Blast Furnace

The Blast Furnace is a student accelerator, started in 2015, which provides access to a deep mentor networks, inspirational co-working space, and a rich curriculum for student startups to prepare them to create and grow their business.

Unlike other Pittsburgh economic development led accelerators (IdeaFoundry, Thrill Mill, AlphaLab,etc.), the Blast Furnace was created by the University of Pittsburgh's Innovation Institute for Pitt students at all levels who have a desire to be entrepreneurial, create new companies and receive hands-on learning on how to accomplish these dreams.


We want to increase your chance of entrepreneurial success. We want you better prepared.

How to Participate

  • Applications are accepted to Blast Furnace on a rolling basis. All levels of University of Pittsburgh students that have an entrepreneurial dream they want to pursue are welcome to apply today!
  • You can compete in several of the University’s competitions and automatically be invited. These include the Randall Family Big Idea Competition (January), Wells Competition (October), Pitt Smash Mash!(Fall), and other Innovation Institute entrepreneurial events. 


The Blast Furnace transfers knowledge about commercialization processes through the creation of “virtual startups” facilitated by Innovation Institute personnel.  The program provides hands-on experience as the driving force behind increasing startup opportunities.

The Blast Furnace provides

  • Training  (Eight (8) Weeks of instruction)
  • Community
  • Mentoring
  • Networking
  • Money
  • Space

To ensure the Blast Furnace Program is benchmarked on best-in-class opportunity translation efforts, University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute commits participants to a process that begins with education on innovation and entrepreneurship based on the “Lean Launchpad” business model curriculum.

Program Specifics

As part of Blast Furnace University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute will provide space and access to mentors along with required participation in an eight-week intensive process designed to move students through the initial stage of customer discovery and validation.

The Blast Furnace utilizes a team approach.  “Venture Teams” to provide a real-world experience that teaches members how to validate business ideas for actual potential customers, and to build a business model around that validated idea . It’s all about “getting out of the building” where Venture Teams will learn from talking to industry leaders, customers, partners, competitors and fellow entrepreneurs. The Blast Furnace is not about lectures.

Teaching Team

Babs Carryer, Greg Coticchia, Evan Facher, Paul Petrovich, and invited guests


  • Eight week commitment
  • Five evening workshops (2-3 hours) along with two weeks of in-depth customer development
  • 8 evening socials with presentations and Q&A with local successful entrepreneurs (Entrepreneurial Wednesday's Speaker Series schedule)
  • One final presentation


Participate as a “Venture Team” consisting of:

  • Student Entrepreneurial Lead (Undergrad, Graduate, PostDoc, or other approved student)
  • Student Members (Undergrad, Graduate, PostDoc, or other approved student)
  • Mentor (Faculty or OTM/OED recruit, will be provided by University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute)

Each team member must commit to attending the five in-person workshops and final presentations, plus time required for customer discovery, required reading and flipped lectures.