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Downtown & The Cultural District : Innovation & Startups

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Looking good Pittsburgh. PittsburghTODAY report highlights the state of the region

PittsburghTODAY released its 2013 Today & Tomorrow report and the news across many sectors is enlightening.
With the economic recovery still underway in much of the country, Pittsburgh is the only benchmark region out of 15 that has experienced job growth and housing price appreciation. In addition, the labor force is at an all-time high and young people are returning and staying in the region.
Southwestern Pennsylvania continues to be one of the most affordable places for moderate-income families to live. A Brookings Institution study says so too, listing Pittsburgh as one of three cities in the U.S. to have recovered from the deep recession that began in 2007.
The region, however, has work to do in several areas, including transportation, the environment and issues pertaining to diversity, particularly in helping African Americans in the region to achieve the same quality of life as whites.
Among the highlights:
Population: It has been official but bares repeating: the region is attaining and attracting young talent. The region’s population of 20- to 34- year-olds grew by 7% over the last five years and is expected to grow another 8% in 2020. Three decades earlier the region was losing more than 50,000 people than it was attracting, mostly young adults.
Jobs: Jobs grew by a non-seasonably adjusted 1.7 percent in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) from November 2007 to November 2012. Certainly not robust, but it was better than any of the Pittsburgh TODAY benchmark regions. Pittsburgh was the only region to post job growth over that period.
Tourism: Visitors to Southwestern Pennsylvania pumped $8.1 billion into the local economy in lodging, recreation, retail, food and beverage, transportation and other spending during 2011,the latest year the full data was reported. This is a 9.6% increase over 2010.

Housing: Pittsburgh was the only region in which the 5-year housing prices rose from 2007-2012.
Environment: While fine particle pollution is slowly decreasing, and met federal air quality standards for the first time in 2011 since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, smog and sewage spills and the health of our rivers remains an issue.
Fracking: Across the region, a survey shows that far more residents are convinced of the economic potential of the Marcellus Shale gas industry than are against drilling for it. More than 70% of those surveyed believe that gas drilling is boosting the local economy.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: PittsburghTODAY

Campos embraces the future of marketing research and trendspotting

Marketing and research companies used to be in the business of holding a magnifying glass to human behavior and reporting on what they see in real time.
But the accelerated pace of living calls for more of a crystal ball approach, developing new ways to identify future trends and putting them into a larger context for companies.
Pittsburgh-based Campos Inc is taking on this brave new frontier, putting its 26 years of research experience to work by establishing a sourced library of trends to help small and medium-sized companies stay ahead of the curve.  
“Large companies have access to this information today, but small to medium-sized companies do not,” explains Yvonne Campos, founder and CEO of downtown-based Campos. “Everything is turning so quickly. It’s not about what research looks like in the future, but where can we add value for clients in a bigger space.”
Few companies have the time or resources to hire “trendspotters” or do their own trend analysis. Equipped with the knowledge of these emerging trends and how it applies to them, Campos hopes to help companies determine the most effective strategies.  
For example, businesses might consider showing their appreciation to customers who regularly patronize their coffee shop or restaurant by knowing and understanding their expectations before they walk through the door.
When a retail store receives a new shipment of a customer’s favorite designer, why not contact them and give them an opportunity to be the first in line?
The future of marketing is about “earnable trust” and “presumers,” new terms that are about giving consumers more of what they want. Companies need to earn their customers trust by doing things like locating in and supporting centers of urban activity and involving consumers with products and services before they launch and go mainstream.
“The idea is how can you make my life easier,” Campos says. “It’s all about corporate responsibility. Companies should be thinking not how can I sell to you more, but how can I make the consumer’s life easier.”
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Yvonne Campos, Campos Inc

Hear the fastest talking nonprofits in town at Pittsburgh's Social Innovation Fast Pitch

