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Innovation & Startups

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A note from your Pop City editors...

After seven years, Pop City’s Innovation News Editor Deb Smit bids you a fond farewell as she moves on to new challenges.
 
Pop City Managing Editor Erin Keane Scott and Matt Wein will be taking over this space in the interim. You can continue to forward innovation, tech and hiring news to erin@popcitymedia.com.

It has been a pleasure to serve the entrepreneurial community of Pittsburgh.  

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Duolingo, Lightwave, Animal Friends and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest in company hiring news.
 
Language learning company Duolingo in Shadyside received major funding this week and plans to add another 16 people to its workforce, engineers of all shapes and sizes.
 
Lightwave International, an international company that produces laser light shows for concerts, tours, films and more is expanding its management team. The company is hiring in three areas: business operations, a production manager and a business development manager. The company is also looking to expand its board of advisors.
 
RE2, a robotics engineering company located in Lawrenceville, has two openings for engineers. 
 
Kopp Glass, an international company and manufacturer of specialized molded glass lenses that has been based in Pittsburgh for 85 years, is hiring a marketing communications specialist.
 
Continuum Managed Services located in Cranberry Township, an IT and managed services software company,is hiring full- and part-time service desk technicians and service desk supervisors.
 
The Oncology Nursing Society, a professional organization located in RIDC Park West that promotes excellence in oncology nursing and quality cancer care, is looking for an editorial assistant to work within the publishing department for the official nursing journals of ONS. ONS also is looking for a director of development, web developers and a project manager, and the affiliated Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation is looking for a customer service representative.
 
Animal Friends, committed to nurturing and promoting the health and well-being of animals in south western Pennsylvania, has eight full- and part-time positions including: canine behavior modification specialist, maintenance technician, adoption counselor, retail associate and a low-cost spay/neuter community outreach intern.
 
The Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board seeks a director of youth programs. The ideal candidate will strategize and lead the development of an effective youth workforce development program.
 
Have hiring news? Contact Pop City and send the career links!

Writer: Deb Smit

 
 
 
 

Duolingo lands $20 million. Named best ed app in the world by TechCrunch.

Language learning startup Duolingo remains on a winning streak with the announcement of millions in venture funding and another big award.
 
The Pittsburgh company landed its largest investment to date, $20 million, and received a 2013 “Crunchie” as the best education app in the world from TechCrunch. Founder and CEO, Luis von Ahn, generally a low kind of guy, expressed his elation.
 
“It’s pretty rare to see (Crunchie) winners that are not based in Silicon Valley,” says von Ahn. “We’re proud of the fact we won and we’re not that.”
 
TechCrunch touted Duolingo for its ability to teach real language skills through mobile tech in a “gamified” and fun way. The app currently is 20 million users strong and growing.
 
“There are more people learning a language on Duolingo than in the whole U.S. school system,” says von Ahn, who estimates that number at eight million.
 
The funding round was lead by Silicon Valley venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Duolingo has previously raised $3.3 million lead by Union Square in 2011 and a $15 million round lead by NEA. Ashton Kutcher and author Tim Ferriss are also investors.
 
Big hiring will take place this year, von Ahn adds. Duolingo will add 16 to its staff of 34 people. It will also begin developing a language certification app that will allow users to take a standardized language test on their smartphone for only $20. Language certification standardized tests usually cost hundreds of dollar, he says.
 
Last December Duolingo was named iPhone App of the Year by Apple. The app owes its design and original concept to von Ahn and his CMU student, Severin Hacker.
 
Duolingo works by leading users through lessons and programs using fun games and exercises. As users translate web phrases, both by reading and listening to the language spoken by native speakers, they assist with the translation of web content, a concept known as crowdsourcing.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Luis von Ahn, Duolingo

Yahoo and CMU a potent force for the future of mobile technologies

Yahoo and CMU have joined forces in the development of a new generation of consumer applications for mobile technologies.
 
The collaboration between a tech company and university is the first of its kind in the country, says Justine Cassell, director of CMU’s Human Computer Institute.
 
