Big Idea Center Announces First Cohort of
The Forge Student Startup Incubator

The Heart/IO team, which is developing digital diagnostics for heart disease, was a prize winner in the 2019 Randall Family Big Idea Competition last March. (Pictured here with Rob Rutenbar, Vice Chancellor of Research, Bob Randall, creator of the Randall Family Big Idea Competition & Babs Carryer, Director of the Big Idea Center (far right).

The Innovation Institute’s Big Idea Center for student innovation and entrepreneurship has selected the first cohort for The Forge, the student startup incubator, consisting of nine student teams, many of which have already been incorporated.

“We are excited to add a capstone to our continuum of programming and services to help Pitt student innovators bring their big ideas to life and launch them into the world,” said Babs Carryer, director of the Big Idea Center.

The Forge, housed within the Big Idea Center’s offices in the Gardner Steel Conference Center, will provide the student innovation teams with up to two years of support as they solidify business plans, build beta versions or prototypes of their products and services. The teams will have regular access to the Big Idea Center Entrepreneurs in Residence, in addition to being connected to the regional innovation and entrepreneurship community.

It is open to students of all levels – freshman to postdoc – across every school at the University, as well as recent graduates who have completed previously required programming and competitions through the Big Idea Center.

Three of the teams in the first cohort will be receiving funding of between $1,500 and $2,500 to assist in covering startup costs. They include:

CampusGruv: This team is led by Ron Idoko, PhD student in the Department of Education, who is developing a social app for college campuses, allowing users to share and bookmark community-authored content.

Posture Protect: Consisting of Bray Tyler and Jacob Meadows, both undergraduates at the Swanson School of Engineering, this team is developing clinical grade digital health products for the aging U.S. populations. The team’s initial target market is people with movement disorders and their physical therapists.

Revitalize: This team is developing a new method for delivering instant energy via eye drops. Team members include Nick Koroly and Kyle Guiness, undergraduate at the College of Business Administration and the Katz Graduate School of Business respectively.

“Our expectations in The Forge are to gain traction and acquire customers and a foothold in the eye drop market. We hope to accomplish this by learning marketing tactics for a successful Kickstarter campaign,” Koroly said.

Other teams selected for the first cohort of The Forge are:

Atimize: Air powered wheelchairs and scooters
Brandon Daveler, PhD candidate, School of Health and Rehabilitation Services

Healthy Soul: Food truck with healthy food options for urban food deserts
Brooke Walker, undergraduate, Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences

Heart I/O: Digital diagnostics using artificial intelligence to help doctors detect heart abnormalities quicker and at less cost
Adam Butchy and Utkars Jain, PhD students, Swanson School of Engineering

SimpL: TBD
Kunal Ghandi, undergraduate at the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences

Trek: Chewing gum that cleans teeth mechanically and chemically
Emily Siegel, senior, chemical engineering and biological sciences

pART PAL: Augmented reality tool using machine learning to optimize the surgical supply chain
Stephen Canton, School of Medicine

The Big Center hosts several hands-on experiential learning events throughout the academic year, often in cooperation with departments and schools throughout the university, such as the IBM Bluehack, an innovation ideation event co-led by the School of Computing & Information and the Swanson School of Engineering. It also collaborates with Carnegie Mellon’s Project Olympus and Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship on events for Global Entrepreneurship Week each November.

In February and March, the Big Idea Center presents the Randall Family Big Idea Competition, the region’s largest student innovation competition, awarding $100,000 in cash prizes. From the Big Idea Competition, approximately 10 teams are selected to continue developing their ideas in the Blast Furnace, the Pitt student idea accelerator, an eight week program where the students conduct customer discovery exercises to determine the value that their innovation delivers to potential customers.

Upon completing the Blast Furnace, teams that wish to launch a new company or nonprofit can apply to the Forge.

The Forge, was established earlier this year with the assistance of a $50,000 grant from the Pitt Seed program established by Chancellor Patrick Gallagher to provide funding for proposals to advance the Plan for Pitt by enriching the student experience for students from any level across the university who have a passion for bringing new ideas to life. It also furthers the goal of engaging in research of impact by supporting students, primarily graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, who are aiming to commercialize Pitt research discoveries.