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2014

AlphaLab Gear Launches To Accelerate Growth Of Companies Building Physical Products

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Ilana Diamond, Previous CEO of Global Consumer Electronics Manufacturer, Joins as Director

Startbot Partners with Funding, Manufacturing and Robotics Expertise

PITTSBURGH, May 7, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Innovation Works, one of the country's most active seed-stage investors, in collaboration with Startbot, is launching AlphaLab Gear (www.alphalab.org/gear), a hardware and robotics startup accelerator that provides physical product companies with investment, manufacturing equipment and mentorship in a collaborative work space.  Entrepreneurs receive intensive business training as well as industrial and engineering design and advanced manufacturing practices to launch high-growth startups.  Applications open later this month for the first cycle which begins October 2013 and ends May 2014.

AlphaLab Gear is based on the same principles and methodologies as AlphaLab (www.alphalab.org), the nationally acclaimed startup accelerator of Innovation Works (IW).  Companies can choose to receive $25,000 or $50,000 in investment in exchange for 5% or 9% equity.  Companies with a robotics focus will also work with Startbot, an investment firm specializing in early-stage robotics companies.  In addition, the companies receive:

  • AlphaLaw startup legal services by Cohen & Grigsby
  • Free and discounted accounting/tax services by Sisterson & Co, LLP
  • membership to nearby TechShop Pittsburgh with access to their prototyping and manufacturing equipment and software,
  • additional light tooling equipment within the AlphaLab Gear work space,
  • educational sessions and assistance from seasoned local and national mentors,
  • discounts and benefits from the Global Accelerator Network. 

Ilana Diamond will join the AlphaLab team as the director of AlphaLab Gear.  Ilana's background in product development, manufacturing, supply chain management and retail distribution comes from her years as President and CEO of Sima Products, an international manufacturer of consumer electronics accessories.  Ilana led Sima Products for 15 years until the company's successful exit.  Ilana has also served on the Executive Board of the Consumer Electronics Association.

"As the cost and time to launch hardware products declines, companies creating physical products are becoming leaner and more nimble and are a better fit for an accelerator model than ever before," said Rich Lunak, President and CEO of Innovation Works.  "The same dynamics of capital efficiency that we saw when we launched AlphaLab for software products in 2008 are now at play for hardware companies and there is no place better than Pittsburgh to take advantage of these trends," Rich continued.

Henry Thorne, co-founder of Pittsburgh-based 4Moms, a company bringing electronics and robotic design to baby products such as the mamaRoo infant seat and Origami stroller, agrees that the time and place for AlphaLab Gear is ideal.  "Pittsburgh's a great place for building things and it's going to be even better with a hardware accelerator pushing entrepreneurs to develop products faster and better.  This will be the best place in America for hardware startups."

Agreeing on Pittsburgh's strengths, Rich Lunak adds, "We have world-class technologies and talent coming from the leading robotics and engineering programs of Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, a deep pool of engineering and operational mentors that have built products and taken them to market, and the experience of Innovation Works which has been investing and assisting robotics and other hardware-related companies for 13 years.  We are so pleased to bring on Ilana Diamond and to partner with Josh McElhattan who is leading Startbot.  This combination gives the AlphaLab Gear companies access to expert business assistance and potential follow-on funding to spur their success," Lunak continued.

As a long-term mentor to AlphaLab companies, Ilana Diamond's transition to Director of AlphaLab Gear is a natural evolution.  "I am excited to bring my experience as an entrepreneur and my connections in the manufacturing world to the AlphaLab Gear companies," said Ilana Diamond.  "A great facet of the program will be our unique partnership with Josh McElhattan of Startbot to fund a robotics track within AlphaLab Gear.  Josh brings a wealth of experience in advanced manufacturing techniques, a strong corporate and supplier network and a commitment to funding robotics companies," continued Ilana.    

Prior to leading Startbot, Josh McElhattan was the director of business development for Industrial Scientific overseeing corporate strategy related to new market development for the company, including acquisitions, corporate partnerships, strategic investments and technological direction. Leading Startbot, Josh will help tailor assistance to early-stage robotics companies by emphasizing design, engineering, supply chain management, advanced manufacturing and other specialized processes.

"We are excited to be participating in AlphaLab Gear and eager to assist robotics startups," said Josh McElhattan.  "The opportunities in robotics and supporting technologies are immense due to the proliferation of powerful connected devices and rapid fabrication tools that make it easier than ever to turn an idea into a physical reality," Josh added.  "Startbot has developed specialized resources to meet the specific needs of early-stage robotics companies. This focus draws on the strengths of the Pittsburgh region to serve our participants best."

As Managing Director of AlphaLab, Jim Jen has seen the progressive trends for startups in both software-based and physical products companies.  "Launching AlphaLab Gear is a natural extension of the AlphaLab accelerator model," said Jim Jen.  "We've successfully piloted physical products companies in the past two cycles of AlphaLab and have no doubt these companies can engage with customers and iterate quickly and efficiently using the latest rapid prototyping methods and other tools.  As hardware and device companies incorporate software and network connectivity to deliver new capabilities to the market, we are confident that AlphaLab Gear will provide the foundation in entrepreneurship, mentorship and access to capital that helps talented entrepreneurs build great companies in these new markets."

About Innovation Works and AlphaLab:
Innovation Works (www.innovationworks.org)  is the most active seed-stage investor in the Pittsburgh region, investing in IT, electronics, advanced materials, life sciences, robotics, energy and other technologies.  The Innovation Works seed fund has invested more than $60 million in 168 startups and the portfolio companies have gone on to raise nearly $1.5 billion in follow-on funding.  In 2008, Innovation Works launched AlphaLab to accelerate the growth of capital efficient, agile startups.  Now in its tenth cycle, AlphaLab has trained hundreds of entrepreneurs and helped them successfully launch their products, acquire customers, build successful teams, attract investment and grow. 

About Startbot:
Startbot is an investment and service firm founded to assist early-stage robotics companies with investment capital and a set of unique processes, tools, and guidance tailored to their needs. Launched in 2012, Startbot combines depth of experience in robotics with a lean startup methodology. Its services include specialties in design, engineering, supply chain management, advanced manufacturing, sales development and leadership. Startbot's advisors and business partners are drawn from a wide range of successful efforts worldwide. 

SOURCE Innovation Works, Inc.



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