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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 

Astrobotic expanding to the Strip District, prepares to blast off

Astrobotic Technology, the CMU spinoff and a front runner in the Google Lunar X race to the moon, is breaking ground on a new headquarters in the Strip District.
 
The facility, to be located at the corner of Liberty and 25th streets, will give Astrobotic 3,600 square feet to consolidate its operations in one place, says Jason Calaiaro, CIO. The company is currently housed on CMU’s campus and in Oakland.
 
The new facility is key to the development of the company’s landers and rovers and to further plans for a mission to the moon in 2015. Plans also call for a crane, called a gravity offloader, which simulate Moon gravity for robots and assist in assembling spacecraft.
 
“This is a dream facility,” says Calairo. “The crane is an incredible piece of technology.  Imagine strapping yourself into a harness connected to a crane and having the experience of Moon gravity.  We're doing that for robots.”
 
Last October, Astrobotic unveiled a prototype lunar prospecting rover, Polaris, which will prospect for water, oxygen, methane and other life-supporting volatiles on the moon. 
 
The company has also won several NASA contracts that are helping to underwrite the mission to the moon and Google Lunar X Race. The Astrobotic-CMU mission, scheduled for October of 2015, is on schedule, says Calairo.
 
Of the 28 teams entered in the competition, three or four are considered serious contenders and have secured the funding needed to compete, says Calairo. The Astrobotic-CMU mission, which is under the wing of CMU’s Red Whittaker, CEO of Astrobotic, is considered a favorite to win. 
 
Astrobotic currently employs seven, with another 20 on the CMU side, and plans on hiring several in 2013.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Jason Calairo, Astrobotic Technologies

Pittsburgh Tech 50, and the winners are...

More than 600 people attended the 16th annual Pittsburgh Tech 50 Awards last Thursday, a celebration that marked the last 30 years and the transformation of Pittsburgh as a hub for thriving technology companies.
 
With music pumping and videos playing, the show celebrated the business leaders that helped lead the way, such as Dick Thornburgh, Tim Parks and Jerry McGinnis, to name a few. "They didn't see it as risk. They saw it as imperative," Audrey Russo intoned in the video. (Watch the 30 year history video.)

Rock star presenters sashayed on stage to the beat, some dancing or playing guitar.

Held at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown, the event also featured a Showcase of Innovation where nominees displayed their products and initiatives prior to the awards ceremony.
 
And the winners were: 
 
Advanced Manufacturer of the Year: Calgon Carbon Corporation
 
Innovator of the Year: Epiphany Solar Water Systems, LLC
 
Life Sciences Company of the Year: ERT, formerly invivodata, inc
 
New Media Company of the Year: TrueFit
 
Solution Provider of the Year: Summa Technologies
 
Start-Up of the Year: Branding Brand
 
Tech Titan of the Year: ANSYS, Inc.
 
CEO of the Year: Scott Pearson, Aquion Energy, Inc.
 
For a complete listing of all the finalists, click here.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Pittsburgh Technology Council
 

New Hazlett Theatre sets the stage for some of the hottest new tech startups in town

Some of the hottest new tech startups in the region were unveiled at the New Hazlett Theatre Thursday, tackling everything from learning the guitar online to autonomous boats that monitor water quality.
 
The companies included the current class of AlphaLab startups and technologies coming out of the region’s universities and the i6 Agile Innovation program.
 
In its fifth year, Alpha Lab has drawn entrepreneurs to the region from across the country and around the world, Rich Lunak, CEO of Innovation Works, told the more than 200 in attendance.
 
Going forward, several new programs are on the horizon, Lunak said. Alpha Law will provide legal assistance to entrepreneurs and startups. The Agile Hardware Design Center will be for hardware and manufacturing what AlphaLab is to software company development.
 
More on that later. In the meantime, check out some of the latest technologies that were rolled out:
 
Tunnessence draws on advanced studio processing technologies to provide personalized guitar lessons to aspiring musicians. The startup will charge a fee for online lessons.
 
Fitwits is a learning tool that is helping doctors to approach the delicate discussion around childhood obesity. The tool assists with in-office consultations with children and families during a well-child checkup.
 
Platypus is a autonomous robotic boat that motors on waterways with sensors that monitor the heath of local waters at a far lower cost than systems that require continuous human oversight.
 