CMU’s reputation as a powerhouse in the areas of computer science research and machine learning and Yahoo’s mobile technology databanks will generate not only new technologies but jobs for the region.
 
The five-year-partnership is estimated to be worth $10 million. It gives CMU researchers access to Yahoo’s experimental mobile software data in the creation of new products and technologies.
 
In return, Yahoo gains access to human resources at CMU, says Cassel. Yahoo plans on hiring scientists, researchers and practitioners in the area of machine learning and computer interaction as a result of the deal.
 
“They know CMU is stellar in these areas and by many metrics the best,” says Cassell. “This is a way for them to partner with faculty and students to see who is aligned with their interests.”
 
Dubbed Project InMind, the program includes the creation of a Yahoo-sponsored fellowship program at CMU that will provide financial and research support for computer science students and faculty.
 
Yahoo is focused on personalization, the primary focus of the collaboration. In the future, smartphones will predict where you will be driving later in the day and send you information on how to reserve a table at a nearby restaurants, says Cassell.
 
Or your mobile might remind you to re-subscribe for a piece of software on a set date and will increasingly do so without violating your privacy and giving specific access to your data, she adds.
 
The first two awardees are a computer scientist who is looking at how to better target and tailor news deliveries to meet people’s interest. A second researcher is developing usable privacy metrics.
 
CMU will have ownership over all intellectual property created by CMU but Yahoo will own anything developed with the company and will be able to license property owned by CMU.
 
Writer: Debra Smit
Source: Justine Cassel, CMU
 
 

CMU unveils some of the hottest new disruptive technologies in health care

Disruptive isn’t usually a word uttered in the same sentence as good health, but many of the promising new technologies in the health care industry are just that.
 
CMU hosted a day-long conference last week, the third annual Innovation in Health Care Technology Conference, a gathering of health care industry leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators in Pittsburgh who shared what they’re doing to disrupt and transform health care.
 
Experts presented sophisticated solutions that address the growing needs of the industry. Among those in attendance were Body Media (now Jawbone), Omnyx, Rinovum Women’s Health, Cognition Therapeutics, Highmark and Mylan.
 
“If ever there was an industry in need of disruption, it is the health care industry,” says Lynn Banaszak Brusco, executive director of the Disruptive Health Technology Institute at CMU. “Disruptive innovation, based on advances in science and engineering, has already brought lower-cost, quality products to a variety of industries, but health care has not experienced this pioneering drive — until now.”
 
The conference sessions reinforced that the region is worldwide leader for creative ideas that will improve healthcare for patients and the community in the future, she adds.  
 
“The CMU Disruptive Health Technology Institute is working to bring the same disruption to health care. We are researching and deploying new technologies to help reduce health care costs and improve outcomes for patients.”
 
Among the newer companies on hand was South Side-based Proximedics, providers of USB-powered RFID (radio frequency identification) readers that work in tandem with a customized web application, providing clinics and hospitals with solutions for everything from inventory management to device regulation.
 
Presenters included several research projects that are still in development. Body Explorer is a new medical training simulator for educating medical professionals from the University of Pittsburgh's Simulation and Medical Technology R&D Center.

Medical Robotics Technology Center at CMU's Robotics Institute is working on a flexible needle steering system for minimally invasive navigation in the brain.

CMU’s BioPharma and Healthcare Club, a joint graduate student organization of the H. John Heinz III College and Tepper School of Business, hosted the event.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Lynn Brusco, CMU
 
 

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? American Eagle, MWCDC and startups

Each week Pop City reports on the latest company and hiring news.
 
American Eagle’s corporate office on the South Side is hiring for ten positions. The national clothing retailer is actively seeking: an art director; analyst for testing and marketing strategies research; assistant buyer, assistant corporate secretary, manager of development operations, manager of quality control, merchandise planner, senior accountant and senior analyst. AE is also looking for a merchandising intern.
 
lontank, an interactive hardware and software developer on Penn Avenue, is hiring for three positions: interactive technician, studio manager and lead developer.
 
