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Innovation & Startups

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Need storage? Help balancing your budget? AlphaLab Demo Day shows and tells all

The AlphaLab Demo Day & Technology Preview proved yet again that entrepreneurs and startups are a big draw in Pittsburgh.
 
More than 375 people attended the presentations of six university tech startups and nine Innovation Works AlphaLab companies at the New Hazlett this week. Many stuck around to meet the companies afterward during an informal lunch mixer.
 
“The companies gained market traction and validation during the AlphaLab program and did an excellent job of presenting their products and companies at Demo Day,” said Jim Jen of IW. “This cycle’s companies continued the tradition of raising the bar for future AlphaLab classes.”
 
This year marked the first time that National Energy Technology Laboratory joined the lineup.  
 
The preview opened with university technologies, ranging from Lightside, an online platform that instantly assesses student writing and offers feedback to both teachers and student writers, to Diamond Kinetics, which is in the throes of commercializing technology that improves the performance of baseball and softball players.
 
The current crop of AlphaLab companies were equally compelling, ranging from reality-based gaming to a look at the savvy new age of college-level athletic recruiting. 
 
A few highlights:
 
What is augmented-reality gaming? MegaBits CEO Patrick Perini explained how his new game brings the gaming world and real world together. The game is based on a player’s physical location, allowing gamers to chase and battle monsters and feed and train them, in all kinds of real world weather.
 
It’s catching on. Nearly 200 applicants signed up in the first two hours of MegaBits’ launch, said Perini.
 
Ever lose an important file, or key nugget of information on your computer? Steve Cotter of Collected wants to streamline the way you find it by providing intelligent authoring technology to help you quickly access frequently used content. Not only does it speed up access, but also it can drill down contents on a Google drive and costs, at minimum, $10 a month. Launching in January.
 
Forget reconciling your bank statements across several apps. BudgetSimple tracks your spending and income all in one place and keeps it up-to-date.
 
“The most successful budget is one where you can keep the things that are important and eliminate the waste,” says CEO Phil Anderson, a successful internet marketer who previously worked for Vivisimo (before it was acquired by IBM) and LunaMetrics in Pittsburgh. BudgetSimple has 130,000 users signed on to date.
 
Wing Ma'am, a fast growing mobile app, is bringing bring LBGT women together as a resource for one another. It already attracted 108,000 users to date and is on target in reach 2 million in the next two years, says CEO Ariella Furman.
 
It’s also the only app of its kind that searches for events, not just people, she says.
 
If you’ve ever tried to stay abreast of a high school or collegiate athletic team’s changing schedule, you will appreciate the value of AthleteTrax. The startup is working with high school and collegiate club teams to provide an online tool that puts all a team’s information in one place, a sort of dashboard for athletics.
 
Lacking space for storage? Have space to rent? Spacefinity matches the have-nots with the haves and helps the haves convert their extra space into cash. The startup is tapping into the $22 billion storage industry and has 70 live space lords in Pittsburgh so far, says CEO Alex Hendershott.
 
Those looking for motivation to keep up with their physical therapy routines will gain support from Hability, a mobile tool that keeps patients engaged and therapists and family in the loop. “Compliance is in the root of attendance,” says CEO James Lomuscio.
 
Crowdasaurus stands at the intersection of crowdfunding and digital marketing. Projects with crowdfunding campaigns are matched with like-minded organizations—nonprofits or media outlets—who can benefit from the exposure they will receive by having content appear on the same page, says Josh Lucas, CEO. The Pittsburgh Foundation is already one of several beta testers on board. 
 
Finally, a senior at Grove City College believes the college athletic recruiting system is broken. Her startup, ProfilePasser, is the only platform that brings players and coaches together on the field where the players can be seen and recruited, says Sam Weber, founder. The app is available in the iTunes store now.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: AlphaLab, Innovation Works

Calling all Pittsburgh creatives in business, art, innovation and more. Pittsburgh needs your input!

The Pittsburgh region’s creative and innovation sectors have a great reputation. All we need now is the hard data to back it up.
 