My CE Manager streamlines and monitors the continuing education process required for all licensed individuals.
 
Other companies, many of which have been featured in recent issues of
Pop City, included FutureDerm, Aurochs (wheat-free beer), CollegeZen (former College People), treatspace, autoref, Neon, ExpressionBlast, Quant MD, and Panther Learning.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Innovation Works

Dynamics unveils world's first battery-powered credit card--get ready to rack up loyalty points

Pittsburgh-based Dynamics Inc., the mega-award-winning CMU startup founded by Jeff Mullen, unveiled its first credit card this week, a battery-operated system that promises to change the way consumers, banks and vendors use thin plastic.
 
Called the Dynamic ePlate Visa, the card can multi-task like no other, offering consumers applications that award loyalty points for dozens of perks, everything from travel to games, restaurant meals, groceries and charity donations.
 
The ePlate provides a revolutionary level of service as a credit card, explains Mullen, Dynamics CEO. Until now, banks have been unable to partner with certain companies and brands—such as seasonal products or artists—on loyalty awards. With ePlate, the consumer can select rewards, at the point-of-purchase, simply by flicking a lighted switch.
 
The card initially comes with 35 apps for travel, games, entertainment and retail, but many, many more will follow, says Mullen. The system awards points almost instantaneously.
 
“You can eat dinner and, by the time you get home, you could be watching that movie through that reward,” says Mullen. “That’s the power of the ePlay system.”
 
With each purchase, the reward data feeds into Dynamics’ data center ln Cheswick. Dynamics' has a nine-acre, 125,000 square-foot office, in a former torpedo factory and Westinghouse site.
 
“We are going to run out of room fast,” Mullen says.
 
The company currently employs 71 full-time and 20 part-time employees and plans continued hiring as applications are rolled out. The company is hiring extreme engineers, software developers, administrators, skilled labors and operators.
 
“ePlate’s integration into the payment systems is so fast the apps will be implemented before you can even put your card back in your wallet,” says Mullen.
 
The company has raised $40 million in venture funding to date, from Bain Capital Ventures in Boston and Adams Capital Management in Sewickley.
 
The story of Dynamics began back in 2007 when Mullen was attending the Tepper School of Business at CMU. Dynamics went on to win the $1 million DEMOgod prize as well as several other prestigious competitions.
 
Pittsburgh gaming company Evil Genius Designs is among the companies partnering with Dynamics. Evil Genius’ game Black Friday utilizes consumer approved purchase data to provide in-game bonuses and power ups to enhance and empower the guests' gaming experience through the Dynamics ePlate.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Jeff Mullen, Dynamics Inc.

Shopping for a new or used car? Autoref seals the deal online, no-haggling required

AutoRef, a car-buying referee, is streamlining the car deal, helping buyers to sidestep the frustration that goes along with negotiating the sale of a new or used car.

The idea was hatched in LA by Mike Pena after he suffered through a sale with his brother. Together with CMU student Todd Medema Autoref was born. The company, which got a boost from CMU's Project Olympus and Greenlighting Startups, is currently in Alpha Lab where a team of seven is poised to expand the service nationwide through more than 5,200 participating car dealerships.

While there is no obvious shortage of car-buying websites out there, none of them actually seals the deal, explains Michael Bailey of Autoref. The website not only gives buyers a no-obligation final offer, guaranteed for 72 hours, but offers financing through the dealership. 

And AutoRef is free. AutoRef customers report spending an average of 45 minutes at dealerships compared to three hours without the site, says Bailey. Customers who have purchased vehicles through the Autoref report saving an average of 11 percent off the sticker price. 

And dealerships and car salesman love it.

“One of the biggest annoyances in the car industry is to have a customer come in, shop around, test drive, and then leave and never come back,” says Bailey. “Salespeople work on commission. Often they’ll waste half their day and have nothing to show for it.”

Here's how it works. Buyers select the make and model of the car and provide their zip code. The site then offers a list of available vehicles at participating dealers in the region. Buyers can compare models, view a Carfax report, view images and ask questions. 

Selected cars then go into your “garage” and up to three cars may be submitted for an offer, with or without dealership financing. AutoRef currently isn’t able to negotiate with a trade-in, but that feature is coming soon, Bailey says.  

