Startups

Power Moves: A new director for Meta Mesh and big promotions for some CMU faculty

Here's the scoop on the biggest new hires, appointments and awards out of Pittsburgh tech over the last few weeks.

Meta Mesh's Sam Garfinkel and Colby Hollabaugh.

(Photo via twitter.com/MetaMeshWC)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, gig or promotion? Email us: pittsburgh@technical.ly.


Meta Mesh Wireless Communities announced a new executive director

In a Friday announcement, Meta Mesh Wireless Communities’ now-former executive director, Sam Garfinkel, announced that Colby Hollabaugh would take over her role at the internet accessibility nonprofit. The change in leadership is due to Garfinkel’s relocation to Salt Lake City for “family opportunities,” per the announcement. Previously, Hollabaugh worked as Meta Mesh’s operations manager after joining the nonprofit last year. Meta Mesh also recently hired Chris Field as its new business development manager.

Garfinkel became the org’s ED in October after serving in an interim role.  Under her supervision last year, Meta Mesh successfully launched its Every1online program to bring free internet connection to residents in Coraopolis and Homewood.

Despite leaving Pittsburgh, Garfinkel will serve on the nonprofit’s board of directors starting in July.

“It is my honor and privilege to pass the Executive Leadership torch to Colby Hollabaugh, who has served Meta Mesh as our Operations Manager, contributing to MMWC’s role as a community-based WISP,” Garfinkel said in a statement. “His positive attitude, strategic thinking, and natural inclination to solve complex problems have enhanced our organization’s effectiveness tenfold. His dedication to delivering successful outcomes to our partners and community members is unmatched. Under his leadership, I am confident that our organization will reach new heights and make history in our pursuit to create a digitally inclusive Southwest PA.”

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Koop expands its leadership team

Autonomy insurance startup Koop Technologies announced at the end of April that it hired Andrew Roth as its director in insurance. Previously, Roth worked in underwriting positions at firms like AIG, Munich Reinsurance America, CRC Insurance Services and N2G Worldwide Insurance Services, according to his LinkedIn page.

“Very excited to have joined this incredible team! This is an amazing area of risk to be involved in — I believe in this industry’s potential — and am eager to figure out what’s possible,” he wrote in a public post on the news.

The company’s continued growth and Roth’s new position are both supported by a $2.5 million seed round raise that the startup announced in August 2021.

“[Roth’s] passion for pushing the industry forward speaks for itself,” read a company post. “And more importantly, Andy shares the vision of building autonomy insurance to help accelerate the transition to the driverless future!”

Carnegie Learning appoints a new chief product officer

Downtown Pittsburgh-based education tech startup Carnegie Learning announced in April that it had appointed Doug McCollum as its new chief product officer. Previously McCollum worked in a variety of roles at Pearson‘s K-12 courseware business (now called Savvas Learning) for over 14 years. Most recently, he served as the SVP of products at Stride. In his new role at Carnegie Learning, McCollum will lead the company’s product strategy, roadmap and development.

“Doug’s unrivaled expertise in preK-12 product management will help us scale and strengthen our industry-leading product portfolio,” Carnegie Learning CEO Barry Malkin said in a statement. “We’ve seen substantial growth in recent years, and we’re not done yet. I have the utmost confidence that Doug will make our vision a reality of supporting as many students and educators as possible with our research-driven solutions.”

CMU promotes three of its tech-focused faculty members

In April, Carnegie Mellon University announced that it had elevated three faculty members to the status of university professor — the highest distinction possible for faculty at the university. Those three professors are Martial Hebert, a professor at the Robotics Institute and dean of the School of Computer Science; John Hooker, the T. Jerome Holleran professor of business ethics and social responsibility at CMU; and Robert Kraut, the Herbert A. Simon professor emeritus of human-computer interaction in the School of Computer Science.

“Carnegie Mellon’s world-class faculty are at the heart of our mission to provide exceptional educational experiences for our teaching and learning community. We are proud to honor our new University Professors with this distinction, which exemplifies their contributions to education and their exceptional achievements,” said CMU Provost and Chief Academic Officer James H. Garrett, Jr. in a statement on the promotions. “Please join me in congratulating Martial, John and Robert on their appointments.”

Duolingo wins award in social marketing for its use of TikTok

The recent rise of Duolingo’s famous green owl on TikTok earned the education tech company recognition for its social media marketing prowess. Ad Age, a news company focused on covering the advertising and marketing industry, honored the company as the social marketer of the year in its annual Creativity Awards.

“Duo’s shenanigans are the brainchild of Zaria Parvez, the company’s recently promoted global social media manager,” reporter Erika Wheless wrote in the award article. “Parvez has proven that leaning into the app’s quirkiness and rolling trends is a recipe for success. As a result of her work, the channel grew from 50,000 followers in September 2021 to 2.1 million today.”

Pittsburgh Tech Council announced the winners of its CIO of the Year award

The Pittsburgh Technology Council announced the winners of its annual CIO of the Year competition after previously sharing a list of nominations for the award, which it celebrates with the Greater Pittsburgh CIO Group. Winners are honored according to the size of each company, and have the chance to be recognized for their work as both CIOs and CISOs. Awardees came from companies like US Steel, Giant Eagle, Reed Smith, TeleTracking Technologies, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute and more. Find the full list here.

“Honoring the accomplishments and contributions of these often unsung heroes of business is particularly poignant as we look back on two years of unexpected challenges,” said Pittsburgh Technology Council President and CEO Audrey Russo in a statement. “We are absolutely thrilled to celebrate in person this year. It creates and strengthens our awesome community of tech professionals.”

Block Center faculty get federal appointments

CMU’s Block Center for Technology and Society announced last month that Faculty Director and Dean Ramayya Krishnan had been appointed to the National AI Advisory Committee established the by US Department of Commerce. A release on the news shared that Krishnan and his fellow 26 committee members would advise President Joe Biden and the National AI Initiative Office on issues regarding AI’s role in workforce development, accountability, legal matters and enhanced opportunities for diverse geographic regions of the country.

“At Carnegie Mellon, there is a strong focus on the ethical development, deployment and adoption of AI and how it can be harnessed for social good,” Krishnan said in a statement. “I am honored to be among the experts appointed to the NAIAC, and I look forward to contributing to a process that will allow the United States to lead innovation in this space and improve the quality of life for everyone.”


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-
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