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Shop local gifts to love for the holidays. Can you say Pittsburgh-brewed advent beer?

Shopping local for last-minute holiday gifts that not only keep giving but also give back to Pittsburgh?
 
Aside from supporting your favorite nonprofit, local artist or neighborhood boutique, here’s a few gift ideas:
 
Advent calendars have grown up. While it might be a tad late to start one, Pennies from Pittsburgh will help you catch up fast. Devon and Tim, husband and wife, have created an inspiring advent guide to great craft beer drinking, including many local brands.  Your favorite craft beer drinker might appreciate a case of their suggested advent brews.
 
Pittsburgh comic artist Ed Piskor has been documenting the early days of hip hop music through his online comic strip. Now his paper volume (Fantagraphics, $24.99) is flying off the online shelves. The word on the street is Pittsburgh is the only place with copies still available, but not for long.
 
Piskor’s book chronicles, through cartoons, the formative years of hip hop, capturing “the vivid personalities and magnetic performances of old-school pioneers and early stars like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, plus the charismatic players behind the scenes like Russell Simmons; Debbie Harry, Keith Haring and others,” says the New York Times.
 
The Phantom of the Attic Comic Book Store in Oakland and Copacetic Comics Company have a few signed copies left. Piskor himself will be signing more books at the Brillo Box tonight from 7-9 p.m.
 
Another Pittsburgh graphic artist, Frank Santoro, has released a new graphic novel “Pompeii,” ($15.11 on Amazon) packed with illustrative drawings that conjure Roman art and architecture. The story chronicles the journey of Marcus, a young expat artist and assistant to Flavius, the famous painter and is getting rave reviews. Santoro will join Piskor at the Brillo Box tonight.
 
Support the Pittsburgh startup community and show your love for the ‘burgh with a Dahntown tee ($20) offered by Kit Mueller and BuiltinPgh.
 
Nothing shouts out Pittsburgh like a basket filled to the brim with stuff made here. Basket of Pittsburgh does just that, with a Heinz Hamper for your favorite sport’s fan, a Taste of the Town, Incline Edibles and our personal favorite, Thanks a Dot, including Pittsburgh Popcorn, coffee and more.

Have a good holiday gift idea? Share it with the rest of us!

Happy Holidays one and all.

Writer: Deb Smit

An invitation to the White House. Three business leaders report from the nation's capital

Several Pittsburgh business leaders received invitations to the White House this month for a discussion on job creation, business opportunities for women and new ways to fuel the nations economy and manufacturing sector.
 
Rebecca Harris, Chatham University’s director of the Center for Women's Entrepreneurship, and Lynn Banaszak Brusco, executive director of the Disruptive Health Technology Institute (DHTI) at CMU, attended the White House Business Council and Business Forward roundtable discussion.
 
Ilana Diamond, director of Innovation Works’ AlphaLab Gear, attended the White House Mayors Manufacturing Summit, where she touted Gear’s success in supporting manufacturing startups and offered suggestions on how others might replicate the program in their own communities.
 
The Business Council discussion was convened by Sam Brown, director, and brought White House senior officials together with local business leaders from across the country. The primary purpose was to enlighten the administration on ways to support the national job economy and increase the pace of recovery and job creation, says Harris.
 
“Much of the information will be reviewed by the President for possible inclusion in the State of the Union address,” she adds.
 
For her part, Harris highlighted the need for more support for women in business, especially in accessing capital and providing opportunities to serve on corporate boards. A recent study, she noted, reports that inclusive companies where women serve on the boards perform more successfully than those with all-male boards.
 
“It is critical that the issues that women in business face be represented at these discussions and become part of agenda for the President's State of the Union upcoming address,” she says.
 
Adds Brusco: “I was pleased to see that the administration is focusing on innovation as a key driver in the delivery of health care. Our institute is built around the mission of researching and deploying new technologies to help reduce health care costs and improve outcomes for patients.  People across our community and our country have begun to demonstrate a restlessness regarding health care. 
 