When offers are received, usually within a day, buyers have 72 hours to visit the dealers, test drive the cars and respond. In this writer’s experience, the prices on the new cars dropped at by at least $2000 while a used car, which was priced fairly to begin with, stayed the same. 

One of the keys behind the pricing is dealers have the ability to see what other dealers are offering on the same deal. Autoref receives a commission on every car sold.  

“Dealers are used to people coming in and saying ‘the guy down the street can give me a better price,’” says Bailey. “This way dealers can see exactly what the other dealers are offering.”

The company plans to expand significantly this fall and is looking for five to 15 people for its sales and tech team.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Michael Bailey, Autoref

Wanna kick a habit? Ludo Mechanica puts a life coach in your pocket

Wanna kick an annoying habit? Meet your accountability partner.
 
University of Pittsburgh undergrad James Lomuscio is co-founder of Ludo Mechanica, an Oakland-based startup that is helping professional life coaches assist their clients in quitting unhealthy habits.
 
LM’s first Android product is called DropKicker, a text message delivery system designed to bring an end to unwanted, habitual behaviors. Dropkicker works as a mobile app, assisting coaches in keeping tabs on clients who want to stop behaviors like eating too many sweets. Or smoking. Or drinking soda.
 
While the technology is customized to an individual’s needs, it works through gentle (and often humorous) text messages sent throughout the day, missives that try to determine if temptation or denial is winning out. 
 
People are habitually driven to respond to a text message rather than a push notification, explains Lomuscio. “(A life coach) can’t call to check in on every client several times a day or during the week. DropKicker is an intermediary, a proxy coach.”
 
Lomuscio, a neurosciences major, has based the system on psychological studies of habit-forming behavior and the effectiveness of certain methods like going cold turkey. A soda junkie himself, he was approaching day 46 without a carbonated beverage during this interview.
 
As goals are met, the number of text messages may decline. Sneak a smoke, and your proxy coach will buzz you with plenty of feedback. Family and friends are an important part of one’s support team.
 
For example, turn off the technology during therapy and everyone you know and love will be notified.
 
“The important thing is to make sure the process feels like fun. We quantify achievement in a funny, fun way,” he says.
 
Ludo Mechanica has a team of six part-timers and works out of Idea Foundry on Craig Street.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: James Lomuscio, DropKicker
 
 

CMU news: Aura's bike lights for night riding and Astobotic's water-drilling moon rover

Industrial design majors Jonathan Ota and Ethan Frier, both avid bikers, understand the need for bikers to be more visable at night.
 
Studies show that 36% of all accidents occur at intersections, between the hours of 5 and 9 p.m., they say. So when they got a class assignment that asked them put their industrial design know-how to use, they came up with bike lights that can be seen on the road from almost any angle.
 
Called Aura (formerly Project Aura), the system uses LED lights, glowing white orbs that are rim-mounted to the bike to illuminate the wheels, alerting drivers and pedestrians to the presence of a moving vehicle.
 
Aura is a new way for cyclists to not only broadcast where they are, but convey how fast they are traveling, they explain. Unlike wheel tape or gimmicky products like lighted shoes, Aura is intended to make bikes pop out at night amid the urban chaos.
 
“The real innovation is the color changing aspect of the system,” says Ona, who regularly commutes to the Oakland campus. “It offers another level of information to drivers who can recognize more easily what a cyclist is doing.”
 
The LEDs illuminate red when the biker is moving slowly and white as a biker gains speed.
 
The pair are developing the prototype through CMU’s Project Olympus with help from a Student Undergraduate Research Grant (SURG) and support from CMU’s Greenlighting Startups. The plan is to raise money to take the design to the next level and commercialization.

In other CMU news, Astrobotic unveiled its prototype lunar rover, the solar-powered Polaris, yet another step in pursuit of the Google Lunar X $20 million prize. Polaris is equipped to search and drill for water on the Moon’s poles, in addition to other sources of potential energy.
 
This is the first lunar rover developed specifically to drill for water, a feature that was added as a result of scientific research that suggest that water exists on the moon in some form, says Red Whittaker, CEO of Astrobotic and director of the Field Robotics Center at CMU.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Jonathan Ona and Ethan Frier, Aura; CMU

Image of Jonathan Ona and Ethan Frier courtesy of CMU

Pittsburgh startup scene is a Thrill Mill. And then you Hustle (Den).

