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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Aleem Gangjee, Duequesne University

Pittsburgh newlywed entrepreneurs create stylin' diabetes Pump Peelz

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

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

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

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Scott Imblum, Pump Peelz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red Star Kombucha, the brewed in Pittsburgh glob to love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Deb Smit

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

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

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

Pittsburgh innovation news you need to know

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

Truly Accomplished embraces the power of technology to change lives

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

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? ModCloth, Songwhale, Steeltown Entertainment and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest in company hiring news.
ModCloth, the online vintage clothing retailer, is looking for a director of engineering for its Pittsburgh location. This is a forward-looking position that requires basic technical knowledge of the company's technology stack to help inform decisions.

Songwhale, a fast-growing, interactive technology company in Pittsburgh, is hiring developers, engineers and project managers.
The Efficiency Network (TEN) is hiring an entrepreneurial energy engineer to provide expertise in assessing, designing, calculating savings and scoping pricing energy efficiency projects. The company is a next-generation energy efficiency integration firm that hopes to change the way customers achieve energy and water efficiency goals.
University of Pittsburgh is hiring an academic community engagement advisor for the University Honors College. The position is responsible for directing the office and advising UHC students as well as other responsibilities.
Safaba in Squirrel Hill, a fast-growing machine translation firm, seeks a senior MT software engineer to play an integral role in its product development roadmap and customer project delivery.
Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery seeks a full-time gallery assistant who will be responsible for daily gallery management, creating PR and marketing materials, packing and shipping glass, and installing work for exhibition openings. A BFA/BA in art history or studio arts, or a background in gallery management is preferred. Send resumes and cover letters to Amy Morgan at staff@morganglassgallery.com.
Steeltown Entertainment Project is seeking a part-time (20 hours a week) youth & media program administrator to support its projects. Steeltown’s Youth & Media Program works to empower teens by inspiring, promoting and facilitating the creation of teen-produced media and provide the skills they need.
On the North Shore, Webkite, a content management platform developer, is hiring three: business development technology sales representative, outbound sales representative and a senior developer.
Branding Brand seeks a technical recruiter to work in the Pittsburgh office and lead the development of the team. The ideal candidate is entrepreneurial in nature, a true people person, and someone who lives and breathes mobile. 

Immunetrics, a bio-simulation company in Pittsburgh, on the cutting edge of in silico modeling, seeks a mathematical modeler.
AllFacilities Energy Group, an energy efficiency analytics company in Pittsburgh, is hiring an account associate with a Bachelor’s degree in a business or technical discipline, or 1 – 3 years of related experience.  Energy efficiency experience is preferred, but not required.
Bechtel Bettis seeks an entry level technical editor/writer in its West Mifflin office,  someone with experience or a degree in mechanical, marine or related engineering.

Have hiring news? Email Pop City and send the career links.

Writer: Deb Smit

This passive house. Pittsburgh firm explores pure energy efficient design

Rob Hoskin grew up in the Seventies in an energy-efficient house that was way ahead of its time.
With the Arab Oil Embargo and energy crisis in full swing, Hosken’s father built a “passive solar home,” construction that relied on solid architectural design rather than gadgetry to lower the energy bill—things like south facing windows and really good insulation.
“I have memories of cold Wisconsin winter days, with no heating appliances turned on, when I could wear summer clothes inside our house,” says Hosken.
While interest in “passive” housing subsequently waned in the U.S., the Germans and Swedish picked it up and ran with it, especially in the last decade, constructing ultra-low energy buildings and houses that adhere to strict passive design standards.
Today, passive houses are the new buzz word in sustainability.
“It’s the new gold standard of building energy efficiency,” says Hosken. “It’s one step from a building with net zero energy, which produces more energy than it consumes.”
Not surprisingly, Hosken grew up and became architect with a passion for green and energy-efficient design. His Pittsburgh firm, Building Performance Architecture (BPA), offers both energy efficiency consultations and architectural services for homeowners, apartment building owners, and commercial building owners.
It’s also the only firm in the region to conduct passive home ratings, he says. While many architects embrace certified passive design standards, passive homes must be officially rated to certify.
“We’re that in Pittsburgh,” he says.
To qualify as passive, a house must lower its energy bill based on air infiltration, Btu consumption and kwh usage. Passive houses (or buildings) must be totally airtight, super-insulated, designed for passive solar heat gains and equipped with high performance doors and windows and heat or energy recovery ventilation systems.
The passive rating system is stricter than both the International Residential Code (IRC) and the U.S. Energy Star program.
With the addition of energy technology, like solar panels, passive houses can easily achieve net-zero energy use, says Hosken. Passive homes can achieve a 25% reduction in overall energy use. 

His firm, based in Point Breeze, has received support from the Idea Foundry and a Kiva loan, enabling BPA to buy the necessary equipment to conduct passive house ratings.