At DHTI, we are abandoning the old model of innovation, where a great idea is hatched and cultivated, and a market is sought later.  We know the market exists–better health care at a lower cost–and that the nation is demanding it. The market demand is our starting point. Working backward, DHTI is using the insurance data of Highmark and the expertise of the faculty at CMU to meet that surging market need. We were excited to be part of this White House dialogue that is driving future health care policy and implementation.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Lynn Banaszak Brusco, Ilana Diamond and Rebecca Harris

CMU researchers peek inside the minds of consumers using social media snapshots

What better way to understand the heart and mind of the consumer than through an analysis of the images that people post on social media?
 
Dr. Gunhee Kim, currently with Disney Research Pittsburgh, and Eric Xing, CMU associate professor, analyzed more than five million images and—not so surprisingly—found social media to contain a motherlode of strategic ideas for marketers.
 
The potential is staggering, they say.
 
Marketers strive to get into the heads of consumers to find out what a brand makes them think and feel. For example, what thought does the name Tiger Woods conjure? How does a McDonald’s hamburger make us feel? The researchers pulled the images from sites such as Pinterest and Flickr.
 
“If someone takes a picture and texts it as Nike, the picture is a pictorial impression about Nike,” explains Kim. “By culling millions of these images, we can read people’s minds for Nike.“

The research marks a first time researchers have systematically mined marketing data from social media and analyzed the messages, he says. Several practical applications may be explored on the basis of the research. 
 
For example, competitor mining through social media may one day help marketers to identify which companies are its primary competitors. Contextual advertising may assist companies in generating keywords or categories that best describe the image, which would lend itself to text queries for Google AdWords and BingAds.
 
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and by Google.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Dr. Kim Gunhee, CMU

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? IKM, Pittsburgh Parks, Chatham University, ASSET STEM and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest in company hiring news.

Pittsburgh-based architectural firm IKM is hiring a marketing coordinator with strong organizational and writing skills. Stay tuned for more job openings in the future as well.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is hiring a director of finance and administration who will be responsible for the effective management of the conservancy’s finances, business administration, human resources, information tech and risk management.

ASSET STEM Education, a national education improvement nonprofit, is hiring a communications coordinator to increase ASSET's brand awareness and donor and membership levels through marketing communications, event planning and social media.

The RJ Lee Group in Monroeville, providing industrial forensic and engineering solutions, has several openings: certified industrial hygienist, XRD scientist I, senior software engineer and instrument technician – technician III.

Smith Brothers marketing agency on the North Side is looking for a senior content creator and copywriter, someone with a portfolio full of digital examples with well-crafted copy.

Carlow College is looking for an executive assistant of academic affairs, a position that requires strong professional administrative and communications skills with a customer service orientation.

Chatham University is hiring a program assistant for interior and landscape architecture.

The Ward Home, a nonprofit devoted to training at-risk adults in practical life skills in safe, nurturing environments, is looking for a director of development with a minimum of four-years experience in a related field. 
 
Have hiring news? Email Pop City and send the career links.
 
Writer: Deb Smit

Duquesne University lands major licensing agreement to develop promising cure for cancer

Research on two promising cancer-destroying drugs that may one day cure cancer moved forward this month with one of the largest licensing ventures in the history of Duquesne University.

Duquesne signed a licensing agreement with North-Carolina-based FLAG Therapeutics, an early stage oncology company, giving FLAG worldwide rights to two drugs developed by Dr. Aleem Gangjee, a cancer researcher and distinguished professor in the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Gangjee has devoted his career to studying cancer killing compounds with a proven record of efficacy in late and early stages of the disease. He is internationally renowned for his research and received the prestigious American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists Award in Drug Discovery and Development Interface in 2012.

The drug compounds specifically target breast, ovarian and brain cancer; they work by simultaneously starving the blood supply to the tumor before they kill it. In addition, the drugs are selective to cancer cells, so they are not toxic to healthy cells and therefore have fewer side effects.

“My grandmother succumbed to breast cancer, so it became more of a personal reason,” says Gangjee, who studied organic chemistry at the University of Iowa and began his research during his post doctoral fellowship at SUNY Buffalo. “I wanted to understand why this disease is so baffling.”

Early on, Gangjee studied the problem of cancer's tendency to develop a resistance to drugs that proved effective in initially killing it. He began using a combination of several drugs in chemotherapy and found that the disease had a more difficult time resisting a combination of drugs.