What began as a backyard BBQ to raise money for local startups has expanded into a new organization and incubator for entrepreneurs.
 
Thrill Mill was founded to build on the momentum of the first Pittsburgh Business Bout, a competition that awarded $5,000 last year to a young group of entrepreneurs who created an online legal notice search engine called FindNotice.  
 
This year’s Business Bout, currently underway, is upping the stakes with $25,000 in prize money for the best business plan. The winnings were made possibly through sponsors Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Submissions are due Oct. 31st
 
Thrill Mill consists of an annual cycle that begins with a large-scale music festival – Baller BBQ – that will not only showcase national music talent, but local music, art, entertainment and business talent.  Revenues generated by the festival will be awarded to the winner of a Business Bout.

Lucky applicants in the Business Bout may then gain admission to an early stage business incubator, the Hustle Den, opening early in 2013, where entreprenuers will receive free office space, mentorship, programming and investor relationships, for one full year. 

“The security blanket of corporate America is not what it use to be,” explains Bobby Zappala, Thrill Mill CEO. “Startups will become more a part of mainstream growth and certainly this is happening in Pittsburgh. We have all the elements. We just need to encourage those in Pittsburgh to stay here.”
 
The 5,000 square-foot space was secured with the help of a $750,000 investment from an anonymous donor, says Luke Skurman, of College Prowler and an original founder of Business Bout.
 
“We want hungry entrepreneurs who are going to go for it,” says Skurman. “All industries are welcome.”
 
At the conclusion of the cycle, the Hustle Den participants will have an opportunity to pitch their businesses to investors at the next year’s BBQ, and the cycle continues says Skurman.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Bobby Zappala, Luke Skurman, Thrill Mill and Business Bout

GTECH's ReEnergize Pittsburgh is reducing the region's carbon footprint one house at a time

Pittsburgh nonprofit GTECH is rolling out a new public-private initiative it hopes will not only reduce residential waste but also improve air quality and create jobs in Allegheny County.
 
ReEnergize Pittsburgh is a collaboration of local organizations and nonprofits. The goal is to cultivate the potential of people and communities to do the right thing and support a greener economy and improve the health of their neighborhood.  
 
“Allegheny County stands to lead the nation in a self-initiated regional strategy to create jobs while improving public health conditions,” says Andrew Butcher, co-founder and CEO of GTECH. 
 
The initiative will target energy efficiency as a platform for community development, working at a grassroots level to build up community networks and educate homeowners on energy efficiency and the services available. 
 
The average homeowner spends $2300 annually on energy, explains Butcher. With an energy audit, that homeowner can save $500 a year. 
 
ReEnergize hopes to target 2000 homes in 20 communities, engaging some 5000 residents, in the pilot year with the goal of removing hundreds of tons of carbon from the environment.  
 
“All solutions are on the table,” Butcher says. “We’re looking at the best practices around the country; no one solution fits all. We believe actions beget actions. And these actions will yield an upward spiral of community action.” 
 
The program consists of a website and community outreach. ReEnergizepgh.org is a clearinghouse of local resources and services. An executive director will be hired, along with 16-20 paid ambassadors who will work to develop community networks and build partnerships with local businesses. 
 
“In order for the market to grow, and for demand to increase, the range of programs needs to be easily delivered to average resident,” explains Butcher. “It really does take a village to do all this stuff. “
 
More than 30 organizations are already on board: local utilities, governmental agencies, non-profit service providers, small businesses, education and training programs, foundations, and existing public-private collaborations such as the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative and the Breathe Project.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Andrew Butcher, GTECH

Aspinwall firm takes social media marketing to TV with 321Blink the Show

Social media continues to permeate every aspect of our lives. Now it's coming to us through our televisions.
 
Aspinwall-based 321Blink is launching a TV show this week that it believes will give businesses and nonprofits a boost in disseminating their social marketing messages.
 
The creative marketing company is producing 321Blink the Show, a 30-minute, hi-def program that will air weekly with a succession of two-minute segments that highlight local businesses and nonprofit organizations through interviews, clever dialogue and music.
 