Social Ventures Partners' fast pitch is back, the fast-talking competition that pits some of the most innovative, smaller nonprofits in the region against each other for funding, prizes and visibility.
The good news is everyone wins.
Borrowing from the venture capitalist “elevator pitch,” the Social Innovation Fast Pitch is a two month program. SVP selects a dozen of some of the most promising philanthropic ideas and social entrepreneurs and gives them an opportunity to work with local leaders to fine-tune and hone their presentation skills into a three-minute pitch.
Yours truly is a coach this year, working with a small team to assist Bob Bechtold of the Sarah Heinz House with his pitch for Design House, an after-school program for middle school students that teaches STEM skills to kids when they’re not looking. Through the program, the students are developing the architectural plans for a new bathhouse that will actually be built at their summer camp.
“It’s a big hit with the kids,” Bechtold says. “It’s giving the kids a stake in their camp and a sense of belonging and contribution.” 
Design House will face some stiff competition at the final competition against other equally deserving programs: Strong Women, Strong Girls; Beverly’s Birthdays; Go! A Vehicle of Change; meetPGH; The Saxifrage School; Miracle League of South Hills; Camp COPES; Sustainable Solutions, Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center; and Quest for Wellness and Recovery Employment Project.
"Fast Pitch successfully teaches nonprofit leaders how to develop clear and concise messages to more effectively communicate,” says Elizabeth Visnic, director of social venture partners. ”The skills they gain not only help them to learn how to message their program, they gain immeasurable community support and have an opportunity to win unrestricted funding and prizes."
The Social Innovation Fast Pitch Finals will be held at the Fairmont Hotel on March 6th from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Pop City will bestow a capacity prize at the event, with publisher and editor Tracy Certo serving as a judge. 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Elizabeth Visnic, SVP
Image: Chuck Webb, Shepherd's Heart Veteran's Home, 2012 winner

Reduce your Use workshop offered strategies for building a sustainable culture in nonprofits

Is sustainability in your workplace DNA?

It's a question Christine Mondor raised during the Reduce Your Use Workshop sponsored by Pop City and Direct Energy last Friday, Feb. 22. "It's about building a culture around sustainability," says Mondor of evolveEA, an architecture firm owned by Mondor that is known for being envionmentally innovative.

She cited the Pittsburgh Opera for examining ways they could be more environmentally friendly, including even questioning their use of costumes after performance and how they could reuse them. Phipps Conservatory, which is nationally recognized for its culture of sustainability, will question everything, even where its peat moss comes from, says Mondor.

The idea, she says, is to create a culture of sustainability where everyone is more aware of environmental issues and conservation and leadership sets the tone.

It was one of many points brought up at the event which included two other panelists: Kathleen Hower of GlobalLinks and Sam DeStephano of The Community Food Bank of Pittsburgh. All three organizations had participated in the Green Workplace Challenge held by Sustainable Pittsburgh. evolveEA won in its category and the others were runners up.

Both GlobalLinks and the Food Bank reuse materials as part of their mission. GlobalLinks collects hospital and medical supplies that might otherwise go to a landfill and distributes them to organizations in need around the world. Likewise, the Food Bank collects and redistributes food.

"We're promoting better environmental stewardship with the recovery of materials," says Hower, who notes that their new warehouse is completely skylighted which cuts energy costs. In addition, GlobalLinks employees cut down paper use through double-sided copying and diligently turn off lights that aren't being used.

Both groups credited a Student Conservation Association fellow with educating, training and reminding people to be more mindful of ways to reduce energy costs.

The SCA fellow set up numerous projects, says DeStephano, from LED lights to composting. "The top down support was most important," he said, in getting everyone onboard.

At GlobalLinks they eliminated water bottles and even started a soup day once a week where staff took turns making soup with local ingredients. "Everybody loved it!" says Hower.

Following a discussion from the 18 nonprofits attending the workshop, all groups were invited by Direct Energy to make a short and simple video to discuss ways they've reduced energy costs in their workplaces. The energy company is awarding $2500 to the best ideas. For more info see their site here.

