CONNECTS -Project Olympus - Carnegie Mellon University


Our CONNECTS series enhances the experiential education of any individual interested in innovation and entrepreneurship. Tailored mainly for students to help take their ideas from conception to commercialization, the workshops run throughout the academic year. Teams looking for talent and talent looking for teams can CONNECT at these events.

The Fall 2014 CONNECTS series has ended for the semester.
Stay tuned for more information regarding the Spring 2015 CONNECTS series.


Refining Your Elevator Pitch

Friday, December 5
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Tepper, Room 145

*This is the last CONNECTS workshop offered to those participating in the McGinnis Venture Competition

This workshop will help you to perfect your elevator pitch, and more importantly, teach you how to effectively articulate your value proposition to prospective investors. Presented by Mel Pirchesky, founder and President of Eagle Ventures, this workshop is highly recommended for those applying to the McGinnis Venture Competition. Mel is a Pittsburgh entrepreneur and the go-to guy in the region for entrepreneurial coaching on elevator pitches. During Mel's career, he has raised over $90 million in equity solely from high net worth individuals. Come prepared to work on your elevator pitch during the workshop.

Spring 2015 CONNECTS TBA

Stay tuned for more...

Fall 2014:

How to Evaluate Whether an Idea is a Good One

Friday, September 12
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Newell Simon Hall 3305
Presenter: Kit Needham

Have lots of ideas but don’t know which one to pursue?

Get some simple ‘first steps’ to help narrow down the list and determine which, if any, are a good use of your time.

Start Smart: Building Your Professional Relationships (Law, Accounting, Insurance and Banking)

Thursday, September 18
5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
Newell Simon Hall 1507

In addition to great founders and team members, startups need a knowledgeable team of professionals from a variety of fields who are experienced working with startups. Learn from this panel of key professionals what each bring to make your startup successful.


  • Law: David Lehman, K&L Gates
  • Accounting: Bill Richardson, Sisterson, Inc
  • Insurance: Kevin Hughes, TJ&S
  • Banking: Joe King, Citizens Bank

The Business Model Canvas

Friday, September 19
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Gates 4303
Presenter: Dave Mawhinney

The goal of this workshop is to identify and explain innovative business models, what will work and what won't. Presented by Dave Mawhinney, Co-Director of the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Managing Director of the Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund. Prior to Carnegie Mellon, Dave was the co-founder and CEO of mSpoke and has more than 20 years of experience starting companies.

Dos & Don’ts of Student Business Teams

Friday, September 26
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Gates 6115
Presenter: Kit Needham

Learn the basics about forming a team that all founders (and future team members) should know.

Student teams are formed to work on business ideas as class projects or personal business ventures. Getting you team set up properly in the beginning can avoid problems in the future.

The Lean Startup

Wednesday, October 1
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Newell Simon Hall 3305
Presenter: Dave Mawhinney

Learn how to make your startup lean and efficient using entrepreneurial best practices. This workshop is led by our co-director, Dave Mawhinney. Dave is also the managing director of the OFEF. Prior to Carnegie Mellon, Dave was the co-founder and CEO of mSpoke and has more than 20 years of experience starting companies.

*NSF I-Corps Site Program Required to Attend*

Fundraising for Entrepreneurs

Friday, October 3
10:00 am to 11:30 am
Gates 4405
Presenter: Taylor Davidson

Join us for an in-depth conversation about the world of venture capital, entrepreneurship and startup fundraising. The event will be led by Taylor Davidson (@tdavidson), a 2004 Tepper alumnus and early-stage venture capitalist in NYC. Taylor recently co-curated a book called Creative Entrepreneurship, which curates the perspectives of leading entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. He will be covering how venture capital works and how entrepreneurs can navigate the ecosystem to raise venture capital, including how to create and present pitch decks and financial models.

Financial Modeling

Wednesday, October 8
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Gates 6115
Presenter: Phil Compton

If you’re going to start a company, mapping out your financial projections will be an important part of that process.  Learn the basics and get insight from presenter Phil Compton, veteran of several Pittsburgh startups and the CFO / CoFounder of the cyber security company Malcovery Security.  Understanding how to incorporate assumptions and to discuss key terms such as burn rate, cash runway and EBITDA will allow you to more confidently support your projections to investors and your fellow team members.