The question is, will this be something a discerning viewer will want to watch?
 
Tripp Clarke and Tim McLaughlin, Pittsburgh entrepreneurs with experience in video and media, think so. The format promises to be interesting and will generate a buzz, they say, as the show is promoted across multiple social media platforms.
 
From a marketing perspective, businesses will get more mileage for their dollar from TV. They cite a study by the Wharton School of Business that reports that video improves comprehension and retention by 50% and speeds up buying decisions by 72%.

“Television delivered in an entertaining fashion, that’s well shot, in high definition, will have definite appeal,” says McLaughlin.

“The show is a driver to other platforms (like YouTube and Facebook),” adds Clarke. “Those platforms will then drive back to the show.”

321Blink the Show was inspired by the popularity of the Pittsburgh FYI Network of 20 years ago, a program that featured local businesses, says Clarke. Some of the first shows have an MTV meets Pittsburgh feel to them.

The show will air throughout Pennsylvania, beginning on Sept. 28th, on several TV channels including PCNC, Fox 53, and ABC affiliates.

Businesses can use the video as fresh content for their social marketing strategy, or 321Blink can manage it for them, says Clarke. Fresh content will help businesses to rank better in searches while driving web traffic and moving the message.

The company, founded in 2011, employs seven full-time and three part-time. 321Blink also encourages local filmmakers and musicians to contribute.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: 321Blink

Image of Tripp and Tim courtesy of 321Blink

Buy Pittsburgh First unites local industries and everyone wins

Buy Pittsburgh First is not something that will work everywhere, but it’s definitely working in Pittsburgh, says company founder Chantel Goldstrohm.
 
The Bridgeville-based firm started two years ago as a grassroots movement to entice local industrial businesses to examine their buying habits and support other local supply and service companies. Many want to buy local but don’t have the time or resources to do it, she says.
 
Goldstrohm grew up in Cecil and graduated from University of Pittsburgh. Her experience in sales and marketing, along with her husband’s work in the industrial sector, led her to realize that with the economic downturn, people in the industrial supply business might be inclined to support one another.
 
It was a completely new concept when we started, something that had never been done before, she says. “There were nights I couldn’t sleep. We were leading the charge in this realm.”
 
The success is in the return to local communities, she says. For every $100 spent with a company in Pennsylvania, $68 is recycled back to the community through expenditures, payroll taxes and more. When a company buys outside of the state, only $48 comes back to the region.
 
That extra $25 has the potential to become a huge source of cash flow to our schools, roads, parks and more. 
 
“Pittsburgh bleeds black and gold. I don’t know we could have gone anywhere else and gotten the support we have,” admits Goldstrohm. “It’s a win win all around.”
 
Buy Pittsburgh First employs five and is planning on hiring two in 2013.
 
The company will hold its first annual Buy Pittsburgh First Expo On Oct. 11th, a showcase of the region’s industrial supply, service and manufacturing companies.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Chantel Goldstrohm, Buy Pittsburgh First
 

Pittsburgh Craft, a magazine for the discerning beer drinker

As we all know, beer is among the things that Pittsburgh does well.
 
And now we have a regional magazine to go with it. Launched in 2010, Craft Pittsburgh is embracing the local craft beer industry in response to the resurgence of interest in craft brewing here, says founder and editor Tim Russell. 
 
Pittsburgh just wasn’t getting its due, he says.
 
“I want to enlighten everyone, bring in people on the fringe who are just beginning to discover craft beer,” explains Russell. “If people start drinking better beer, it will grow the industry and help everyone.”
 
Craft Pittsburgh is for connoisseurs to wanna-be better beer drinkers who are interested in following the business, or brewing a batch at home. Stories range from the several well-orchestrated events that happen around beer, including Steel City’s Big Pour and The Reverse Keg Ride, where an empty keg is returned to its neighborhood brewery with the help of more than 100 cyclists. (All in the name of charity, of course.)
 
The most recent issue (No. 7) relates the wonderful history of beer making in Pittsburgh. Did you know, for example, that long before President Obama was throwing back hotcakes at Pamela’s, President Roosevelt was swilling Duquesne Brewing Company’s “near beer” during prohibition?
 
There’s also the events and festival listings, cooking with beer, home brewing tips and regular installments from columnist The Drunk Yinzer.
 