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Brunner, Phipps, PNC and more

Each week Pop City reports the latest news in company hiring.
Pittsburgh downtown ad agency Brunner is hiring 10 people for a variety of positions: application developer, art director, copywriter, digital project manager, junior digital designer, part-time publicist, senior project manager, ex/digital/mobile designer, vp of social media and a web analyst.
PNC Bank has career opportunities in a multitude of positions across several departments for: supervisors, senior investment advisors, marketing business analysts, finance analysts, mortgage analysts, tax supervisors, senior accountants and more.
Wexford-based Lucas Systems, a software company that provides a voice-based headset system for warehouse and logistics tasks, is hiring four people and looking for two interns. The positions include: product engineers, a software engineer and software support engineer and two internships in software support and software engineering.
Think Through Learning, a web-based education company providing customized online math instruction for students K-12, is hiring an agile project manager for its Pittsburgh office.
Pittsburgh-based Burson-Marsteller, a global publication relations and communications firm, is looking for a public relations associate to coordinate production and distribution of materials.
Engineered Style, an Alpha Lab startup developing a fashion-based web and mobile applications to assist style-challenged men, is looking for a software engineer to join the team. Join an Alpha Lab team and develop a web and mobile-based platform. Two years of software experience is preferred.
LaRoche College is hiring a multimedia designer.
Ker Communications in Pittsburgh is hiring copywriters on an as needed basis; this is not a full-time position. Ker is looking for creative and reliable writers who can put together a well-written article, series of articles or website content.
Phipps is seeking a full-time facilities manager to manage maintenance of all buildings, exterior grounds and gardens, as well as equipment maintenance, special exhibits and construction projects.
Phipps is also hiring a temporary seasonal grower to maintain and care for plants in the Conservatory and gardens.
Got hiring news? Contact Pop City and include the links to the job. Check out last week's listings.
Writer: Deb Smit

ModCloth celebrates its plus size vintage line with a Pittsburgh party. Models wanted.

ModCloth, the vintage-inspired and Indie fashion company that went from a CMU dorm room to an overnight Internet sensation, is launching a new Plus Size Line this week.
And Pittsburgh is invited to the party.
The online clothing company is throwing a party at Bakery Square on Thursday evening, Feb. 7th, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. In addition to unveiling the new Spring Plus Line, attendees can try the clothes on and play model for a day--maybe longer.
The ModCloth stylist team will also be on hand to solicit feedback on the line and to scout potential models, says Alyssa Catalano, head stylist.
While ModCloth has always offered Plus Sizes, the new line is an expansion of the existing line with more styles. The company will put just as much emphasis on style and fit of the new line as we do on the street sizes.
“ModCloth wants to become a plus destination for the online shopper,” says Catalano. “We’re inviting the public to come, see the new products, try things on and offer feedback on the fit. It’s a get together to celebrate the revamping of the line.”
Since the company’s online catalogue is shot in Pittsburgh, many of the models are recruited from the area, she adds.

Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP through ModCloth’s Facebook page.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Alyssa Catalano, ModCloth

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Google Pittsburgh, Marc USA, Astrobotic and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest company news and hiring:
Black Box Corp., a global technical services company, is hiring a web marketing manager responsible for web marketing strategy, direction and management for the company’s technology product solution offerings. The ideal candidate will have a minimum seven years of professional experience in technology-based markets and five years in website management.
Google Pittsburgh is looking for a lead content writer for its Bakery Square office, as well as software engineers and a Data Scientist. Generally speaking, the ideal candidates will be working in a fast-paced environment with a highly innovative team of people. All the positions are full-time.
MARC USA is seeking a creative director-copywriter for its ad agency that is brimming with new business. The ideal candidate should be a “killer writer” and “strategic thinker” as well as a pioneer in all media. 
Astrobotic, the CMU spinout in the business of establishing commuter missions to the moon, is hiring an experienced Administrative Assistant to join the team. A bachelor’s degree and experience with graphic design, Photoshop and/or video editing experience is sought. Must be willing to oversee all aspects of an office of a small company. 
The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is looking for a chief communications officer, someone who will lead the Food Bank’s marketing, communication, education and advocacy efforts in the pursuit of hunger relief in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Marketing and communication skills and the ability to lead a team strategically forward are key.
Carnegie Learning is looking for a team-oriented, self-directed software engineer-user interface to create custom components and layout managers in a message-driven environment. Strong software design skills and experience with the Java programming language including Swing and Java 2D are necessary.
Pittsburgh law firm K&L Gates is looking for a Website Administrator for its Pittsburgh office, a position that will be responsible for the coordination of an array of relevant content. Sharepoint and Social Media Web 2.0 technologies is a must.