The Mount Washington Community Development Corp. (MWCDC) is looking for its next executive director to lead the community development nonprofit.
 
Touchtown is looking for a “top-notch” senior software engineer to build a new product line for the senior living industry.
 
The American Red Cross in Pittsburgh is hiring a communication specialist with three to five years of experience.
 
Allegheny Intermediate Unit, part of Pennsylvania’s public education system, is currently seeking qualified candidates for various teaching, teacher’s aide, and personal care assistant positions throughout the Allegheny County. 
 
The AIU also has immediate openings for substitute custodians, job coaches and a virtual social studies course facilitator. 

Have hiring news? Email Pop City and send the links!

Writer: Deb Smit

Emodt co-founder reflects on emotional technology and the Oscar movie nominee Her

In the future, might our emotional well-being depend on our relationships with an operating system like the one in the Oscar-nominated movie Her? 
 
Pittsburgh startup Emodt suggests the concept is not as far-fetched or as far away as one might think. Just as digital technology like GPS helps us when we’re lost, this mobile digital platform helps people better understand and guide their emotional state through such issues as stress, insomnia, and depression.
 
Emodt (as in emote) is being developed by a small team in Pittsburgh under the direction of co-founder Dr. Matthew Keener, a translational neuroscientist and innovator who offered insights on the concept during a TEDx talk here last year. 
 
Another of Emodt’s cofounders is Johannes Eichstaedt, a Penn researcher and founder of the World Well-Being Project. Keener offers these thoughts on technology’s role in the future of therapy. 
 
How does Emodt work? 
 
It’s a software platform that works as an app and software package across several devices. 
The platform allows people to keep track of their emotional life and see how they’re improving through a suite of tools on their smartphone, supported by wearing a simple device that captures emotion-related information. 
 
Much like the software Lumosity provides specific exercises that help improve people’s cognitive skills, Emodt has programs that help people with their emotional performance. Users then get feedback on how they’re doing on a wide range of areas along with evidence-based strategies. For instance someone with sleep difficulties would be prompted around nighttime routines with things like a meditation drill. 
 
Interesting. So will technology one day replace therapy or is the idea to supplement it?
 
Well, keep in mind that technology is defined simply as the use of science toward solving real world problems. So technology has always been an element of providing emotional help and can be as simple as using pen and paper.
 
We are currently partnering with companies that have completely self-administered computerized therapies like CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) but we’re also working on software people would use in conjunction with therapists. 
 
What’s your time frame for when this will this be released?
 
Right now we’re still testing the platform in a series of beta trials but we’re excited that we’ll be making elements available through selected partners this year.
 
So did you find the movie Her at all realistic?  
 
Yes, I think it’s surprisingly realistic as far as what may be coming quite soon. 
Although the movie depicts artificial intelligence as a partial replacement for human relationships, I think it’s more likely that we’ll see the development of technologies working in the background as a support system, rather than a substitute for human connection with others or oneself. 
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Matt Keener, Emodt
 

Bearded in Lawrenceville makes .netMagazine list of top design studios in the world

Lawrenceville boutique studio Bearded has been named an international finalist by .net Magazine, a weighty honor in the world of web design.
 
Founded in 2008, Bearded started out in the home of founder Matt Griffin before he moved to a leaky room in Wilkinsburg and then on to better digs East Liberty. This month Bearded, now at six people, settled into a new space at 3445 Butler Street, a loft-style office in the former and historic public bathhouse building.
 
Bearded is a web design and development studio that specializes in good design and technical innovation. The studio creates responsive, content-managed websites and custom applications that work with everything from browsers to smartphones and large HDTVs, says Griffin.
 
“I was frustrated with the predominant model for designing things on the web,” he says. “Web design is a lot about controlling the chaos of the world. Taking the indigestible and making it clear.”
 
