The smile on Richard Lunak’s face made him look like a proud father whose child had just graduated from college.
In this case, however, it wasn’t an actual child but the 15 startup companies who were presenting their businesses to a capacity crowd at AlphaLab’s 11th Demo Day program, which serves as a graduation, of sorts, for these new companies.
“When these companies come in, most of them are incorporating and they are going from an idea and just setting up their companies,” said Lunak, who is President and CEO of Innovation Works (IW), AlphaLab’s parent entity. “When you think about where these companies are today, they have customers, are generating revenue and have very refined business models.”
Lunak was beaming about the latest class whose businesses range from one whose app helps sports teams be better organized (AltheteTrax) to another that assists people budget their money (BudgetSimple) to Hability, which aids physical therapists in keeping their patients on track to a healthy recovery.
“This is my 11th go-around with this and I am still amazed at how far they’ve come and how fast,” said Lunak. “They really are like your children and I am very proud of each and every one of them.”
AlphaLab is an intensive, 20-week program that launches the next generation of software, entertainment technology and Internet-related companies, provides funding, free office space and expertise to help companies rapidly develop their technology, gain early user feedback, develop go-to-market strategies and move toward commercialization.
Lunak was quick to praise the mentors, who assist the entrepreneurs during their time at AlphaLab, as well as Pittsburgh’s dedicated technology community.
“This is more than an IW and AlphaLab effort,” Lunak said. “Each one of these teams has a minimum of three formal mentors and help from service providers and people in the community. Pittsburgh is great too; it really is all hands on deck. That’s why you see 450 people come out to an event like this even on a rainy morning.”
The 75 percent success rate of AlphaLab graduates bodes well for the state’s economic health.
“The Kauffman Foundation says one-third of all businesses, on average, will fail in two years and more than half by their fifth anniversary, so these companies far, far out cede their odds,” Lunak said. “When you look at the metrics of employee growth and revenue, they beat the odds there too. Our companies represent some of the highest growth companies here in Southwest PA. They create jobs, on average, that pay 36 percent higher than the average wage in Pennsylvania.”
One of the startups that is well on its way to succeeding is Hability.
Hability is currently in use by eight regional physical therapy firms, including Pittsburgh’s two largest independent physical therapy chains, and the service’s effect on clinical outcomes will be the subject of two clinical trials in November, according to company CEO James Lomuscio.
“What we are doing is looking for connections to people who can help our company, whether that’s customers or future partners,” Lomuscio said. “Today is about meeting people, communicating, getting the ball rolling and introducing our company to the community.”
Following the presentations, company representatives met with attendees to discuss their businesses in greater depth.