Is your company hiring? Email Pop City and send us your link! Check out more listings from last week.
Writer: Deb Smit

2012 was a good year for VC growth in Pittsburgh despite a nationwide decline

Venture capital investment across the region continued to climb steadily in 2012 with 79 deals that totaled $168.97 million, a 7.9% increase over 2011 when $156.53 million was raised and spread over 55 deals. 

The news in Pittsburgh was a bright spot; nationally VC figures declined by 10 percent from the prior year. All figures are from the MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), based on data from Thomson Reuters.

“We’re bucking a trend here in Pittsburgh which is very positive,” noted Gary Glausser who joined Innovation Works this month as Chief Investment Officer.

A longtime venture capitalist in the local community, Glausser was with South Side-based Birchmere Ventures for 13 years. He most recently handled alternative investments for the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System, a total portfolio of $7 billion. He is also a member of the IW Board of Directors.

Among the highlights of the MoneyTree report for 2012:

The strongest showing in Pittsburgh was the life sciences and software sectors. More than 23 companies received funding in life sciences, predominantly medical device companies, and 19 software and IT services companies were funded. The number of software company deals last year is a sign of the region’s strength in this sector since software companies generally don’t require large infusions of cash, noted Terri Glueck of Innovation Works.

Innovation Works and The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG) were the largest overall investors, IW with 12 deals and PLSG with six according to the MoneyTree report.

The companies that raised the largest rounds included: Avere Systems ($20 million), Thorley Industries ($20 million), TriStar Investors ($15 million) Duolingo ($15 million) Knopp Biosciences ($14.94 million) and BodyMedia ($11.89 million). 

Other local investors included: Birchmere Ventures, Draper Triangle Ventures, Adams Capital Management, BlueTree Allied Angels, Eagle Ventures and Pittsburgh Equity Partners.

“I personally think the next few years will be exciting,” Glausser adds. “We’re looking at a pipeline of opportunities here. Our mission is going to be to get the capital to put into these companies.”

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: NVCA and MoneyTree 

Who's Hiring in Pittsburgh? CMU, Ronin, ZOLL and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest company news and hiring:
Carnegie Mellon University SEI is hiring three malware engineers to join its CERT Malicious Code Group, a program to improve malware analysis capability while addressing active and emerging threats. The successful candidates will have a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, software engineering and at least eight years of field experience. 
University of Pittsburgh is looking for a Web Developer to join its Office of Human Resources. The position entails designing and implementing websites for Pitt’s business and financial areas. The ideal candidate will be interested in long term career growth and will join a highly skilled team working with the latest technology The culture is collaborative and everyones input is valued.
ZOLL LifeVest is posting 10+ jobs in a variety of positions: technical writing, customer support, technical support specialist, associate regulatory affairs engineer, a director of national accounts and more. The company develops, manufactures and markets a wearable defibrillator for persons with Sudden Cardiac Arrest risk in the U.S. and Europe.
Kextil, a software company that uses speech recognition and bluetooth to wirelessly connect a technician with a mobile device, has positions for Head of Product Development, Senior Software Engineer and Vice President of Engineering. All positions offer an opportunity to shape the company’s software as well as become a significant equity owner. 
Compliance Assurance Corporation, a provider of compliance management technology solutions for the insurance industry, is currently looking for Corporate (Inside) Sales Executives to work out of its office in downtown Pittsburgh. 
SpectraGenetics, a gene-tagging startup that provides breakthrough products for drug discovery and development, is hiring an inside sales rep. The position requires selling technical molecular biology products to labs via phone, email and trade shows and requires a high degree of organization and communication skills.
UPMC is looking for a full-time technical writer to support the Operations Department at its downtown Pittsburgh location. Required skills include graphics, web design, layout, language and an understanding of human perceptions to produce a comfortable, user-friendly end product. 
kWantera, a Pittsburgh startup providing management solutions to large commercial buildings, is expanding its engineering, sales and marketing teams. It is also looking for a Sales Account Executive
The National Aviary is hiring a Director of Animal Programs to manage all aspects of the Animal Programs Dept. including animal care and husbandry and more. This requires a special candidate with significant knowledge in avian exhibitry.
Kayak Pittsburgh is hiring a 2013 Kayak Pittsburgh Site Supervisor to run day-to-day operations and manage staff among other managerial duties.

Check previous job listings in Pop City.

Have hiring news? Email Pop City and include a relevant link to your career page.

