Innovation Works, a seed-stage investor and assistance program supported by the state, is coming off a year of significant growth. Its portfolio companies saw $1.5 billion in revenues, it is creating a new robotics incubator and today brings its startup accelerator AlphaLab's 10th Demo Day.
Highlights of a report on the program's 2012 fiscal year include $4.8 million that Oakland-based Innovation Works invested in 91 technology companies; $209 million in follow-on funding raised by its seed fund and accelerator companies; and the fact that 29 of those companies raised $1 million or more in additional funding outside of the program.
The report makes the case that 65 percent of venture deals in the region went to Innovation Works companies and said the program's efforts have helped to create or save 583 jobs.
That report will be discussed in full during an annual meeting to be hosted today at Strip District portfolio company 4Moms, which specializes in high-tech strollers, playpens, swings and other products for babies.
The location -- at a robotics-based technology company -- is fitting, given the recent announcement that the Innovation Works program AlphaLab is expanding its reach into that sector.
Last Tuesday, AlphaLab announced creation of AlphaLab Gear, a startup accelerator focused on entrepreneurs developing hardware, robots and other physical technologies. As in the original program, participants in AlphaLab Gear will receive mentors, educational sessions, business training and financing.
Companies chosen for the program can receive $25,000 in exchange for 5 percent equity or $50,000 for 9 percent equity in the business. They also will receive legal, accounting and tax services; free membership to TechShop Pittsburgh, which features prototyping and manufacturing equipment; light tooling equipment at AlphaLab; and benefits from the Global Accelerator Network.
The startup accelerator is a collaboration between AlphaLab and Oakdale-based robotics investment firm Startbot. AlphaLab Gear will begin accepting applications this month for its first cycle, which will run from October until May 2014.
In the official announcement, AlphaLab managing director Jim Jen called the move a natural extension: "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."
Although today's events offer opportunities to applaud the past, they are primarily designed to shine a spotlight on the future.
The 10th consecutive Alpha Lab Demo Day and fourth University Technology Preview will show off innovations and business plans from AlphaLab's latest class as well as those created at Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh.
The five university companies presenting will pitch plans as varied as Solvy, an automated troubleshooting search service, and the Institute of Consultative Bioethics' EthAssist, a software program that provides information related to ethical issues for classrooms, health care settings and other professional environments.
AlphaLab's class of seven companies covers education, entertainment and information technologies but also takes a dip into the realm of direct services and physical products.
SolePower, a device that converts footsteps into electricity through a rechargeable battery, transforms a day of walking into enough juice to fully charge a smartphone. Meanwhile, the Woo With Style app and website gives male users seeking fashion advice direct feedback from a panel of fashion enthusiasts. Digital Dream Labs' dreamWare platform connects wirelessly to tablets and other devices to teach the fundamentals of sequencing, math, chemistry and other topics.
Innovation Works CEO Rich Lunak said it's been hectic planning Demo Day and Annual Meeting activities in the middle of AlphaLab Gear's launch, but he said it's a problem that he's glad to face.
"There are so many positive things happening in the local entrepreneurial community, it's difficult to cover it all," he said cheerfully.
Deborah M. Todd: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1652.