The only problem is that  when the magazine comes out, about 10,000 copies a run, the free hard copies disappear fast. Fortunately, it's also available online.
 
Craft Pittsburgh officially became a profitable enterprise with the sixth issue, thanks to the support of local establishments and restaurants, says Russell.
 
“I hope it gets the craft beer community going, because I’d love Pittsburgh to become one of those cities like San Diego or Philadelphia (who are on the forefront of the craft beer movement),” he says. “But Pittsburgh is catching up.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Tim Russell, Craft Pittsburgh

Australian company Excel4apps opens office in Pittsburgh, hiring

Australian-based financial software company Excel4apps has opened an office in Pittsburgh and plans to expand here in the coming year.
 
The company was founded in 2003 in South Africa by two IT professionals who saw value in developing a user-friendly interface that integrates Microsoft Excel more effectively with Enterprise Resource Systems like Oracle and SAP. 
 
Excel4apps is a solution for those in the finance industry who are using Excel and work with Oracle and SAP, but want to simplify and streamline financial reporting, says Chris Meyer, managing director for the Americas. Meyer and his family moved to Pittsburgh from South Africa. 
 
The company’s flagship product, GL Wand, allows the end user to create their own formulas to extract information, Meyer explains. The tool is not only plug-and-play, but is highly efficient, secure and allows for the updating of information in real-time.
 
“We’re an Excel-based reporting tool that leverages the strength of Excel,” he adds.  “You don’t need to be a computer guru or programmer to use the tool.”
 
Over the last nine years, the company has realized about 30% in annual growth. Excel4apps moved its headquarters to Sydney, Australia in 2008 and has employees in several U.S. cities and offices in the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Australia, South Africa as well as Raleigh, N.C., and Pittsburgh. 
 
The local office, in the Summerfield Commons in Upper St. Clair, employs three and is the U.S. headquarters for marketing efforts.  The firm plans to hire another six to seven people in the coming year with SAP, IT, computer and finance experience for company support and training positions. Local clients include Industrial Scientific Corp. and Tetra Tech.
 
“The quality of life in Pittsburgh is what attracted us here,” says Meyer. “Pittsburgh is a strong, well educated workforce. From a hiring perspective, we can attract qualified resources here.” 
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Chris Meyer, Excel4apps

Image of the Excel4apps team courtesy of Excel4apps
 

Pittsburgh designer launches a line of luxury leather bags handmade in Colombia

Beautiful leather tells its own story, Sandra Reiman explains. 

Reiman is the founder and designer of Sandra Cadavid, a Pittsburgh-based startup that is making handcrafted leather satchels, clutches and handbags inspired by the 500 year-old fortress city of Cartagena, Colombia.
 
Reiman lives in Squirrel Hill with her husband and two daughters, but a part of her has always been with her beloved homeland of Colombia where she was born and lived until the age of seven. 
 
Her interest in fashion began as a child when she would design concepts for luxury fashion products. Believing a career in the world of fashion to be a difficult and impractical undertaking, she worked at PNC for nine years. But her dream to design never waned.

With encouragement from her husband, and an MBA from Pitt's Katz School of Business, Sandra Cadavid was born.
 
All the handbags were designed in Pittsburgh and made by local artisans in Colombia, cut from custom-dyed alta gamma leather in shades of brown, black, cognac and white. She named two of the handbags for her daughters Sofia and Isabella.  
 
Reiman is surprised by how quickly the bags have been selling. After meeting several celebrity stylists and posting a few pictures on Facebook earlier this year, she received 200 orders. 
 
“Doors just started opening left and right and its been a whirlwind ever since,” says Reiman. “Friends kept sharing it with others and soon I was getting orders across the country. We haven’t had to do any marketing.”
 
The line will be sold in high-end boutiques across the country, as well as online on the website Boticca.com. The Asian market is next. 
 
Reiman also hopes to hire several people in product design and web development—with an emphasis on social media—who preferably speak Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi, Portuguese (Brazil) and French.
 
“I'm trying to build a global brand and feel strongly I can do that right here in Pittsburgh,” she says.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Sandra Reiman, Sandra Cadavid

Image of Sandra Reiman by Natalie Morris
336 Entrepreneurs Articles | Page: | Show All
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