Writer: Deb Smit

Body Media unveils chic and sleek weight-loss armband at CES

Body Media’s wearable weight loss technology made a splash at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month.
The Pittsburgh company unveiled its Core 2, a smaller and sleeker armband that comes with interchangeable fashion plates and straps for the stylish workout enthusiast. 
Not only is it the smallest wearable multi-sensor device of its kind, it features a new heart rate monitoring system, an energy-saving Bluetooth that enables live activity updates on smartphones and tablets, a longer battery life and an assortment of online apps.
BodyMedia, with offices downtown in Gateway Center, has 60 employees and continues to grow. The design work is done in Pittsburgh; the armbands are assembled in Canada.
“As the innovators in wearable technology, Core 2 hits on many elements of becoming more fashionable and we continue push the envelope on sensors and size," said Christine Robins, CEO, from CES last week. "We continue to grow our customers and partners year-over-year in a range of different of channels who are interested in technology to manage health and wellness,” 
While competition is fierce in the wearable weight loss tech niche, BodyMedia has a distinct advantage. NBC’s current season of “The Biggest Loser,” which premiered on Jan. 9th, is using the armbands and companion software to help contestants track their exertion levels, calories and food intake.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Gwen Smith, Christine Robins, Body Media

Hill District entrepreneurs receive boost from Urban Innovation21; CMU awards seven startups

Twenty businesses and entrepreneurs in the Hill District are among the first recipients of funding to be officially announced by Urban Innovation21 on Thursday night.  
The grants are the first of three Urban Innovation21 competitions underway that will assist entrepreneurs in the Hill District, Homewood and the Pittsburgh Central Innovation Zone (PCKIZ).  The overall goal is to provide support for community-based, resident-owned businesses while connecting them to the region’s innovation communities.
“We were really overwhelmed by the response and are excited about the work to connect our region’s success to some of its poorest communities in a way that will ultimately provide wealth opportunities for minorities, women and resident-owned businesses,” says Bill Generett, CEO of Urban Innovation21.
The Hill District Grant Competition attracted 62 initial applicants, 60 of whom were African Americans. Applicants participated in workshops and received assistance from Urban Innovation21. The finalists submitted a business plan and gave an elevator pitch as well.
Twenty applicants will receive grants. Artistry Greenscapes won the $10,000 top prize; the winners of the $5,000 grants include: Cameron Professional Services, EnjoYourself, Grace Security, Silq Concrete, Something Borrowed Boutique and The Pittsburgh Spot.
Three companies will receive technical assistant awards to launch crowdfunding efforts and another 10 will receive $1000 each toward a Kiva Zip zero-interest loan of up to $5,000.

In other startup funding news, CMU’s Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund (OFEF) has awarded $300,000 to six startup companies to assist them in growing their business ventures.

The fund, established by CMU alumnus and Flip Video Camera creator Jonathan Kaplan and his wife, Marci Glazer, provides early-stage business financing and support to alumni who have graduated from CMU in the last five years.
Since June 2012, the OFEF has provided support to 16 startup companies from across the country and a variety of industries. The fund is part of CMU’s Greenlighting Startups initiative, which facilitates bringing faculty and student innovations from the research lab to the marketplace.
The recipients include:
NoWait, a seating management system used by large restaurant chains including Red Robin, Texas Roadhouse and T.G.I. Friday’s. NoWait recently raised $2 million in funding led by Birchmere Ventures.
ActivAided Orthotics, developers of a line of postural training designed for the long-term relief of back pain. Their first product, "RecoveryAid" was released in July 2012. 
Aurochs Brewing Company is commercializing a unique formula to brew great tasting craft beers that are naturally gluten-free.
PECA Labs’ Masa Valve is the first valved conduit to be specifically designed for pediatric heart conduit reconstruction. The valve is clinically validated and is currently going through the FDA approval process. 
Pixite’s Unbound service provides a seamless photo management and viewing experience across computers, tablets and smartphones, allowing users to do more organized with their photos while saving time.
StatEasy is a free and easy-to-use platform to high school and collegiate teams to manage statistics and video of their sporting events. The company currently services more than 120 teams.
Tunessence is a virtual guitar teacher in your Web browser through advanced audio software with instructional video that replicates the experience of an in-person lesson in an online setting.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Bill Generett, Urban Innovation21; CMU