In the 2000s, Gangjee and his team at Duquesne began developing single drugs with multiple attributes that targeted cancer cells. The fledging compound is now in the hands of FLAG, which will devote the next two to four years conducting research and going for FDA approvals. 

“We’re elated to have FLAG Therapeutics pick up the drug and develop it and take it to the next level,”  says Gangjee. “We hope it has all the promise we believe it will. To our knowledge there is nothing out there that comes close to what these compounds do.”
            
“We have worked toward this day for a long time,” he adds. “In research, there are a few troughs and a few crests. The crests make it all worthwhile.”  

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Aleem Gangjee, Duequesne University

Pittsburgh newlywed entrepreneurs create stylin' diabetes Pump Peelz

For a child with diabetes, a colorful insulin pump cover can put a splash of fun where it’s needed most.
 
That’s the idea behind Pump Peelz, a Pittsburgh-based venture founded by Scott and Emily Imblum, high school sweethearts who married this year. Scott, whose wife Emily has Type 1 diabetes, came up with the idea one day when he was looking at her Omnipod-brand insulin pump.
 
“Wearing a pump all the time isn’t much fun,” says Scott. “If we can make it customizable, it becomes more of an accessory. They’re fun, cute and cool.”
 
Scott first sent feelers out to the diabetes community and the response for an Omnipod cover was overwhelming. So he bootstrapped it and created plastic prototypes with the help of the engineering department at California University of Pennsylvania.

Emily worked with several designers to create 60 different cover designs, from an adorable ladybug, the top seller, to other colorful designs and artsy graphics.
 
The manufacturing piece for the “coated vinyl adhesives” came together through PrintScape in Robinson. The company launched in August 2011.

While Scott, who is a business development manager at the Pittsburgh Tech Council, isn’t quitting his day job yet, sales are brisk. Omnipod, the pump company, is slowly warming up to the idea of collaborating with Pump Peelz, he says.
 
A co-branded event in Disney World is in the planning. Pump Peelz plans to expand into a line of soft goods, cool travel bags, purses and wallets with insulation and compartments in all the right places.
 
“Our goal is to empower diabetics to express themselves and be proud of their ability to manage diabetes,” he says. 

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Scott Imblum, Pump Peelz

What do you get when 85 Broads in Pittsburgh concoct martinis for the holidays?

Want to know what you get when 85 Broads get together to make martinis? In this case, a highly creative holiday fundraiser.
 
85 Broads is a national women’s networking group that opened a chapter in Pittsburgh four years ago. The chapter was founded by Christina Morgan, account director with Revive Marketing, to fill a void, give ambitious women here a way to connect locally, showcase women's accomplishments on the 85 Broads' national website and put Pittsburgh on the map.

The original 85 Broads was organized by several women working at Goldman Sachs at 85 Broad Street, the investment banking firm’s former NYC headquarters.  Over the past decade, the organization has expanded its membership to include women who are alumnae and university students with members from 90 countries around the world.

The Pittsburgh chapter, with 200 members, meets monthly and is open to women within Allegheny County who are interested in meeting other women and growing professionally through skill sharing and professional speakers, says Sofia Maravich, an account exec with Gatesman+Dave.

“It’s really nice to meet with like-minded women who are professional and smart,” she says. “It’s empowering to be in that environment.”
 
On Dec. 13th 85 Broads will hold its annual Martini Marking Competition to raise money for Special Space, a nonprofit that designs and builds out dream bedrooms for critically ill children in the region.
 
The competition gets underway at Summa Design Studio, 5933 Baum Blvd., at 6 p.m. Corporate sponsors and teams will battle against one another for the title of best martini recipe while the rest imbibe.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Sofia Maravich, 85 Broads

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Forever, Axiom Health, Romeo Delivers and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest in company and hiring news.
 
Glen Meakem’s new company, Forever Inc., a provider of personal social storage for family mementos and documents, is hiring three for its downtown office: a marketing associate, marketing manager and senior product manager.
 
RE2, a developer of intelligent modular manipulation systems and drones for the defense industry, is hiring a principal electrical engineer to lead a team of electrical engineers, designers and technicians.
 
