curates content by or about disabled people.
  • Dization is an online business hub that seeks to help business save time and money by consolidating usual info in one easy to access place.
  • Katch Sports is a digital platform that combines storytelling with sports and recreation.
  • Korion Health wants to leverage technology to empower patients, expand healthcare access, and help patients provide inclusive care.
  • Naptural Beauty Supply a brand for hair care, body care, and self care products that are all-natural and vegan friendly.
  • Subless is a universal payment system that aims to make it easier to support creators by distributing funds to writers, streamers and artists whose work is enjoyed online.
  • TLC Libations is a beverage company specializing in premium and catered drinks.
Companies: Robot Armin, Ascender
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