While there are some accelerators available in the Pittsburgh region, resources from universities can make it easier for student entrepreneurs to find success.
Carnegie Mellon University, for its part, just showcased some of its recent startup wins through the Project Olympus incubator. Another two local universities just announced the finalists for their pitch competitions, indicating who the next up-and-coming startups in Pittsburgh could be.
University of Pittsburgh’s Big Idea Center will host its second annual competition for the new Big Idea Advantage Fund — a program launched in early 2021 to invest between $10,000 and $25,000 in startups from Pitt students of all levels. The Advantage Fund seeks to provide startups with funding needed to take a company from its idea stage to the development of its first prototype or product. The investments come in the form of Simple Agreements for Future Equity (SAFE), a funding tool initially created by Y Combinator.
Last year’s inaugural finalists for the new fund included HEARTio, I-SPI, NOMA AI, Reachable Solutions, SimpL, Sterile Vision and Streetmedic. Many of those have participated in more competitions since winning and attracted follow-on venture capital funding.
Duquesne University will add its own crop of startups to the mix through the Duquesne New Venture Challenge, a pitch competition run by the university’s Palumbo-Donahue School of Business. This will be the competition’s third year in operation, and will feature startups from entrepreneurs across the region, not exclusive to the university. (One startup, CAT-7, is actually a finalist for both the venture challenge and Pitt’s Advantage Fund.) The first place winner will receive $15,000, second place will receive $8,000, third will receive $6,000, and fourth and fifth will both receive $3,000 each.
Winners for the Big Idea Advantage Fund will be announced following pitches from the startups today and tomorrow. The Duquesne New Venture Challenge winners will be announced after making their final presentations on Saturday, April 23.
The Big Idea Center will also announce the winners of its annual Randall Family Big Idea Competition, which has given early support to student startups since 2009. Winners will be announced Tuesday evening, though the center did not release the finalists of the latter competition beforehand.
Company descriptions below were provided in press releases from the Big Idea Center and Duquesne University.
Big Idea Advantage Fund Finalists
- CAT-7 — A whole blood-based diagnostic test that can detect cerebral aneurym formation, risk stratification and risk of rupture at a lower cost and noninvasively compared to traditional imaging
- EV2 Technologies — Biocarpet is a flexible and fully biodegradable endovascular device that uses a special thermoforming technique and provides treatment of peripheral arterial disease in small arteries and across joints. Their approach minimizes vascular wall stress thus reducing restenosis.
- Klero/New Social — A web 3.0 social media app where you get paid for your data and the platform is democratically controlled by the people
- Re-Solution — A smart contact case aimed at solving the problems associated with lenses to help wearers have healthy eyes
- READE.AI — A machine learning notification tool that provides neurophysiologists with a reliable method to diagnose intraoperative stroke, which results in timely interventions during cardiac surgery
- Virtual Stethoscope — When it comes to heart disease, early detection saves lives. They’re developing a product that combines affordable, scalable hardware with sophisticated machine-learning analyses to put cardiac diagnostics directly in the hands of patients who need it.
Duquesne University New Venture Challenge Finalists
- Advanced Optronics — Advanced designs and manufactures implantable smart sensors to improve patient outcomes in a wide array of medical applications. Its first product is an integrated force and position sensor for cochlear implants, which provide real-time feedback during surgery to reduce surgical trauma and avoid damage to residual hearing during implantation.
- CAT-7 — The Cerebral Aneurysm Test 7 (CAT-7) team is developing the first simple, whole-blood based diagnostic test to detect the formation of a cerebral aneurysm, which often go undiagnosed.
- DisSolves — DisSolves produces the first edible, water-soluble packaging made from all-natural ingredients in the $400 billion food-packaging market.
- SimBOX – SimBOX is a monthly subscription package of products and simulation scenarios targeted toward physicians who want simulation-based training and need continuing medical education credits to maintain their licensures.
- InnovatiVe — InnovatiVe designed a device to assist with peripheral intravenous catheter insertion and the challenge of a short-term use of IVs. The device involves a skin-colored sleeve applied to the arm or wrist, paired with a secured, breathable dome that covers the IV site. The device also includes a proximity sensor to notify a member of the patient’s care team if the site becomes compromised.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 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. -30-