PITTSBURGH, June 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The first companies have been selected to participate in AlphaLab, a new program of Innovation Works to spur the growth of companies developing software, interactive games, and web and mobile applications. Innovation Works, one of the nation's most active seed-stage investors, selected the following companies to participate in the initial AlphaLab program: BlenderHouse, Chogger, crono, GameHuddle, Skill-Life, and Sonya Labs. AlphaLab helps companies rapidly develop early versions of their product and reach the critical stage of initial customer feedback and validation before commercial launch. Twice a year, up to six companies are selected to participate in the intensive AlphaLab program. In just five weeks of the initial open application cycle which ended March 31, 2008, scores of entrepreneurial teams from seven states applied for consideration. Investors and industry experts assisted the Innovation Works team in reviewing and selecting the companies thought to have the best chance for commercial success; that could make significant progress toward a product launch in roughly six months; and those that could maximize the $25,000 investment, free office space, and intensive business assistance provided to each of the AlphaLab companies. The first group of web-related companies represents a diverse mix of market segments being pursued, first-time and experienced entrepreneurs, teams working at the concept-phase to those with early iterations already released for user feedback, teams from outside Pittsburgh who moved here for the experience and some that have grown up together in the greater-Pittsburgh region, and everything in between. -- BlenderHouse creates social applications for Facebook and other platforms that offer friends a forum to exchange trusted recommendations and feedback during key life decisions. www.blenderhouse.com -- Chogger is developing software tools that enable users to easily create comic strips, a fun and exciting form of expression. Chogger's tools will help build and showcase comic strips and will integrate with websites containing content that can be easily made into personalized comics, such as photo sharing sites. www.chogger.com -- crono is developing intelligent software to automate and simplify communications, schedule appointments, and book services. www.mycrono.com -- GameHuddle is creating a social network for gamers to help bring together players with similar interests. Users are able to review games, blog, create micro sites for clans/guilds, and engage others as part of a social community. www.gamehuddle.com -- Skill-Life is developing a web-based video game teaching financial literacy to middle and high school-aged children. Players create avatars and take on different real-life personas with specific occupations, homes, friends, and access to capital. Each persona has its own set of games that improve the players' math and literacy capabilities. www.centscity.com -- Sonya Labs is creating a comprehensive web-based legal research destination. www.sonyalabs.com "We are really excited by the products and teams in this first group of AlphaLab companies," says Rich Lunak, president & CEO of Innovation Works. "Most of these entrepreneurs just had a concept for a product and the AlphaLab opportunity motivated them to form a company and get on the path toward rapid commercialization. They're really flourishing in the collaborative environment where they can leverage one another's technical skills and they're applying the expert advice provided by the Innovation Works team and numerous outside advisors to hone their business plans. By the time we showcase the companies to investors toward the end of the program, we expect each one will have made significant progress toward their commercial launch." "Without AlphaLab, we'd probably be three guys in a garage," says Chogger founder Jeremy Herrman. "Now we've incorporated, we're fleshing out a business plan and are developing our product. Maybe we would have done that ourselves, but AlphaLab is making our company real right now." The next application cycle for the fall/winter AlphaLab program will begin in August and close October 15, 2008. Up to six new companies will be selected from those applications. More information is available online at www.iwAlphaLab.org. Innovation Works is the largest, most active seed stage investor in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Part of the statewide Ben Franklin Technology Partner network, Innovation Works invests in and provides expert business assistance to the region's most promising early-stage technology companies. Since the inception of the non-profit organization's seed fund in 1999, Innovation Works has invested in 110 companies. These portfolio companies currently employ more than 1,200 people and have attracted nearly $500 million in additional capital.
SOURCE Innovation Works, Inc.