*NSF I-Corps Site Program Required to Attend*

Start Smart: How to Shop for a Lawyer

Thursday, October 9
5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
University of Pittsburgh

Finding the right lawyer is a key strategic business decision for a startup.  Your lawyer can be one of your best business advisers or a poor choice that costs you time and money.

Learn the right questions to ask, how to avoid common mistakes, and how to manage your relationship.

Splitting the Equity Pie

Wednesday, October 15
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Gates 6115
Presenter: Frank Demmler

Equity compensation can be a very mysterious concept for first time entrepreneurs. From the division of the Founders' Pie through stock option grants, critical decisions must be made with an appreciation of their importance. This workshop is led by Frank Demmler, Vice President of the Entrepreneurial Services Team at Innovation Works. Frank has more than 25 years experience advising entrepreneurs and angel investors. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Tepper School of Business.

*NSF I-Corps Site Program Required to Attend*

Start Smart: Raising Capital

Thursday, October 16
5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
Gates 4405
Presenter: David Lehman

Learn about the legal issues associated with raising capital from friends and family, such as:

  • Structuring the investments to maximize growth
  • Opportunities available because of the new JOBS Act
  • Crowd sourcing and proposed SEC regulation
  • Funding from incubators/accelerators, government and foundations

*NSF I-Corps Site Program Required to Attend*

Agile Product Development

Wednesday, October 29
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Gates 6115
Presenter: Sean Ammirati

Learn an iterative and interactive framework to manage the process of building your startup's technology solution. We will offer specific tips for implementing this in your venture and hear case studies from local Pittsburgh companies who have taken advantage of these techniques. This workshop is led by Sean Ammirati, currently a partner at Birchmere Labs and Birchmere Ventures. Previously, Sean was the COO of ReadWriteWeb and the co-founder and CEO of mSpoke.

*NSF I-Corps Site Program Required to Attend*

Start Smart: Protecting Your Company's IP

Thursday, October 30
5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
University of Pittsburgh
Presenter: Michael Lazzaro

Learn the answers to these issues:

  • How to protect your company's IP
  • How not to infringe on another's IP
  • How to handle IP created by your employees, including non-compete clauses
  • Which to use: copyright, patents, trademarks, trade secrets
  • First to file vs first to invent: changes in US patent law

Presented by Mike Lazzara,  K&L Gates

*NSF I-Corps Site Program Required to Attend*

Art of the Pitch

Friday, October 31
CHANGE: 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm
CHANGE: Posner Hall, Room 146
Presenter: Des O'Connor

Is your pitch effective? Learn about the strategies, tactics and rationale for the successful investor pitch with guest Desmond O'Connor of Innovation Works. Des works with the management teams of startup technology companies to identify and address critical business issues including intellectual property creation and protection, product development, marketing, sales, fundraising, management recruitment and growth planning.

Creating a Successful Video Pitch

Friday, November 7
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Gates 6115
Presenter: Ralph Vituccio

Is your video pitch effective for competing in an online business competition for entrepreneurs? Learn how to create a successful video and capture the attention of venture capitalists. Ralph Vituccio, Assistant Professor at the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University, will lead this very important workshop. If you are planning to participate in the McGinnis Venture Competition, your first video pitch will determine if you advance to the second round!

How to Pitch to Angels

Friday, November 14
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Posner Hall 151
Presenter: Don Morrison

Angels invest in many more deals than VCs and at earlier stages, which means that angel investors will be a vital source of funding for your startup. Learn how to deliver a pitch that stands out from the crowd with presenter Don Morrison, Chairman of Deal Flow for BlueTree Allied Angels. Pittsburgh-based BlueTree is one of the most active angel groups in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Start Smart: How to Conduct Patent Research Workshop

Tuesday, November 18
5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
Newell Simon Hall 3305
Presented by Mike Lazzara from K&L Gates

Do you have an invention or product that you think can be patented? Bring your laptop to this session to learn how to research whether there are other patents similar to your invention and get tips on how you can describe your invention to avoid infringing on other patents.