Image of the Hill District courtesy Tom Little Photo

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Design Center, ShowClix and more

Looking for a job? Each week Pop City reports on company hiring news in the region.
Design Center Pittsburgh is hiring a Community Programs Manager who will be responsible for management and oversight of projects for the grant-making program of the Design Fund. The ideal candidate will provide technical assistance and support around issues of design, planning and policy to community-based organizations.
The position demands a highly organized person with experience in architecture, planning and/or community development and strong program management and communications skills.
The hiring spree continues at ticketing company ShowClix, which is posting seven jobs and four internships for account executives and managers, software engineers. The news at ShowClix is the recent departure of company co-founder and Josh Dziabiak who is moving to Austin, TX, to work for former AlphaLab company Insurance Zebra.
ShowClix has no immediate plans to fill the CEO position and remains committed to Pittsburgh, reports Lynsie Campbell, president. A new funding round is in the works.
Tickets for Kids Charities, a nonprofit that seeks to give underprivileged children in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio access to the arts, is looking for an executive director and administrative assistant.  
The ideal candidate will have have 10 years minimum experience as a senior manager in a nonprofit or business environment and an established record of success in several areas.
The administrative assistant position is part-time, about 20-hours a week, and requires one to two years of experience working in a busy office environment.
Carnegie Robotics, a startup company that builds robots, smart sensors and automation components with a strong relationship with the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC), is hiring mid-level software engineers for its Lawrenceville office.
The full-time positions requires product-oriented software engineers with superior problem-solving skills, high energy, creativity and strong experience in developing C and C++ software for robotics sensing applications. 
General Dynamics C4 Systems is hiring an Information Designer. GD works on the latest in visualization and collaboration software for the military and commercial partners. The ideal candidate will have a degree in Design and/or Human Sciences or related field plus a minimum of five years of relevant experience.

Sequoia Waste Solutions is hiring a lead developer and two paid-for-hire interns for its O’Hara Township office. The company, which takes a unique approach to waste disposal and recycling as a service, helps companies save money and recycle products. (See related story.)
SnapRetail has a position for a Marketing and Product Management person. The ideal candidate will be an advanced user of Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop and be able to execute and create compelling graphics and work with a team.

Treatspace is hiring a Lead Interface Designer.
Writer: Deb Smit

Pop City previews the latest local blogs, apps and n'at

Among the latest Pittsburgh-based websites, blogs and apps to surface in recent weeks:
Treading Art is the region’s latest resource for cultural happenings in the city.
Christine Smith and Melissa LuVisi moved to Pittsburgh after graduating from UCLA, where they met. They were drawn to our region’s thriving arts community and the city’s drive to redevelop and expand.
Their background in business development, museum administration and curatorial management is perfect for reaching out to the creative communities in the city. TreadingArt will highlight the scene, promote cultural happenings and post reviews, photographs, interviews, commentary and critiques.
In the coming year, the duo plan to launch a membership program with access to arts events—underground openings, panels, tours and workshops.
“Eventually we would like to see this transpire into a physical space,” says LuVisi.  “We are truly thankful to have landed in such a receptive and innovative city.”
Look for the Weekend Treadings newsletter and agenda events in January of 2013.
Built In Pgh is connecting the dots for local entrepreneurs and innovators. The website, brought to you by the same people behind the RustBuilt Initiative, is a clearinghouse for the startup community, listing events, forums, job postings and company news.
And here’s several apps and games to keep small minds busy during the holidays.
IOnFuture is a cool way for middle schoolers to explore potential careers in the STEM fields. Considering a career as an ecologist or urban planner? How about an industrial designer or Veterinarian? This gives students an opportunity to learn different activities and hobbies they might try as they explore various career paths in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
The Lemonade Stand is a free educational iPad game that teaches children ages 3-6 about money and work by letting them actually run a virtual lemonade stand. The app was created through Idea Foundry’s Riveted program.
Online reviews comments that it teaches youngsters literacy and math skills while offering kudos for the rocking music.  
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Melissa LuVisi, Kit Mueller

