Start-up businesses pitched their company’s product to established companies at the Made in PA Expo.

PITTSBURGH – Dick Zhan was filled with excitement.

As an owner of a fledgling start-up, Zhan knows how hard it can be to find new customers and businesses to fill the supply chain pipeline.

Zhan’s excitement was having access to a room full of vendors, potential customers and supply chain companies at the third annual Made in PA Expo, a three-day event sponsored by the Pittsburgh Technology Council (PTC).

“The expo’s value add, beyond saving time and saving the pressure of reaching out to other companies, is when you want to manufacture something at a high level, you don’t even know where to begin,” Zhan, President and CEO, IDENTIFIED Technologies Corporation, said. “Having people there who are already in the field is incredibly valuable. It was great that the tech council was supporting manufacturers and companies here in the city and throughout the region.”

The expo is a supplier forum and trade show highlighting the capabilities of manufacturing firms in the Pittsburgh region to a global audience, according to Brian Kennedy, Vice President, Strategic Services and Government Relations, PTC. Over 70 companies participated in the event.

“There was also an opportunity to learn a little more about government,” Kennedy said. “We met with some folks from PennDOT to hear about their technology challenges. An exciting component that was new this year is that we were able to bring in start-up companies in the AlphaLab gear program. It was an opportunity for those six companies to talk about their products and what their supply chain needs are going to be.”

Mark Jreissaty, CTO, Rapid TPC, said it was a wonderful chance to meet other companies who can potentially work with his start-up, which will produce machines that automate composite parts like fiberglass and carbon fiber. Rapid TPC, just like IDENTIFIED Technologies Corporation, is a current AlphaLab Gear participant.

“There was one-on-one time with companies at the expo,” Jreissaty said. “We made some good contacts and even talked with a potential customer, so that was very positive for us because we attended with the goal of obtaining customer validation.”

Jreissaty agreed that the expo afforded him the opportunity to have access to companies that he may not have had otherwise.

“It is difficult and hard to cold call companies when you are looking to get your foot in the door,” Jreissaty said. “There are barriers to entry, so definitely being able to meet at the expo was very helpful and we started conversations that we can maintain and will follow-up on in the future.”

Ilana Diamond, Managing Director, AlphaLab Gear, said the expo was perfect timing for the start-ups since they will be “graduating” from the program in May.

“It was perfect timing for us to have all the vendors in one place at the same time,” Diamond said. “And it can be difficult for new companies to have this kind of access. When you are a fortune 500 company, suppliers are beating on your door every day. When you are new, you don’t have that luxury.”

Kennedy felt the expo was a great experience for the start-ups.

“These entrepreneurs were like kids at Walmart,” Kennedy said. “They were able, under one roof, to find the suppliers they have been looking to meet for weeks.”

The expo included a diverse representation of various industries – including labeling, machining and software companies, an assortment of the kinds of companies needed for new businesses looking to get theirs off the ground, Kennedy added.