A Pittsburgh native and graduate of Allderdice High School, Griffiin has taught web design at Carnegie Mellon University and writes a regular column for A List Apart.
 
Clients include the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Astorino Architects, 9/11 Tribute Center, Sprout Fund, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Scarehouse and Zoobean.
 
.net Magazine received more than 2,000 nominations from which it selected 20 finalists for the honor of “Agency of the Year.” A public vote iin the coming weeks will narrow the list to five nominees; the final decision will be made by a panel of industry experts.
 
“A lot of the people on the list are our heroes of web design, people we look up to,” says Griffin. “Just to be nominated is fantastic.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Matt Griffin, Bearded

Looking for a job in tech or IT? What you need is your own personal talent agent

Job seekers are demanding a revolution when it comes to finding the next great job, says Eric Harvey. So who wouldn’t want their own personal agent to lead the charge?
 
Harvey is founder and CEO of YourTalentAgents.com, a startup that wants to be the eHarmony of the job world, matching specific job seekers with employers through recruiters. 
 
YTA works with what he calls “the passive segment” of the job-seeking population, those with careers in engineering and IT who tend to not take an aggressive approach when seeking a career move.  
 
Recruiting companies cater to the 20 percent of job seekers who are actively seeking employment, says Harvey. The other 80 percent, those who are more laid back in their career approach, tend to be overlooked.
 
“The beauty of our model is we give them (passive seekers) a voice and a vision,” he says. “It allows them to passively look for a job without dealing with the hassle of recruiters, phone calls and emails.
 
“The magic of our system is we are building technology that improves their experience,” he adds. “In the future, everyone will have a personal talent agent.” 
 
YTA is starting small and focusing initially on Pittsburgh companies and jobs. The platform targets those looking to work in the tech space—engineers and IT people. As it rolls out, YTA will be replicated in other markets for other professions.
 
The company has offices in the Riverside Center for Innovation and has a team of 20 talent agents, including interns and volunteers.
 
“The cool thing for us is the general population will have someone dedicated to their career search from cradle to grave,” he says. “It will demystify the job search.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Eric Harvey, YTA
 

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? AquaTech, ReedSmith, UpTo, Portabeer and more

Looking for work? Each week Pop City reports on the latest company hiring news.
 
AquaTech in Canonsburg, providing clean water tech for the industrial sector, has five openings: buyer, human resources manager, project engineer, project manager and welder.
 
Pittsburgh law firm Reed Smith is hiring a legal director coordinator to work with the marketing department on legal directories.

Federated Investors, a global investment manager, has several openings at the downtown Pittsburgh headquarters and Warrendale location.  Positions range from Internal sales associate, IMO analyst to senior Java programmers and Oracle and SQL database administrators.

UpTo, pop-up marketing, design and public relations firm, is gearing up for its 2014 season and is looking for freelance designers and writers.
 
NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania seeks a program manager to direct and support its Leadership Development Program. The program seeks to empower emerging leaders in low-income, disinvested communities with the necessary skills to advance community-driven change.
 
The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation is expanding its team with two new positions: an economic development program coordinator and a communications and outreach coordinator.
 
Pittsburgh-based Industry Weapon has four openings: an educational services instructor, inside new business account executive, account manager and an HTML 5 developer.  
 
Pittsburgh Startup Webkite is looking for a sales and business development representative to assist in a dynamic new sales effort.  
 
PortaBeer—a draft beer systems for beer drinkers on the go—is expanding and hiring. Word is that big news is forthcoming about this Pittsburgh startup, but until its official release the company is looking for a sales rep.
 
Have hiring news? Email Pop City and send the links.
 
Writer: Deb Smit

BlueBelt Technologies blasts off with successful robotic tools for bone surgery

BlueBelt Technologies, a Strip District developer of handheld robotic tools that are improving outcomes for bone surgery patients, is preparing for major growth.

As a company, BlueBelt straddles two cities. The corporate headquarters is in Minneapolis, where manufacturing takes place; the research and development is done in the Strip District. The company employs 65 and expects to hire another 20 this year.