Pittsburgh marketing guru Dan Droz rocks the AMA awards

“Effective marketing campaigns personify the value of a product or company in some way,” says Pittsburgh marketing guru Dan Droz. “It’s a gift that keeps on giving.”
The founder of the downtown boutique firm Droz and Associates is obviously on to something. Last Friday the firm rocked the local American Marketing Association’s (AMA) 6th Annual Marketer of the Year Celebration, capturing no less than seven of the 10 awards presented.
The AMA awards recognize the top campaigns in the region for creativity and successfully strategy in 10 categories--including education, consumer services and technology. For the 32-year-old firm, it was a slam dunk.
“It was ‘oh no, not Meryl Streep again!'” Droz admits.
How do they do it? Take the Pittsburgh-based ProGrass campaign. When the makers of artificial turf for stadiums and sports facilities wanted to take on the mega-brand AstroTurf, Droz and Associates created a company mascot, a bauble-headed rhino named Rocky with a great physique.
Not only did the campaign put ProGrass on the artificially turfed map, but business shot up more quickly than real grass. The company could barely keep up with demand.
“It’s not about being different, it’s about being meaningfully distinctive,” says Droz. “Coming up with something that actually touches people. That’s the hard part.”
Droz has handled strategy and branding campaigns for more than 500 companies during his years in the business. He lectures and consults around the world, too, and has won numerous awards. But marketing wasn’t his first career. Droz was an adjunct professor at CMU, a position he held for 17 years until he retired.
He made a mark in this field as well. During the 1980s, he co-founded the Interdisciplinary Product Development Program at CMU, the first school in the country to offer a program that brought three distinct disciplines together: engineering, marketing and design.
Today, interdisciplinary programs are standard practice.
The recent spate of awards not only gave the firm seven awards, but a Grand Marketer of the Year nod for a campaign that expanded hospital linen company CleanCare. The campaign included the clever placement of humorous slogans on the company’s fleet of trucks.
Another winner was the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures campaign, which publicized the non-profit speakers series through large banners that were displayed across an Oakland construction site.
“Within three weeks, the series was sold out,” says Droz. “Now there’s a waiting list for tickets that were readily available a year ago.
“Part of what we’re doing is making an emotional connection,” he adds. “When we’re personifying a brand, we’re helping people to make an emotional connection. Creating light, designing with a sense of humor. “
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Dan Droz, Droz and Associates

Birchmere Labs poised to fund two new Pittsburgh digital media startups

Birchmere Labs, the $10 million studio seed fund created by Birchmere Ventures to support digital media startups, plans to fund two Pittsburgh-based companies in the near future.
While the announcement is not yet official, Birchmere Partner Sean Sebastian confirmed that two local startups will be among the first to receive studio funding. 
One of the companies is a digital media technology developed by a professor at Carnegie Mellon. Sebastian declined to provide details on the second, but said both companies would be developed in house initially through Birchmere Lab.
“A CMU professor came to us with an interesting idea that has never been done, but he didn’t want to run the company,” says Sebastian. “We struck an agreement and plan to build a company from scratch around the idea.”
Birchmere Labs operates as a seed studio fund, a novel approach that allows Birchmere to fund established startups through seed monies and support and build new companies through the studio funding. 
“We saw all the internet, media and web 2.0 activity coming, which really didn’t fit into Birchmere IV,” says Sebastian. “It was like putting a square peg into a round hole.”
Birchmere Lab was formed with the help of Sean Ammirati, who joined as a principal partner last August. Ammirati has a national reputation in digital media and mobile technologies. He was formerly the COO of tech blog ReadWriteWeb (now ReadWrite) and CEO of mSpoke, which sold to LinkedIn in 2010.
Last August Birchmere announced a $40 million venture capital fund, Birchmere IV. The fund has invested in eight companies so far, two local companies among them. Uptown-based NoWait received $2 million and Ross Township-based The Resumator received $2.1 million. Both were Innovation Works’ Alpha Lab companies.
While Birchmere continues to invest in the best companies it can find, regardless of geographic location, the recent activity does suggest that local startups might have an advantage.
“While there’s no official edict, the closer we are to an earlier stage company, the less heavy lifting is required,” says Sebastian.
Writer: Debra Smit
Source: Sean Sebastian, Birchmere Ventures 
346 Downtown & The Cultural District Articles | Page: | Show All
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