GiftCards.com, one of the largest makers of personalized gift cards from Visa or MasterCard, is growing and promises the hiring of 15 to 20 people in the coming year. The company currently has one opening for an eCommerce product manager.
 
Axiom Health Intellect Systems, a growth stage start-up company focused on hospital analytics and business analytics software products, is hiring two: a sales account executive to push initiatives across the U.S. and a CMIO and CTO to help create cutting edge products for hospital analytics and business. Candidates for the latter position should email a resume and cover letter to Murugan Subramanian at msubramanian@axiomhealthbi.com
 
Pittsburgh startup Romeo Delivers is seeking part-time studio assistants to help deliver happiness and spread perpetual kindness to the world. The AlphaLab Gear company in East Liberty sends romantic toolkits to men on a monthly basis with personalized messages and creative and personalized bits and bobs to bring joy to significant others.
 
Duquesne University is hiring a web communications manager responsible for managing and editing the university’s website, Intranet and other online communications.

The Tepper School of Business at CMU is looking for an office manager, someone with more than five years of experience working in a corporate or university environment.
 
CMU is also hiring a personal/administrative assistant to assist CMU’s school of design.
 
Writer: Deb Smit

Glen Meakem believes in the promise of Forever, his followup to Freemarkets

With Glen Meakem's days with Becker Meakem Venture Capital winding down, what’s next for the founder of the wildly successful online auctioneer, Freemarkets?
 
His new endeavor is Forever, a cloud-based, personal social storage site that preserves cherished media memories— vintage photographs, audio, video and digital media—in one standard format, putting it all in a safe and secure cloud. 
 
It’s going to be bigger than FreeMarkets, he predicts.
 
“I don’t want to be in a little dingy on the horizon,” he says, figuring the industry has a $2 billion market potential based on the sheer number of people in the world with family stories to preserve. “I want be leading the Normandy invasion.”  
 
Meakem, the historian in his own family, began thinking about the archiving business back in 1991, the summer he returned home from the Gulf War. Setting out on a road trip to visit relatives, he recorded video footage of his three living grandparents along the way, capturing family stories that might be otherwise lost. 
 
When he was done, he gave a copy to family members. “If you asked them today where it is, not one would know,” he says. “They all lost it.”
 
So where is a family to keep important personal records in the digital age—medical records, wills, documents as well as their personal scrapbooks? Facebook owns everything you upload on its site, he says. DropBox requires a monthly bill and shuts down accounts that fall delinquent.
 
Meakem did the research and found there was no permanent place to both save and share a family legacy privately, for all of eternity, assuming that clouds live forever. Any system also needed the technology to migrate different media formats—like VHS tapes or Super 8—to one standard format. 
 
For a one-time buy in, currently $295, customers join Forever’s permanent endowment, a restricted fund managed as an endowed fund. The one-time payment secures your content for as long as you live, plus one hundred years, he says.
 
“We will never lose anybody’s stuff,” he adds. “Everything is triple backed up in different sites around the world and encrypted. And you own it.”
 
The company, based in Market Square downtown, employs 40 full-time. Since it was officially founded in May of 2012, the firm has raised $13 million. David Ciesinski, a former Heinz executive, has joined as executive vice president.  
 
“My passion and love is setting a vision, inspiring people, leading and selling,” says Meakem of his latest venture. “I just didn’t enjoy being a VC very much. After six or seven years, I realized that I missed being a CEO.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Glen Meakem, Forever

FutureDerm rolls out new beauty products, introduces a custom-mixed moisturizer

When it comes to the science of beauty, Nicki Zevola knows her stuff.
 
The CEO of FutureDerm, Pittsburgh's own Estee Lauder, prides herself in educating women on the chemistry of cosmetics through her line of beauty products and an accompanying blog.
 
With two products already on the market, the startup has rolled out several new ones, including a customized face moisturizer designed to meet the personal needs of each user. FutureDerm Specialist is a patent-pending blend, bringing together elements of modern skin care chemistry, digital technology and the old-school apothecary, says Zevola.
 
Customers fill out an online survey about their skin care needs and an algorithm does the rest, creating a personalized formula from more than 100 different combinations of active ingredients.
 