To accomplish this, The Pittsburgh Technology Council is conducting an online survey of our region’s creative industries to determine exactly how the region stacks up to other benchmark regions--the Pittsburgh Regional Workforce & Quality of Life Assessment. To ensure its success, everyone in the Pittsburgh creative sector is encouraged to participate. 
 
Those who play a role that dips into art, design, creativity, new product development, consulting, R&D and innovation are asked to complete a short online survey. This includes software professionals, design freelancers and engineers, says Lou Musante, co-founder of Thrive, a local startup, and a founding partner of Pittsburgh-based Echo Strategies, which is executing the survey.
 
There’s an incentive: Survey participants will be invited to attend the 2014 Creative Industry Summit and will be eligible to win one of several prizes, including a few iPad Minis.
 
“There’s usually a lot of fiction around these sectors; how credible are they?" says Lou Musante, “We need credible, defensible data that supports these beliefs. We need to get our arms around it." 
 
The initial inspiration for the study came from Richard Florida’s theory on the rise of the creative class, says Musante. The next step is to pull together hard data on the region’s creative economy, to understand both our strengths and our weaknesses. 
 
The information will help local leaders appraise the creative sector more effectively and more jobs around the cluster.  The final study will provide another set of indicators and benchmarks for Pittsburgh Today,
 
The region needs to ask itself how big is our software sector? The engineering sector? “We’re determined to find out exactly who is out there and how these sectors are growing,” Musante says. “Are we moving the needle?”
 
Creative Industries Study is part of the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Creative Technology Network, presented in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Toronto Rotman School, Echo Strategies, Dollar Bank and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
 
Take the survey now at createPGH.com  The study will be open online until Thursday Oct. 31st.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Lou Musante, Echo Strategies

Ninety, a SiX-funded project, lets you run for mayor and navigate all our neighborhoods

Want to be the next Mayor of Pittsburgh? With the new board game, Ninety: The Campaign for Mayor of Pittsburgh, that just became easier.
 
Created by Adam Shuck and Alex Pazuchanics, Ninety lets you try your hand in municipal politics by assuming the unique identity of a candidate, from “The Barstool Philosopher” and “The Riverfront Defender” to “The Heir Apparent.”
 
Here’s how it works: Hopefuls and their opponents will navigate the board, which is a colorful map of Pittsburgh’s ninety neighborhoods. They’ll develop their own campaigns and agendas by attending events, soliciting votes, raising money and participating in a little political mudslinging. At the end of the two weeks leading up to the general election, the polls close and a new Mayor of Pittsburgh is sworn in.
 
Shuck and Pazuchanics came up with the concept of Ninety while working in Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak’s office. “We were familiar with the neighborhoods and love that it is one of the defining aspects of Pittsburgh,” says Pazuchanics.
 
Ninety received a grant from The Sprout Fund through the Social Innovation Exchange’s (SiX) “Connect Your City” project, which aims to creatively connect Pittsburgh. With the funding, Shuck and Pazuchanics were able to develop prototypes and commission the artwork of Tara Helfer.
 
Aside from all the fun and games, Ninety is all about “how we continue the conversation and get people engaged in neighborhoods that they don’t live in. The campaign is a logical way to continue that conversation,” says Pazuchanics.
 
The game is also about getting community members to think about “why these communities are so special and so unique,” he adds.
 
To promote the game, Ninety will hold a series of community game nights around town. The first two were at Cannon Coffee in Brookline and at Bar Marco in the Strip. Future gatherings are expected throughout the fall, on the West End and at Hambone’s in Lawrenceville.
 
Ready to join the race? Sign up for updates on the website, check out Ninety’s Facebook page and follow the race on Twitter for the latest in game night news.
 
“We are hoping that this will demonstrate that people in Pittsburgh are interested in playing a board game about the municipal election.”
 
Writer: Maeve McAllister, Pop City intern
Source: Alex Pazuchanics

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Deeplocal, West Penn Health, Windstax and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest in company hiring and expansion news.
 
Deeplocal, a unique design and development studio in the Strip, is hiring for two positions. The company is looking for a new agency engagement lead, someone with great communication skills who can build relationships with advertising agencies. The firm also needs a user experience designer.
 
WindStax is looking for full and part-time shop workers for their facility in the historic Strip District of Pittsburgh. Potential candidates must be willing to work first or second shift and some weekends.
 