The first product was launched commercially in 2013, the Navio, a handheld robotic tool that gives surgeons greater flexibility in performing partial knee replacement surgeries. Not only does the tool reduce the size of the incision, but it’s so precise that doctors are successful using using it in outpatient facilities, allowing patients to go home the same day, says Eric Timko, CEO.

A Carnegie Mellon spinout, BlueBelt was founded in 2003 by co-founders Dr. Anthony DiGioia, Dr. Branislav Jaramaz, and Craig Markovitz, pioneers in computer-assisted orthopedic surgery. Markovitz was recently rehired as company general manager.

Unlike freestanding robotic tools, the Navio is a handheld tool that eliminates the need for multiple instruments during surgery, makes more precise incisions and reduces overall surgery time and the risk to patients, says Timko.

“We are the happy medium doctors have been looking for,” he adds. “They (doctors) all want the accuracy and consistency of robotics, but they don’t want to be replaced. The surgeon drives the robot, the robot doesn’t drive the surgeon.”

The Stride, a knee implant, was launched in the fall of 2013. “It takes the anatomy of the patient into consideration,” Timko says. “It’s designed to fit better and comes in extended sizes that make it a better opportunity for the patient.”

Both devices are currently being used in hospitals across the country and locally at Magee Women’s Hospital of UPMC.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Eric Timko, BlueBelt Technologies
 
 

Meet the new Alpha Lab startups for 2014

Twice a year, Innovation Works opens its doors and rolls up its sleeves to a group of promising entrepreneurs who receive $25,000 in funding, hands-on guidance from industry mentors and free office space from which to work on the South Side.
 
What a difference 20 weeks can make in the growth of these fledging companies.
 
Since the program’s introduction, many startups have not only gone on to succeed, but some have achieved celebrity startup status. Among the alumni are The Resumator (giving the President Obama and candidate Mitt Romney an assist during the presidential campaign) Black Locus (acquired by Home Depot) and NoWait (the casual restaurant app that recently launched nationwide).
 
This latest group is working in a new universe of technology and markets that have yet to be addressed by a company to date, says Terri Glueck of IW.
 
Meet the first AlphaLab class of 2014:
 
While technology is taking off for the average user, the blind and visual impaired don’t have the same accessibility to tools to improve their quality of life. Conversant Labs is developing consumer apps for visually impaired people using voice-enabled mobile applications.
 
INKTD wants to put an end to no-show appointments and scheduling problems. This cloud-based, social scheduling platform is especially designed for tattoo shops and artists.
 
Jetpack Workflow is developing a cloud-based application that can automate and manage business tasks that workers tend to do over and over again. Especially designed for services such as accounting and bookkeeping, the tool will work to provide client context and track staff progress so firms can manage client expectations and increase billable hours. 

Next Gauge is creating smart-device-based systems for small and mid-size businesses for their mobile workforces. The systems are designed to improve productivity, enhance communication and reduce costs. Solutions are currently being targeted to address the needs of commercial fleets and field services industries.
 
Tailored Fit is a shopping website that becomes your personal shopper, learning what you like and picking out clothes you’ll love. Think of it as a style guide in the way Pandora connects the dots with your musical taste.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Innovation Works

Idea Foundry launches new accelerator to promote water innovation in Pittsburgh

Idea Foundry has created a new accelerator program for companies working in the water innovation space.
 
Innovate H2O, launched in collaboration with the Water Economy Network, hopes to inspire corporations and startups to develop breakthrough water solutions that address water issues in the region and create jobs, says Albert Ciuksza, manager of water initiatives for Idea Foundry.
 
Five areas of water innovation have been identified as key to the region’s economic growth and sound environmental management: energy production, manufacturing, drinking water production, storm andsewer management and green infrastructure,  navigation and monitoring.
 
“Everyone knows how important water is,” says Ciuksza. “We want to have our hands on what this industry is doing. Ultimately, it will help businesses identify the next steps for growth in the region.”
 