Also new is FutureDerm’s Vitamin C Eye Cream, Skin Reborn Facial Cleanser and Seven Wonders Antioxidant-Rich Toner, which join the Time-Release Retinol 0.5 and Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum (a vitamin C formulation). The products were formulated to work together as an overall skincare system.

For seekers of a more organically-based system, the FutureDerm Organic 8 line--a cleanser, toner and moisturizer--is made from all-natural skin-care ingredients.
  
“We have a very scientific-minded audience,” explains Zevola. “We’re very authentic about who we are and what we represent. Women care about whether it works, not the fancy packaging and high price point.”
 
Another two products will be developed under a different brand name. Zevola declined to elaborate on them at this time. All will be available by Dec. 10th.
 
“What’s nice about the FutureDerm line is you get a wide assortment of ingredients that are scientifically proven. Everything is biocompatible to get maximal results,” she says.
 
The company has an office below Alpha Lab on Carson Street on the South Side and recently hired a chief marketing officer (formerly with TripAdvisor). FutureDerm employs seven; manufacturing takes place in Pittsburgh, Alabama and New Jersey.
 
FutureDerm’s growing success comes from a caring approach that is conveyed through its blog and responding to requests and questions through social media, Zevola says.
 
“I always say people don’t care what you know till they know that you care,” she says. “The fact that we have a lot of heart comes through. We’re walking before we run, but making great progress.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Nicki Zevola, FutureDerm

Red Star Kombucha, the brewed in Pittsburgh glob to love

Pittsburgh has a kombucha to call its own.
 
Red Star is a local version of the fermented tea beverage and the first licensed kombucha brewery in Pennsylvania. The company is expanding to new digs in Pittsburgh and adding a second location in Philadelphia.
 
Founded by Joe Reichenbacher and Naomi Auth, business partners and brewers, Red Star opened last year on Lowrie Street in the Pig Hill Café, starting out as a growler filling station for kombucha drinkers.
 
Auth developed the recipe, three flavors: Zingerbuch, Green and 1877, the latter a robust black tea with lemon notes. Reichenbacher had the bar business know-how to get the venture up and running.
 
The brewery is relocating to Dallas Avenue in Point Breeze; the growler shop will reopen early next year in the Artisan Café, 5001 Penn Ave.
 
“There’s a pretty good kombucha base in Pittsburgh,” Reichenbacher reports, “although it will never be as popular here as beer.”
 
Kombucha, pronounced kom-boo-cha, is a fermented fungus that is gaining in popularity, especially on the West Coast in health-conscious and hippie circles. China, Japan, Korea and Russia stake claims to being early brewers.
 
Many believe Kombucha has health-boosting properties, although it has not been scientifically proven. It should be noted that others, namely health experts, warn against the home brewing of non-pasturized kombucha due to the risk of contamination.
 
The tea is brewed using a culture of bacteria and yeast, called the “scoby,” a process that takes place in large glass bottles. It’s similar to sourdough, Reichenbacher says, and "the glob" can be eaten or removed. Hence the company’s motto “in glob we trust.”
 
The final product is mildly alcoholic, .5 to 1 percent, giving it a place in several Pittsburgh bars where it is sold on tap or used as a mixer. (Beer contains 5% alcohol.)
 
Reichenbacher agrees it can be an acquired taste, generally resembling a light brown carbonated, slightly bitter tea-like cider.
 
“I believe if it makes you feel good, you should keep doing it,” he adds, noting that he has found it to be the perfect midday pickup. “It makes me feel good so I keep drinking it.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Joe Reichenbacher, RedStar Kombucha
 
 

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? The City of Pittsburgh, Avere, MARC USA, Pittsburgh Steelers and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest in company hiring news.
 
Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto is posting 30 city jobs on a new website created by The Pittsburgh Foundation called Talent-City.com.  The jobs are in the areas of the Mayor’s Office, Finance and Administration, Public Safety and Urban Affairs, and Planning and Innovation; annual salaries range between $60,000 and $106,000.

Avere
has four openings in Pittsburgh: director of cloud business development, technical support engineer, software engineer and software QA engineer, this from the fast-growing company that recently introduced Cloud NAS, reinventing the way data is stored in the cloud.