West Penn Allegheny Health System has a plethora of full- and part-time positions in several areas: finance, administration, nursing, as well as medical technicians and surgical positions.
 
Natural Resource Group has opened an office downtown in PPG Plaza and will be hiring in the coming year. The company currently employs 140 people in the region; this is its first downtown office. The company provides environmental and public affairs consulting for the energy sector.

Auberle, a nonprofit that has addressed underserved children and families for 60 years, is hiring a marketing and communication manager who will create internal and external communications, manage the overall Auberle brand and all aspects of public relations for the agency. The position also works in conjunction with the development department to help to generate revenue for the agency.
 
Siemens in Bridgeville is hiring a senior sales executive for business automation solutions. This position requires travel. The position is part of the Siemens Infrastructure & Cities Sector, which is focused on developing solutions to make cities of all sizes more sustainable and competitive. 
 
Have hiring news? Email Pop City and include the career links.
 
Writer: Deb Smit


Pittsburgh filmmakers tell the story of a promising diabetes treatment developed here

When Lawrenceville filmmakers Josh Eisenfeld and Dan Finegold began brainstorming ideas for their first project, the story behind Pittsburgh diabetes research emerged as the obvious choice.
 
“My dad’s pretty close to finding the cure for type 1 diabetes; maybe we should make a film about it?” Dan suggested matter-of-factly to his friend and colleague.
 
Graduates of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, Eisenfeld and Finegold both grew up in Pittsburgh, although they had never met until their freshman year at college.
 
Their shared interest in media studies led them to start their documentary production company, 4Twelve Pictures. Their first project, with support from Pittsburgh Filmmakers, is “Life’s Work,” the story of a team of Pittsburgh researchers who’ve been searching for 30 years to find a better way to manage Type 1 diabetes, which afflicts 23.5 million people.    
 
Researchers around the world have worked relentlessly to understand this life-threatening disease, hoping for a cure or at least better management techniques, explains Eisenfield. In Pittsburgh, this research has led to an alternative therapy that is showing promise.
 
“I’m not a scientist, but I realized that this story was truly unique,” he says. “It’s a modern day odyssey.”
 
The story begins with the research lead by Massimo Trucco, a co-founder of DiaVacs, a Pittsburgh-based company with a staff of world-recognized experts in the area of immunology. The company hopes its first product will be a cell-based cure for Juvenile diabetes, he says.
 
Trucco is the chief of the Division of Immunogenetics at Children’s Hospital UPMC, faculty member at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and a professor at University of Pittsburgh. The team is currently conducting a randomized clinical trial to evaluate the safety of a vaccine that would relieve patients of the need for daily insulin injections. 
 
Simply put, the therapy would curb rogue cells by blocking the autoimmune attack that takes place in the pancreas of diabetes sufferers by “retraining” the dendritic cells of each patient. The research successfully concluded its Phase I Trial; funding is being raised for the final Phase II Trial and subsequent commercialization.

Pittsburgh doctors on the team include David Finegold, a pediatric endocronologist and geneticist, and Dietrich Stephan, chair of the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

“These are amazing people who have come so far,” says Eisenfeld. “I know they won’t stop until they see this through.”
 
When it's finished, the filmmakers plan to share the documentary with the diabetes community at large, even if the story doesn’t have a definitive ending. In the meantime, 4Twelve is working on music videos and another project filming the post-industrial ruins of the 21st century.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Josh Eisenfeld, 4Twelve Pictures

We Are Power Shift converges on Pittsburgh to energize young activists for clean energy

The largest youth climate conference in the country gathered in Pittsburgh this past week for a four-day meeting that culminated Monday with a massive march through the city to demand corporate polluters embrace clean energy and a just economy.
 
We Are Power Shift brought an estimated 7,000 youth activists from all over the country to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center over the weekend. It was the first such summit to be held outside of Washington, D.C. since the inital one was staged in 2007.
 
Pittsburgh was chosen for the region’s commitment to a green energy and the city’s ban on gas drilling, leaders said. 
 
We Are Power Shift is a grassroots online community that seeks to empower youth to become catalysts in the promotion of clean energy economies and environmental justice in moving the world beyond the use of fossil fuels.  
 