Our vision is to help create communities that are beneficial to the environment and people around them and slow the threat of global warming, he says.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Rob Hosken, BPA

This week in startup news: the fast skinny on everything going down around town

Pop City innovation news offers a roundup this week of all the news you need to know:

Business Bout is back, Thrill Mill’s business plan competition that not only sinks venture capital to new startups but secures them a spot in Hustle Den’s incubator in East Liberty.

New this year, the top 15 companies selected will receive a cash prize; $25,000 for the winner and $5,000 for the top 14 companies selected. The deadline for submission is Dec. 6th at midnight. The funding was made possibly by the success of the Thrival Festival this fall and funding from the RK Mellon Foundation.

The first round of finalists, about 30 to 50 companies, will attend a weekend bootcamp that will provide training on the basics for building a company, says Bobby Zappala, CEO for Thrill Mill.

“We’re taking some serious strides to add value to the companies beyond giving them access to the space (Hustle Den),” says Zappala.  “Adding so much substance only increases the chance for companies to achieve something really great.”

Across the hall from HustleDen, AlphaLabGear is getting underway. The first nine companies are expected to be announced next week.

Pittsburgh’s big data startups will meet with regional big data investors for a mega session on investing and building companies in the field of data analytics. The interactive format will provide a meaningful dialogue and an opportunity to facilitate relationships between entrepreneurs and investors, says Samman Haqqi, organizer on behalf of Pittsburgh DataWorks.

National VCs like Accel, Atlas Ventures and Google Ventures will be on hand along with locals Draper Triangle, Innovation Works, and Birchmere Capital.

CMU has announced the launch of the Simon Initiative to accelerate the use of learning science and technology to improve student learning. The faculty-led initiative includes the formation of the Global Learning Council (GLC), a group of experts from academia, industry and foundation who will develop best practices in the open sharing of data across sectors to improve learning outcomes for all.

In addition, CMU will provide open access to the world’s largest bank of educational technology data, which it collected with the University of Pittsburgh as part of LearnLab, a Science of Learning Center funded by the National Science Foundation, says a CMU spokesperson.
Applications are now being accepted for the Steel City Codefest, a city-wide app-building competition to create apps that assist local nonprofits by promoting their mission and saving time and money. For more information or to apply click here.

The Energy Technology Center at the Pittsburgh Technical Institute officially opened its doors in North Fayette. The $3.5 million, 15,000 square-foot space is headquarters for the school’s energy programs, serving companies that are exploring and developing Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale.

Earlier this year, PTI announced a new certificate program in welding technology and the addition of an oil and gas electronics concentration to its electronics engineering technology associate program in science degree. The institute's oil and gas program is the first associate degree program in the region that concentrates on electronics for the energy sector, school officials said.

Finally, CMU invites the public to LaunchCMU Pittsburgh, a research and entrepreneurship showcase on Wednesday, Nov. 13 from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the University Center, Rangos 1,2 and 3. Startups presenting include Surtrac, Sharp Edge Labs, PECA Labs, ActivAided Orthotics and Duolingo.

Writer: Deb Smit

What is UpTo? For starters, the community social accelerator is up to a regionwide expansion

Look for UpTo to pop up all over Pittsburgh and beyond, thanks to support from two local organizations.
A neighborhood experiment launched by marketing firm Shift Collaborative, UpTo stages pop-ups in underserved communities by bringing businesses and nonprofits together with freelance designers and writers who can turn work around quickly and at an affordable cost.
Successful pop-ups were held in this fall in East Liberty and Butler. Intrigued, Idea Foundry has adopted UpTo as part of its Intersector Accelerator Program, which funds businesses that have social or environmental benefits.
In addition, the Allegheny Conference is considering including UpTo as part of its Strengthening Communities Partnership, an initiative designed to address disparities in communities in the Pittsburgh region.
UpTo was created as a side project by marketing firm Shift Collaborative in East Liberty. It’s a way to challenge ourselves and do-good in local neighborhoods, says Sarah Mayer, a principal at Shift along with Eric Sloss.
The pop-ups are staged as community social events in the heart of main street communities--barber shops, Italian restaurants, ice cream shops, dry cleaners are all great candidates that have benefitted.
“People can walk in, walk around, meet people and make an appointment,” says Meyer.  “We want to educate people on the process and the importance of quality design work. Then we follow up to see how they are putting these designs into action.”
A menu of services is available to business owners, with rates of between $25 and $150 for content writing and design work, such as a business logo.
“This is an underserved population that doesn’t usually invest in quality design,” says Meyer. “We don’t hope to profit from it, we want to see it impact Main Street America. That’s our primary goal.”
With the expansion of the program, UpTo is building out its team, which consists of locally sourced freelancers. It’s a good opportunity for designers to fill out their portfolio, Meyers adds.
Scouting is underway for future locations, possibly Wilkensburg, McKeesRocks, Latrobe and Erie.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Sarah Meyer, Shift Collaborative
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