Pittsburgh start-ups win cash at Rice competition - Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pittsburgh start-ups win cash at Rice competition

 

A pair of Pittsburgh start-ups with both AlphaLab and Carnegie Mellon University ties walked away with funding after competing in the Rice University Business Plan Competition last weekend.

Web-based software company BlackLocus, which helps online retailers manage pricing and inventory, was one of the big winners, taking home a $100,000 for the tech transfer investment prize.

“It was a good opportunity to not only make some prize money but to also network with a lot of investors,” said CEO Rodrigo Carvalho. The company has been developing its product since January 2010 when it was part of the South Side incubator AlphaLab.

The company is talking to investors and in the middle of raising a $1 million seed round. “We are starting to get traction now and have a stable platform,” Carvalho said, as well as paying customers.

The prize money will be used to further expand the six-person staff. The company also recently moved into offices on Craig Street.

RhoMania, a member of the current class of AlphaLab start-ups, also participated in the Rice competition and won three awards totaling around $12,000, said company CEO Darren Olson.

“The really big benefit of the competition is not the money that you get,” Olson said. “It’s getting to present. At Rice we got to present to a total of like 80 business people, entrepreneurs and investors and got personal feedback.”

RhoMania is developing a platform that can help consumers in restaurants select wine. So far, the product runs on iPads and is being used in three Pittsburgh-area restaurants — Donato’s in Fox Chapel, Paris 66 Bistro in East Liberty and 17th Street Cafe on the South Side.

Other AlphaLab companies are also hitting the road after winning spots in pitch competitions. Four companies connected with the incubator are headed to Detroit at the end of the month to take part in the Funded By Night competition in hopes of taking home a $100,000 convertible note.

The competition is being held in conjunction with the FutureMidwest conference.

NoWait, which finished up AlphaLab in October, has developed a platform to manage waiting for restaurants that don’t take reservations. The company, which has five full-time employees, raised $210,000 in January from angels and Innovation Works and expects to raise a series A round in the second half of this year, said CEO Robb Myer. There are six locations in Pittsburgh using the technology as well as three locations in Philadelphia and one location in Florida.

“It’s pretty encouraging that there are four AlphaLab companies selected,” for Funded By Night, he said. “It shows the work that AlphaLab and Innovation Works is doing and how the companies here are reaching out even early on to get outside the region to get funding and publicity.”



Article courtesy of Pittsburgh Business Times