Startups

Meet the 16 startups featured at Innovation Works’ New Portfolio Showcase

Founders of the young Pittsburgh companies, all of which recently received investments from the local firm, offered progress updates and pitched for further funding.

At Innovation Works' New Portfolio Showcase, September 2022.

(Photo by Atiya Irvin-Mitchell)

Update: Mention of Voxable's new name has been added. (9/30/22, 3:50 p.m.)

Typically you check in on Innovation Works by venturing to the North Side. But Wednesday night, the early-stage investment firm hosted a gathering at AlphaLab Gear’s HQ in East Liberty for its first in-person New Portfolio Showcase in two years.

Leaders of companies that have recently received investment from Innovation Works, including startups from its AlphaLab, AlphaLab Health and AlphaLab Gear accelerators, presented on their progress, what their products do, and why they’re worthy of continued investment to prospective funders.

From a medical device company seeking to improve neurosurgery outcomes to a digital platform maker trying to make the world less lonely, over a dozen Pittsburgh startup founders and CEOs spoke about their work. Meet them all here, in the order in which they presented:

Miror

Founded by Cassie Guerin, Miror makes it possible to join support groups digitally. Right now, the average American is lonelier than ever before, she said — which is why a platform offering groups dedicated to themes such as grief, new parenthood, career changes, and divorce is worthy of support.

Maroon Assistive Technologies

A bad back due to on-the-job accidents can be costly for employees and employers alike. With that in mind, Maroon Assistive technologies wants to improve employee wellbeing by using its signature exoskeleton to make it easier to bend and lift. The benefit, in addition to less back pain, is an increase in productivity and a decrease in financial losses due to labor shortages.

Roadies

Roadies is a platform that allows visual artists to offer Art Security Token shares for their artwork. These tokens are based on blockchain technology and represent the value of a product that exists in the physical world. By purchasing them, the company says artists gain a new revenue stream and access to capital by having the option of their supporters buying and trading shares of their artwork.

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AlgenAir

Take a deep breath. Kelsey Abernathy, cofounder and CEO, would point out you just inhaled some of the 412 parts per million carbon dioxide in the air. That’s why AlgenAir has been developing the first commercially available consumer natural air purifier that uses algae to reduce carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.

Revitalize Energy

Whether it’s working remotely or endless scrolling your phone, cofounder and CEO Kyle Guinness observes there’s no escaping screen time these days. But hours of staring at a computer screen can be draining and lead to eye fatigue. This could mean a headache, blurred vision, a decrease in your ability to concentrate, or even increased sensitivity to light. Revitalize Energy is working to combine artificial tears and its own patent pending formula to develop eye drops that offer eye fatigue relief.

CleverApply

As of 2020 the average college acceptance rate for international students was 43.8%. Still, recruiting promising students from other countries can be easier said than done. Jahan Ghaznavi, cofounder of CleverApply, would know — he’s been a recruiter himself. Due to deadlines and geography, universities can miss out on connecting with students and students can be at a loss when it comes to knowing what school is the right fit for them in a sea of endless options. That’s where CleverApply could come in. This academic matchmaking service offers a platform to help students find the best fit for them through blockchain technology.

The CleverApply pitch. (Photo by Atiya Irvin-Mitchell)

Safe Space Technologies

In the earliest stages of the pandemic, people were disinfecting everything. But just because some of the restrictions have eased doesn’t mean cleanliness should go out the window, according to Chris Proud, the company’s cofounder and CEO. Safe Space is offering a “smarter” path to disinfection by merging the properties of UV-C light with robotics. The cofounder says this solution will give users all the security they want from germs but without the harsh chemicals you’d find in most mainstream cleaning products.

SpIntellx

SpIntellx wants to “disrupt” the precision medicine pathology market and it wants to use AI technology to do it. By collecting knowledge from disease samples such as tumors, the company plans to create a framework for treatment strategies tailor made for each patient and their unique case. In the process, the hope is to use what is learned from samples to discover new treatment options and improve clinical trials.

Voxable

Using a website’s chat box can be a hit-or-miss experience. Voxable — now known as Chaos Reactor — wants to change that by designing voice and chat apps for companies hoping to communicate better with their customers. This happens with the help of AI, while on this company’s platform users can write scripts that cover the experiences and dilemmas a customer using their chatbox might have encountered to give the process a more human feel with the end goal of a satisfied user.

MindTrace

MindTrace wants to provide neurosurgery patients with more protection. How? By developing technology that lets neurosurgeons simulate the surgery through its machine learning platform so that they can better predict the odds of what a patient’s outcome could be. While on the platform surgeons get a chance to practice removing tumors and patients can have confidence that they’ll walk away with their faculties.

Emergence Dental

Sometimes dental implant procedures have outcomes that can cost thousands of dollars and lead to months-long recovery. And for some patients when all is said and done dental implants could end up not taking to the person’s mouth. So, to take some of the pain and “unpredictability” out of the process Emergence Dental wants to offer an alternative that could mean less pain and money. Typically bone grafting materials come from animals, cadavers or metals. With its magnesium-polymer bone grafting scaffolds, Emergence Dental offers a more comfortable experience and one with products that can safely be absorbed once implanted.

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Here are a few Innovation Works alums who’d previously pitched virtually and made an appearance at Wednesday’s event:

  • MamaLux — While nursing, new mothers may find themselves dealing with leakage. While there are products designed to help with the problem itself, none existed that let users sleep without a bra. MamaLux provides loungewear and leakproof nurse pads for breastfeeding mothers.
  • Equa Health — This company markets itself as “mindfulness in your pocket.” Armed with this app users can access personalized coaching and interactive learnings that designs a path for meditation and mindfulness.
  • AdSkate — AdSkate is an AI-driven digital platform that lets businesses filter out irrelevant ads to create better customer experiences and produce more revenue for companies. Through its platform, the company converts content into data that can be used to direct ads to the most relevant audience.
  • Make It Home Safe — This app is designed to take the tension and uncertainty out of police encounters. With the app all the driver’s information would be transferred into the officer’s phone and the driver would receive verification that the person they’re speaking to is an officer, why they’re being stopped, and gives the app user the option to share their location with loved ones.
  • sovaSage — sovaSage wants to help sleep apnea patients get some rest. The medtech company plans to do this by improving their therapy options through machine learning and computer vision.

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supportedby the Heinz Endowments. -30-
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