Rue21, in the news for going private, has 10 openings at its corporate headquarters in Warrendale, Pa. including buyers, district managers, store analysts and ecommerce merchandising.
 
MARC USA is hiring a PR/ social media account to manage the social media conversation for leading brands, plan innovative social promotions and also be involved in a wide range of media relations, event planning and cause marketing activities, in addition to day-to-day client service and project management.
 
The community newspaper of Pittsburgh’s Northside, The Northside Chronicle, is seeking a new managing editor. The monthly community newspaper has a circulation of 8,000 and delivers to 18 Northside neighborhoods.
 
Chorus Call in Monroeville, provider of audio and video conferencing and streaming solutions for an international market, seeks a video account executive to grow the company’s telecasting services including webcasting, multi-point video conferencing events, and endpoint video equipment.
 
Compunetix, also in Monroeville, a manufacturer of multipoint collaboration equipment and web collaboration software s hiring in for technical sales, software development, customer support, facilities maintenance, and electronics assembly.

Grantmakers of Western PA is looking for a program and communications coordinator, someone responsible for a wide range of responsibilities from communications to programming and service.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hiring a corporate partners manager. The position will be responsible for generating revenue through the sale of Pittsburgh Steelers marketing platforms, media programs and events through existing corporate partners and by cultivating new local and national partnerships. 

Is your company hiring? Email Pop City and include the career links.

Writer: Deb Smit

AlphaLab Gear is here--Pittsburgh's industrial-chic space for hardware startups

 
What do you get when you put nine enterprising hardware tech startups into an industrial-chic space in a former bowling alley in East Liberty?
 
AlphaLab Gear, the cool tech startup accelerator brought to us by Innovation Works and created around the idea—modeled after AlphaLab on the South Side—of entrepreneurs making great hardware together.
 
About 150 curious well-wishers attended the open house Monday night, which lifted the veil—or should we say garage doors—on the first class of companies.
 
The 10,000 square-foot space is an inspiring version of tech shop with touches like chain-link fences, barn doors, splashes of wall color, couches and a long wall of 12, 52-inch monitors that form a giant flat screen.
 
Gear taps the region’s prowess in robotics, software and hardware tech design, bringing entrepreneurs and artists together in a collaborative space to provide intensive business mentoring, financial assistance up to $50,000, a membership to tools and equipment in nearby TechShop and mentorship, for which IW is known.
 
“If Pittsburgh knows one thing, it’s how to make things,” said Rich Lunak, CEO of IW. “We are the original industrial town. We have the supply chain and talent to make this successful.”
 
The companies include:
 
FreshTemp, creating a temperature monitor and alert system for the food, medical and manufacturing industries.
 
IdentifiED, based on tech developed at the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab, designing unmanned aerial systems for data gathering in remote and hazardous environments for military, oil and gas exploration.
 
KyteLabs, two entreprenuers from Puerto Rico who are working on 4.0 software/hardware products with low-energy Bluetooth.
 
LifeShel, making smarter smart phone cases that protect more than just your smartphone.
 
Piecemaker, offering retailers 3D technology to create their own low-cost customized products in a matter of minutes.
 
Rapid PTC, automated platform technology for manufacturing thermoplastic composite parts.
 
Romeo Delivers, a monthly subscription service for men who need a little assistance with sending romantic notions to their significant other, like “kisses in a bag.”
 
Saturday Garage, applying robotics to the tool industry for tool challenged do-it-yourselfers who need assistance in operating industrial-grade precision and design tools.

Two artists-in-residence are also a part of the mix: documentary filmmaker Kalpana Biswas and woodworking furniture designer Jonathan Shapiro.
 
“People are working in this space. Sparks are flying,” says Illana Diamond, managing director of AlphaLab Gear. “Being a maker has become cool again.”
 
AlphaLab Gear was created with support from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, URA, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Innovation Works

Pittsburgh innovation news you need to know

The entrepreneurial and innovation sector in Pittsburgh continues to heat up. Here’s a quick look at the news going down around town.
 
