Andy Chan’s a 23-year-old who broke his back playing football, and then tried to “walk it off”. For a year. This, coupled with an energetic personality and a strong desire to make something new, led he and his cofounder Connor Young to start VIT Initiative. VIT has all the buzzwords. They’ve launched a connected, cloud-enabled internet of things (IoT) workplace safety technology that reduces the risk of sprain and strain injuries. This week, Andy and Scot connect quickly and discuss starting a hardware company versus on that focuses on software alone, and they get into Andy’s interesting personal story.
Brad Kriel, founder of Velocity Robotics, is just coming off a regional victory in the AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup, and will be moving on to the next round. The Hardware Cup is a pitch competition for early-stage hardware startups, and Brad is one of six US regional winners. The regional winners as well as the international winners are all competing to win the $50,000 grand prize, in the form of a convertible-debt investment by Startbot VC.
On this week’s show, Brad tells Scot MacTaggart about Autoset, a tool made by Velocity Robotics to make miter saw work more efficient. The two also spend time discussing how a return-on-investment (ROI) pitch gets made, and how Shark Tank can be bad for the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Very few people are working on a problem as large as this one! Mendel Bassman and his team of experts are working on ways to recycle used tires - recovering valuable substances like carbon black, oil and more. Mendel and Smart Tire Recycling recently won TiE Pittsburgh’s 4th Annual Startup Award & Business Mentoring Roundtable (BMR) Showcase, and are on a path toward major success. This week, Mendel talks to Scot about the practice he put in, the business plan he’s working, and what “supercritical fluid technology” actually means.
This week: a fun show with Tomer Borenstein, the CTO of Blastpoint, a Pittsburgh startup that specializes in providing usefully packaged geospatial data for people who need it. Economic development agencies, public utilities, franchisors and franchisees, car dealers and many, many more can use this kind of data to study their markets and devise strategic plans to serve them. Tomer and Scot also discuss the process the company followed in building its price schedule, a question that Scot gets from startups all the time.
This week, Dr. Rasu Shrestha, MBA comes into the Epicast studios to talk about his role as an innovation leader at both UPMC and its subsidiary, UPMC Enterprises. If you’re not already familiar with UPMC, it’s a major healthcare organization that grew out of the University of Pittsburgh, and not long ago it became the largest employer in Pennsylvania. UPMC Enterprises is the creative arm, building products and businesses with entrepreneurs.
Dr. Shrestha is a kind-hearted, design-thinking innovator, working to improve healthcare through technology and innovation in the age of defensive medicine and courtroom thinking. In this episode, he tells our host Scot MacTaggart about the current state of healthcare, about his experience with entrepreneur pitches, and what he is ultimately looking for from the startup community.
Just like all the TV commercials and web banner ads have been threatening, cybersecurity threats are everywhere. This week’s guest wants to fix the real problem you’re facing: your coworkers. You know how they leave the doors unlocked and that one time, the one manager left their key in the door? They’re just as careless with information security. So, Jon and his colleagues built Wuvavi, a platform that trains and tests everyone in your office to avoid getting hit. Three years later, the company has a long list of clients, large and small, and is now considering how they will build their sales and channel strategies to take the company to the next level.
Jim Gibbs is back for the first time since Episode 1! Meter Feeder has grown and changed a lot in the year and a half since his last appearance. The company is done raising cash for now, they’re working on a couple of different strategies that has the company growing at a very aggressive clip. They’re working on parking operators, self-driving cars, and on frictionless rollouts in new cities. This episode is also good for Jim’s perspective on app ratings, on asking for money, and on Pittsburgh as a home base. If you’re not already subscribed after 70 weeks, get there. It’s time!
Have you wondered how to attract real sponsors? Melinda Colaizzi knows that business. She’s the principal at Pitch Consulting, the founder of the Women Who Rock festival, and she’s an accomplished musician herself. This week, Scot attempts to make the most of all the expertise Melinda brings into the studio. Their conversation includes strategies for selling sponsorships, the hard shift toward buying local, and the reputation the Magee-Womens Research Institute has built that makes it the perfect beneficiary of the proceeds from the Women Who Rock event.