The program will strive to bring entrepreneurs, individuals and organizations together with leaders in the water industry in the development of market research, testing, product development and more, Ciuksza says.
 
WEN member organizations include: Aquatech, Bayer Materials, Calgon Carbon, CMU, Consol Energy, LANXESS, Port of Pittsburgh, Sustainable Pittsburgh, URS Corp. and Veolia.
 
Successful applicants will be eligible for up to $10,000 in financial support. Applications are being accepted now through March 14, 2014. For more information, check the Idea Foundry website.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Albert Ciuksza, Idea Foundry

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? A few life sciences companies, PNC, Safaba and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest in company hiring news.
 
BlueBelt Technologies, a Pittsburgh developer of robotic surgical tools, is planning for major growth in 2014. The company has announced hiring for 25 new positions this year. The company is currently looking for a software development research engineer and program manager.   
 
PNC Investments has openings for six people in Pittsburgh. Positions range from investment services associates to consultants and financial advisors.
 
Neuro-Kinetics, Inc. a small but fast-growing medical device company, is seeking software and mechanical engineers. 
 
Safaba in Squirrel Hill, on the forefront of language translation technology, is on the lookout for a research scientist and software engineers.
 
Pittsburgh online ticketing company ShowClix is hiring an account manager and software engineer. There are several internships available as well in account services, software engineering, sales and marketing.
 
University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt Magazine is hiring a medical editor and writer. A master’s degree is required.
 
The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural history is hiring a director of visitor services, a highly enthusiastic person able to manage, develop and support the visitor experience.
 
The MEMS Industry Group is hiring a marketing and web associate who can creatively design and execute web marketing and advertising campaigns. The MEMS group is the trade association to promote the micro electrical mechanical systems industry.
 
Have hiring news? Email Pop City and send the career links.
 
Writer: Deb Smit

Pittsburgh marketing news roundup--acquisitions, mergers and expansions

And now the news on Pittsburgh marketing companies. First up, Campos Inc.
 
A.J. Drexler, former president and lead strategist at Big Picture Communications, has assumed ownership and management of Campos Inc., a firm founded and run by Yvonne Campos for more than 28 years.
 
The Campos name will remain. Drexler, a champion of well-executed market research, says Campos will continue to move in the direction of marketing strategy, research and data analytics. In addition, Drexler acquired Direct Feedback, a former competitor with offices in Station Square, and has integrated the firm into Campos. Direct Feedback specialized in qualitative research and focus group work.
 
Since the acquisition, Campos has hired four people, three from Direct Feedback and a new marketing strategist. Drexler’s message to the rest of the agency community? Campos is not in the business to compete with other agencies.
 
“We will do the strategy work up to a creative brief, but will go no further,” she says. “We are all about marketing planning and strategy all the time.
 
Campos will remain at the firm for another three years. “Our goal has always been to find the story, ask what’s the impact,” she says. “It’s not data for data’s sake but how we can use it to make better decisions.”
 
Portfolio Creative, a creative staffing and recruitment firm based in Columbus, Ohio, has opened an office in East Liberty. The firm specializes in recruiting creative talent for marketing firms, both full-time and freelance work for long and short term projects.
 
Not to be confused as an advertising or design firm, Portfolio Creative instead focuses on locating strong talent in the areas of marketing, creative advertising and graphic design, says Kristen Harris, COO and co-founder.
 
“Pittsburgh has a huge creative community,” she says. “We looked at a lot of cities and saw so much activity here. No one here is doing what we do, helping creative people to find one another.”
 
Founded in 2005, Portfolio Creative has been an Inc. 500|5000 fastest growing firm for the past four years. The office is located at 6101 Penn Avenue and is managed by Katie Speers.

Pittsburgh-based advertising agency Garrison Hughes moved this month into new 7,200 square foot offices the week that will double the firm’s original footprint. The new digs are on the second floor of the First & Market Building in downtown Pittsburgh. Employment has grown to 23.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Campos + Portfolio Creative
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