The Blast Furnace is a student accelerator that provides student entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills they need to commercialize their ideas. The program gives students of all levels from anywhere in the University access to a deep mentor networks, co-working space, and a hands-on, experiential curriculum.

Upon completion, students are ready to launch their business, or to apply for further training, mentoring and financial assistance from Pittsburgh-based accelerators such as AlphaLab, AlphaLab Gear, IdeaFoundry and Thrill Mill. 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 how to accomplish these dreams.

How to Participate

  • The Blast Furnace has two cohorts, a Fall session and a Spring/Summer session. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. The current cohort is in process and began Monday, October 10, 2016!
  • All levels of University of Pittsburgh students with a big idea or an entrepreneurial dream should apply.
  • Applications are open for Cohort 5! The next cohort will be in April!
    Apply to Cohort 5
  • Student teams that compete successfully in the University’s pitch competitions will be invited to participate without application.


The Blast Furnance provides education in innovation and entrepreneurship based on the “Lean Launchpad” business model curriculum designed to move students through the initial stage of customer discovery and validation.

It’s all about “getting out of the building” where Blast Furnace teams learn from talking to industry leaders, customers, partners, competitors and fellow entrepreneurs.



  • Eight (8) week commitment with two sessions per week:
    • Five weeks of Lean LaunchPad workshops
    • Seven evening socials with presentations and Q&A with successful entrepreneurs
  • Access to a deep bench of experienced mentors
  • The last session of each cohort is Demo Day, where the student teams pitch their idea to a panel of VIP’s from Pittsburgh’s local startup scene and take their best shot at winning the coveted Blast Furnace Cup.


By participating in the Blast Furnace, you will learn what it takes to be an entrepreneur, regardless of whether you choose to move forward with your initial idea. Over one-third of our participants choose to incorporate their business and/or successfully apply to local or national accelerators.


What Participants Are Saying

“The Blast Furnace has truly exceeded my expectations.”– Adele Klonicki/Dirt Cheap Power


“I love having access to the space, and it is clear that everyone behind the Blast Furnace is really putting their full support behind the teams. In addition, the networking connections are really terrific and are already paying off. In other words, I’m having a Blast!”– Noah Snyder/Interphase Materials


“I like the open nature of the events.”– Tim Sell/ Lab in your Pocket


“I think the program structure is really comprehensive. I feel that I learned a lot from our weekly assignments and the guest speakers. I liked that the program forced us to go out and talk to our target customers.”– Lu Han/Heart Matters