CMU reports the creation of a record number of new startups this year, 36 to be exact, an economic milestone for the region by all accounts. CMU, its faculty and students have spun out more than 130 companies over the past five years and have attracted approximately $400 million of outside investment. 
 
CMU also announced a shift to a “spin-in” approach to working with entrepreneurs through organizations like Carnegie Innovations. The model allows companies to function as a venture-supported startup and receive financial support from CMU while the university retains 90 percent equity in each.
 
“It really is an example of us getting into the business of our business in the tech development space,” Mark Kamet, CMU Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, told the audience gathered at LaunchCMU last week.
 
Five subsidiaries are underway: Acrobatiq, an open learning initiative; Acatar, a distance learning platform; Panopto, a video recording, transmission and content platform for enterprise; Clearmodel, focused on developing best-practice and model-based improvements; and iCarnegie, an older company developed in the ‘90s that works with government and businesses on workforce development.
 
The University of Pittsburgh announced this month the opening of The Innovation Institute to advance entrepreneurship, commercialization and economic development at the university, bringing everything together under the existing Office of Technology Management, Office of Enterprise Development, and the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence. 
 
Built in PGH has announced the creation of Citywide Standup, a monthly meetup to bring entrepreneurs together for regular facetime. Participants will have 30-seconds to expound on their wins and losses over a beer. 
 
Taking a page from Silicon Valley and “Shark Tank”, UPMC is holding another two-day Health Data Palooza," bringing more than 130 engineers, designers and analysts together to create cool tools and products for health care. Last May, a similar event created a device that fits in a shoe to get employees at desk jobs to get up and move. The event will be held on Nov. 20th and 21st at Bakery Square’s offices of UPMC’s Technology Development Center. Judges will be present and funding will be awarded.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: CMU, University of Pittsburgh, Built In PGH

Truly Accomplished embraces the power of technology to change lives

Achieving the personal satisfaction that comes from true accomplishment is often an elusive goal. Now there’s an online platform that charts that course for us.
 
Elissa Ashwood, mother, wife and Fortune 500 executive, found herself feeling unfulfilled at the age of 40. Battling breast cancer and dealing with the death of her step mother, she realized her life lacked balance.
 
“It pushed me to leave my job and begin working on a solution,” she says.
 
Ashwood is co-founder of Truly Accomplished, a startup working out of Revv Oakland. The company develops web-based tools to help individuals take control of their lives, manage their time, improve productivity and achieve goals.
 
Launched in 2012, Truly Accomplished is based on the life work of Ashwood’s father, Dr. Robert Pritchard, an organizational psychologist whose doctoral dissertation on motivation, and why people often feel debilitated by company performance reviews, has received national acclaim.
 
Pritchard turned his theory into a methodology for the U.S. Air Force. The program worked extremely well, improving overall team effectiveness by 150%, says Ashwood. Together they turned the program into Trueprint, an online measurement and feedback system to help people set better goals and stick to them.
 
The program is offered to individuals and companies as a professional service. In time it may become self serve, she says. Several prominent Pittsburgh leaders praise the program on the website.
 
Everyone wants to feel healthy, connected and smart, but how we go about this is different for each, Ashwood says. Truly Accomplished asks a better question and helps to prioritize these feelings.
 
“Humans generally can’t compare more than three or four things at the same time,” she says. “Our minds are really bad at that. But it isn’t hard for computers to give us data and tell us how our effectiveness adds up. “
 
For example, how many lunches have we made our kids this week? How many times have we tucked them in? How much time did we spend touching base with our significant other? It measures our daily successes.
 
“It’s hippy capitalizism at its best,” she says. “The Viagra of self-improvement. It’s our way of making work a little bit better for everybody.”
 
It also helps companies to help their employees by giving them the tools to balance career and home life and achieve a sense of accomplishment.
 
“So many midcareer women walk out the door because they have no way to manage everything they are trying to do,” she says. “Companies would rather have productive employees than lose people.”
 
It’s not about getting more things done or achieving fame and wealth, she adds. “It’s about getting what we need. Feelings are like north stars, they give you direction. It's exciting to do something like this in Pittsburgh, a place where living a good life is valued and that’s what we’re all about.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Elissa Ashwood, Truly Accomplished
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