Women Who Rock Benefit Concert: May 10, 2018 at Pittsburgh’s Hard Rock Cafe. More information at womenwhorockpgh.com
This week’s show proves that no matter what field you’re in, it has a lot of parallels with other fields. Our guests for this episode are Alyssa and Don from SciVelo, a unique organization affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh. SciVelo calls their work “commercial translation” - and it’s not what you think. Rather than translating between spoken languages, SciVelo translates the work of one set of professionals for use by others, specializing in the research work done at Pitt. Pitchwerks listeners should hear a number of interesting things, especially how the SciVelo team organizes its inventory, its prospects and its opportunities like any other business.
We never seem to have any lazy people on the show, do we? This week, it’s John Quayle, one of two partners behind the StartNOW Pittsburgh newsletter, the principal consultant behind Quayle Creative, and a very busy member of the Active X-It fund. He’s a good friend of our host Scot MacTaggart, and kindly accepted our request to come into the studio to help to decode what is happening in Western PA’s startup scene. The insights he offers are useful anywhere though, laying out some very useful insights for everyone who isn’t in San Francisco, Boston, or some other fully matured startup hotbed.
This week on The Pitchwerks Podcast we’ve got three young men working to save the world - Tanner Cook, Grant Halleran and Aakash Pathak from CleanRobotics. Together with host Scot MacTaggart, the team analyzes buyer motivations, end user education, and a two-tiered demonstration strategy for their product, Trashbot. Trashbot solves a problem you might not even know that you have - the complexity of proper recycling - by analyzing waste and sending it automatically to the landfill or the recycling plant based on a number of factors.
AMAZINGLY sharp conversationalist Priya Amin comes into the studio this week, prepping for an investor pitch competition and talking about Flexable, the startup that she and cofounder Jessica Strong have grown into a common presence at major employers and events in Pittsburgh. This episode was recorded just before Priya left for the New England Venture Fair, so she and Scot work on her NEVF investor pitch a little bit, while also making time to discuss cofounder relationships and expansion strategy.
This week, familiar face Greg Coticchia (Pitchwerks #47) brings Randy Eager into the Epicast Studios to talk about upcoming free seminars in Pittsburgh from the Founder Institute, an idea-stage accelerator program that originated in California’s Bay Area. Greg and Randy have both been successful as entrepreneurs, and host Scot MacTaggart takes advantage of their visit to pick their brains for some insight that Pitchwerks listeners can apply in the new year. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, be sure to check out the Founder Institute event on January 10 at 6pm, in the Truefit offices at 500 Grant Street. The event is free and the topic is the first step, ideation.
So here’s a puzzle for you sales, marketing and startup lovers: How do you launch an Indian fast-casual restaurant, similar to Panera or Chipotle, in an area that doesn’t have much Indian food at all? This is the main question this week. Our guest is Raji Sankar, Co-CEO of Wholesome International, who set out years ago to launch what has now become Choolaah Indian Barbecue. An engineer by training, Raji has worked to develop a nearly-frictionless system that allows guests who have never eaten an Indian dish to walk into a Choolaah location and order with confidence.
Zak Slayback may loathe the way the educational system typically works, but he has legions of educators that love him. Scot MacTaggart invited Zak to come into the Epicast Studios because of his charming, tireless efforts as a successful author, speaker and general “re-thinker”. This week, Zak and Scot sit down and discuss ways to rethink how you send emails, how to overcome a lack of willpower, and how a King Slayback would decree that education should be changed.
Some of our fans in Pittsburgh asked for us to have these ladies on the show - and we’re delivering! Adhithi Aji is the founder of Adrich (adrich.io), and Janelle Aslam is the company’s Chief Marketing Officer. Both of these women are well-educated product managers with hands-on experience in major companies you’ve heard of. Now they’re here in the Epicast studios, speaking with Scot MacTaggart about their automated tool for the collection and analysis of real-life usage data, bringing consumer packaged goods closer to online industries in terms of understanding the buyer.
If you’re going to talk to a genius, pick a fun one. That’s what Kevin Kelly is. He’s a fun genius, rethinking human resources / people management rather than just trying to improve on the aging tools that surround questionable HR processes. Kevin and his cofounder Alexander are brains behind Rhabit, a software tool that solves real problems that have dogged employee assessments and development for decades. He and Scot don’t just talk management, hiring and firing though - they work on Rhabit’s pitch to customers and to investors, and Southern banana pudding comes up in more than one context.