The activist were inspired by keynotes from leaders like McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, and Kim Wasserman, director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. There were ninja activist training sessions, panels and workshops.  
 
Music and entertainment featured BIG K.R.IT., Yuna, Nosaj Thing, Ninjasonik, Chippy Non Stop, Teachers, Uncle Ron, and Catzie Vilayphonh.

On Monday, activists gathered at Allegheny Landing Park on the North Side, waving signs, and marched across the Roberto Clemente Bridge where a massive banner was dropped reading  “Don’t Frack Our Water.” The crowd then moved on through downtown, stopping at a PNC Bank branch to demand an end to mountaintop removal mining.

Seven arrests were made during the protest. On the water, a Consol Energy tow boat circled the water with signs of its own: "Welcome to Coal Country" and "Support American Energy, Support American Jobs." 

"There can be no democracy until we have freedom from fossil fuels," Josh Fox told a cheering audience before the showing of his latest anti-fracking documentary, Gasland Part II.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Power Shift

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center receives $7.2 million for "big data" storage

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) received a $7.6 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation this week to develop a larger storage system capable of facilitating massive amounts of “big data.”
 
The grant will enable PSC to develop a prototype Data Exacell (DCX) in collaboration with chosen scientific research projects, a major boost to research at the region’s universities. The focus of the project is data storage, retrieval and analysis that will enhance PSC’s capacity, says Michael Levine, scientific director for PSC.
 
“We are very pleased with this opportunity to continue working cooperatively to advance the state of the art based on our historical strengths in information technologies and to apply the resulting advances to a wide range of important scientific research,” said Subra Suresh, the new president of Carnegie Mellon University, and Mark Nordenberg, chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh, in a joint statement.

Big Data is a broad field including challenges from both traditional high-performance computing and other fields of research that depend on methodologies more focused on data collection and analysis than on computation.
 
Pittsburgh considers itself well on the way to becoming a hub for data mining and machine learning, harnessing the billions of data bytes in the cloud for business and research to not only solve problems but predict the future. Companies like IBM, which acquired Vivisimo in Squirrel Hill, and Google are working on it.
 
One result of this effort will be a robust, multifunctional system for big data analytics that will be ready for expansion into a large, production system.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Clark Hill Thorp Reed, ExOne, Fireman Creative, UpTo and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest in company and hiring news.
 
UpTo touts itself as the region’s first pop-up creative firm. It’s looking for freelance designers and writers with an entrepreneurial spirit who can turn around work quickly for small businesses and nonprofits. The organization is holding a pop-up this week in East Liberty, Oct. 14-18, at 6101 Penn Avenue, in the Liberty Bank building.
 
Clark Hill Thorp Reed is hiring a mid-level associate attorney, litigation associate with at least five years of experience.
 
Fireman Creative is an innovative design and technology agency based in Pittsburgh’s Southside. The firm is looking for a PHP Web Developer/Engineer with 1 to 3 years of agency experience (or equivalent). 
 
Safaba in Squirrel Hill is hiring a director of marketing to help develop, implement and lead the execution of the company's marketing strategy. The fast-growing company helps global companies to translate corporate materials into many languages.
 
Mylan in Canonsburg is hiring a senior marketing and advertising review council specialist responsible for the timely and accurate review, approval and production of all Mylan specialty promotional materials.
 
Industry Weapon is in need of an HTML 5 developer/interactive "genius" who can create cutting edge, interactive experiences for customers.
 
ExOne in North Huntingdon, a fast-growing firm in the 3D printing space, has openings in eight areas:  mechanical designer, technical writer and trainer, program manager (chemistry) and service technicians,
 
Intrigue Technologies, a CMU spin-off, is developing the next generation of imaging cameras and systems for surveillance, automotive and robotic vision applications in Bridgeville. The company is hiring an electronic hardware design engineer.
 
Have hiring news? Email Pop City and include the career link.

Writer: Deb Smit

A robotic stroller that charges your cell phone? Pittsburgh's 4moms rolls out latest baby gear

The wait is over.
 
