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Innovation

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
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