Get your notebook ready for this week’s show! Susan English is the senior vice president and director of public relations and social media at the multi-talented Gatesman agency, which has won a number of recognizable, high-profile corporate advertising and PR clients despite the fact that the firm is only ten years old. Susan is not messing around. You’re going to learn something this week, and probably get a few new ideas for whatever you’re working on. Susan and Scot cover a lot of different topics, and it turns out to be a master class in messaging!
Nearly all climate scientists agree that climate change is real and driven by human activity. Even if you don’t believe that, you have to admit that reducing pollution and preserving natural resources are good goals anyway. Here in the US though, the climate change and pollution questions have gone political, and this has stalled some of our efforts to improve on the situation.
That’s where Stacie Paxton Cobos, the Senior Vice President of The Climate Reality Project (www.climaterealityproject.org) comes in. Stacie and the Climate Reality Leadership Corps came to Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center, and they were kind enough to accommodate us in talking about how the organization teaches activists to de-politicize the issue and convince their fellow Americans to demand progress.
This episode, Stacie talks with Scot MacTaggart about the various ways that the mission can be framed, the persuasive methods employed around science and policy, and the ways in which audiences evaluate those efforts.
If you remember Pitchwerks #33, when Samantha Bute Hartzman told us about the Invest In Her women’s pitch competition, you know that it’s a popular event - and growing. This week, we take a unique approach to covering the finals, speaking to each contestant right as they come down off the stage. Stomachs jumping, hearts racing, tongues tied, they are rushed from the stage back to the Pitchwerks Podcast media booth for a surprise interview. Like the finalists they are, they actually do a really great job. This year’s finalists:
Matt Vendeville has a big, ambitious startup idea...but he’s 24 years old, and he lives in Pittsburgh, which is suffering a serious shortage in angel investment right now. Rather than complaining about this fact though, Matt built that shortage into his planning. He started a socially conscious company called Circa City Apparel with the intent of using that company’s profits to fund a larger, more complex endeavor later down the road.
This week, Matt comes into the Epicast studios for a “Werkshop” with Scot MacTaggart, in the hopes that he and Scot can develop strategies that will grow Circa City as fast as possible, and get his stealth startup off the ground.
BoXZY and Olga Pogoda are back! How can this be, you ask? Well, Olga’s a crowdfunding consultant now, and BoXZY is launching a new 3D printer product, which they were willing to discuss with Scot. Kind of. Check out this extended-length episode to find out what our friends Joel Johnson and Hadley Pratt have been up to over the last year, how Olga plans to help them with their upcoming Kickstarter, and what everyone has learned along the way!
Over the last three years, Christine Iksic has been doing two jobs. One as “The GPS Lady” for Precision Laser & Instrument, selling the Trimble GPS to businesses that need high-accuracy location tech. The other job got her a spot on this week’s show though: she is the co-founder of the Three Rivers Outdoor Company, which just launched an Indiegogo campaign at its retail pop-up, “Gearfest”, on October 14th
This is a great episode, because Christine used all that mapping knowledge she’d built up in the GPS business to validate her market research and to identify the best locations for a retail location. Christine represents the best of both worlds - a great energy and passion for what she’s doing, and a smart, analytical approach to strategy.
Earlier this year, Scot got a call. It was Kenny Chen, Program Director for Ascender, past guest (Pitchwerks #45), Thrival mastermind, and all-around great guy. Kenny wanted Scot to moderate a panel called “It’s Not Just About the Tech” at Thrival Innovation, featuring some seriously amazing guests:
Then, Kenny did something for YOU: He grabbed the audio from the stage team and let Pitchwerks producer Buzzy Torek clean it up so we could share it here. There are a couple of rough patches where you’ll hear room noise, or interference hit the wireless mics and we got a buzzing sound, but those are short. It’s a really informative discussion though, jammed with insight. We hope you get as much out of it as we did.
We’ve seen the parallels between presentation and stage performance before - so this week, we brought in an expert on acting and improv. This episode features Scott Nunnally, a thoroughly experienced teacher of acting and improvisation, as well as the host of the new YouTube movie review series “Something’s Spoiled”.
Mr. Nunnally explains how to work as part of a team, on stage or in the boardroom, and discuss a range of useful topics, including what makes a good teammate, audience reactions, and how relaxation affects performance.