Pittsburgh-based 4moms unveiled three new robotic baby gear products Tuesday night: the rockaRoo, a new infant swing seat; the Origami mini, a power-folding stroller with cell phone charger; and a car seat that runs its own safety check.
 
The announcement came after weeks of tantalizing rumors and posts on the 4moms Facebook and Twitter sites, a strategy that kept more than 5000 followers guessing what the next products might be.  
 
The rockaRoo is a streamlined version of the bulky infant swing of old, says Rob Daley, CEO. The point is why swing when you can rock?  It features five speeds, an mp3 hookup and reversible toy balls.The portable swing will be the first product off the assembly line and on the shelf, shipping in December 2013.
 
The Origami mini rivals the prehistoric umbrella stroller, weighing in at less than 16 pounds, with one main difference—it power folds and opens. The mini has many of the same features as the bigger Origami with daytime running lights, LCD display and a cell phone charger, says Daley.
 
Finally, the 4moms car seat takes the simple process of clicking the baby carrier into the base to the next level. Each time the seat carrier (with baby) is fitted into the strapped down base, it runs a safety check on an LED side panel. Additional features include a no re-thread harness, side impact protection bolsters and harness buckle side pockets installation.

Seventy-three percent of all car seats are installed incorrectly, a dangerous situation, says Daley. This car seat addresses the problem.  The seat will be available in 2014.

The presentation was made at the ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas. Wanna see it all for yourself? Watch the videos.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Rob Daley, 4moms


Bring on the fire-eaters. The Tech 50 Awards celebrate the region's finest

Bring on the fire-breathers and the leotard-clad dancers. Roll in the Shakespearian stage sets and tribal drummers. It’s Pittsburgh Tech 50 time.
 
The region’s annual party, thrown by the Pittsburgh Technology Council, celebrated the best and brightest tech and life sciences companies in typically campy style. Held at the Wyndam Grand downtown, the evening is all about the growing success of local companies and entrepreneurial endeavors in the areas of life sciences, machine learning, manufacturing, gaming and IT.
 
"After 16 years, Tech 50 is still the apex of recognition for technology visionaries," said Audrey Russo, CEO, in her opening remarks.
 
Among the highlights:
 
Dr. Giorgio Coraluppi of Compunetix, Chorus Call and Compunetix in Monroeville was named CEO of the Year. The Italian-born businessman started his first company in Pittsburgh 45 years ago, growing it into three companies and more than 460 employees today.
 
ALung Technologies on the South Side won Life Sciences Company of the Year. In accepting the award, ALung’s Jim Sweeney wondered if he should have toted along their Hemolung breathing technology for the fire breathers in the show.
 
Schell Games on the South Side was no surprise as the Interactive and Application Developer of the Year, a company that has been going strong 11 years running. As Jesse Schell noted, “People believe in the vision that games can change the world.” 
 
Shortest speech of the night went to soft-spoken Luis von Ahn of Duolingo, whose team picked up Startup of the Year. "We're From Carnegie Mellon and we’re a bit shy,” von Ahn whispered into the mike. “Can we go now? Thank you."
 
Several of the company CEOs were out of the country and unavailable to accept their awards personally, which can only be taken as a good sign.
 
Other winners were:
Advanced Manufacturer of the Year: Industrial Scientific Corporation
Innovator of the Year: Aethon, Inc.
Tech Titan: ANSYS, Inc.
Solution Provider of the Year: Avere Systems
 
Writer: Deb Smit

Not to miss hot events: Pittsburgh Environment & Health Conference, Power Shift and Think Big

Pittsburgh is hosting three big events in the coming weeks: Women for a Healthy Environment’s first Environment and Health Conference, Power Shift and Chatham’s Think Big Forum.
 
The Environment & Heath Conference is a daylong event featuring an illustrious panel of national speakers, writers, environmental scientists and activists who will speak to the connection between the environment and our health.
 
“It is a very broad agenda with a deep bench of experts and professionals,” says Phil Johnson, senior program officer for The Heinz Endowments, one of several lead sponsors. “These are things worth knowing so we can be healthier in our work and play.”
 
The conference, the first of its kind, shouldn’t be confused with the Women’s Health & The Environment conferences held in recent years and sponsored by Teresa Heinz, The Heinz Endowments and Magee Women’s Hospital. 
 
Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE) was formed following the 2007 Women’s Health & The Environment conference to continue the conversation and offer educational programs to both men and women on the topics of food and consumer product safety. WHE also collaborates with like-minded organizations across the state to raise awareness on environmental health issues.

The conference will be held on Friday, October 25, 2013, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh. The cost is $25 and includes lunch. Registration is required.

The event is presented by Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows Program and WHE. 
 
A second conference will bring thousands of young people to Pittsburgh for the big meeting of Power Shift 2013, a grassroots-driven organization of young people actively seeking to engage on issues relating to climate and the environment.

The conference will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center from Oct. 18th through Oct. 21st. Those still wishing to attend can register the day of the event; late registration is $100 for young professionals and $80 for students.
 
Finally, the eighth annual Think Big Forum hosted by the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University will focus on “Women Who Lead” on Friday, Oct. 18, from 8 a.m. to noon.
 
Tastefully Simple owner and founder Jill Blashack Strahan will be the keynote speaker and share how she grew her business into a $100 million enterprise with more than 23,000 independent consultants nationwide. She has been recognized as one of the nation’s top CEOs by Inc., Fast Company, and Pink magazines. The cost is $45, $25 for students.

Writer: Deb Smit

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

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

PNC is posting 14 jobs for full-time finance positions in the downtown Pittsburgh office. Positions include: auditors, analysts and finance project managers and coordinators.
 
PNC Investment Services is posting four jobs in the downtown Pittsburgh office for investment services associates and a senior investment associate.
 
The Oracle office in Pittsburgh is hiring for at least 10 positions in IT including client specialists, IT security and consulting professionals.
 
Phipps has several full-time openings for people with a passion for the green world. Positions include: a display horticulturalist; events sales administrator; building maintenance technicians, a grower/production to provide care and propagation of plants and seedlings; an integrated pest management specialist; and a science education and research administrative assistant.
 
Wyndham Hotel and Resorts is looking for an executive chef who will be responsible for coordinating all aspects of the hotel’s food production and services.

Pittsburgh-based NuRelm, a developer of business websites, is seeking a web developer to build content managed websites.
 
Gillece Services is launching a new home maintenance program, expanding its training and hiring 10-15 employees: electricians, master plumbers, service plumbers, HVAC technicians and journeymen. The company will also partner with the Pittsburgh Technical Institute to offer high-tech training to students in the coming months.
 
The Mountain Watershed Association is hiring a community advocate. Candidates must have a J.D. Degree with a certificate or experience in environmental law, be enthusiastic and motivated self-starters, and be outgoing and able to work with diverse groups of people. The job is based in Melcroft, Pa.
 
Allies for Children, a newly organized nonpartisan advocacy nonprofit, is hiring a communications director, someone passionate about improving the lives of children and youth.
 
Have hiring news? Email Pop City and include the career links.
 
Writer: Deb Smit

Duolingo launches "The Incubator" to create lessons for every language in the world

Duolingo is launching a massive initiative this week that will begin building interactive language lessons for every language in the world, including some rather unusual tongues.
 
Called The Incubator, the new offering will not only expand the number of languages currently being taught by the Pittsburgh-based startup, but will preserve other languages for posterity, says Luis von Ahn, CEO and founder.
 
“We’ve received interest from thousands of people wanting to help (with the new platform),” says von Ahn.  “In essence, we will be crowdsourcing language education.”
 
Launched in beta in November of 2011, Duolingo is a free language-learning website and app that has attracted 10 million users to date. The site teaches foreign language skills through online gaming exercises that allow users to practice writing and dictation.
 
Duolingo users are demanding more than 50 languages that are not currently offered, says von Ahn. The best way to stay abreast of demand is through The Incubator, which will grow the language website organically.
 
The crowd sourced approach is far more expedient than if Duolingo were to hire employees to do the job. The creation of one language alone would take one person four to five months, he says.
 
“Once we deem it (a language developed through The Incubator) good enough we will launch it in beta and watch how well people are learning,” von Ahn says. “We will let the community drive it.  In many cases, we think the community can do a better job than us.”
 
Duolingo currently offers courses in Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Brazilian and Italian. The languages most in demand include Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Arabic and Swedish.
 
Users are also asking for unconventional offerings like Esperanto, a politically neutral language created to foster world peace, and Elfish, a tongue derived from the world of J.R. Tolkien, he says.
 
“It’s a little nerve-wracking because in a sense we are giving control away,” he says. “But we will be watching everything. With the incubator, it will be up to the people, not just us.”
 
Most of the users to date are from the U.S. (25 percent) and Brazil (15 percent). Duolingo has yet to tap the Asian market. Through The Incubator, Duolingo expects to add 15 to 20 languages within the first three to six months and another 50 beyond that.
 
The company is expanding and will move into its larger office space on Walnut Street on Oct. 28th.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Luis von Ahn, Duolingo

Pittsburgh college entrepreneur wins national competition for Sequoia Waste Solutions

Charlie Dolan, a 21-year-old college senior and co-founder of Pittsburgh-based Sequoia Waste Solutions, took first place in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards’ regional competition.
 
Dolan will go on to compete for the global title in Washington, D.C., this November.
 
Dolan and several friends, all graduates of Central Catholic High School, started the waste solution company in 2012. The company creates client-specific waste solutions that matches building materials with a network of partners and service providers. In the end, customers save both money and the environment.
 
Dolan entered the competition as a senior at Villanova University, where he runs the company while attending school.
 
“They (judges) were really impressed with the idea and the method,” says Dolan, company CTO. “Just to be in the running with amazing young entrepreneurs from around the world is an honor.”
 
Sequoia’s customers are primarily restaurants, educational facilities and corporate offices. Not only does each company typically save between 5-15 percent annually on their trash and recycling costs, but less trash ends up in landfills, he says.
 
The company is expected to surpass $5 million in revenue this year.  “Our goal is to be the data hub of trash in Pittsburgh,” he says. “And to create local jobs.”
 
The GSEA competition recognizes student entrepreneurs from around the world who are successfully running a profitable business while attending school. It is organized by the Entrepreneur’s Organization, a global business network of more than 9,500 business owners in 40 countries.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Charlie Dolan, Sequoia Waste Solutions

In a quiet corner of Pitt's campus, Wangari Maathai's garden grows

Two red maples and a garden brimming with zinnias quietly grow in the shadow of the Cathedral of Learning, a tribute to a humble yet charismatic African woman who passed through Pittsburgh 50 years ago.
 
Wangari Maathai came from Kenya in 1965 to earn her master’s degree in biology from University of Pittsburgh, the beginning of a celebrated career that included a Nobel Peace in 2004. From Pitt, Maathai went on to spend several years studying abroad.
 
When she returned to her native country, she found it nearly decimated by a deforested landscape that threatened the local farming ecology and economy. Maathai started a simple tree-planting project in response, a project that came to be known as the Green Belt Movement. The movement was instrumental in planting more than 51 million trees in Kenya and across Africa, helping to restore indigenous forests while assisting rural woman by paying them to plant trees in their villages.
 
Maathai campaigned loudly against deforestation and was even arrested and beaten by police at protests. She led hunger strikes. She addressed the United Nations about her concerns, eventually serving on the U.N.’s Commission for Global Governance and the Commission on the Future. 
 
Not only was she the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, but she had a successful career as a writer and political leader, unheard of for an African woman at the time. She was an elected member of Parliament, an assistant minister for Environmental Natural Resources in Kenya and an honorary Councilor of the World Future Council.
 
Sadly, she died of complications from ovarian cancer in 2011.
 
A public dedication in her honor was held recently at the garden near the Fifth Avenue Entrance of the Cathedral of Learning, a fitting homage to a woman whose life was dedicated to sustainable development.
 
“Professor Maathai’s lifelong commitment to advocating for women, the poor, and the oppressed has had a truly global impact, bringing hope and opportunity for a better life to countless women,” said Mark A. Nordenberg, president of Pitt. “The garden will serve as an ongoing inspiration to generations of Pitt students to come, reminding them of the positive difference that one person, armed with an education and a dream, can make.” 

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: University of Pittsburgh

Kenyan student Nicholas Wambua and Chancellor Nordenberg at the dedication of the garden. Image courtesy of Michael Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh
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