Spring 2019-2020

Big Idea Blitz – January 24 (5:00 P.M.  start) & 25 (5:00 P.M. end), Information Sciences Building, 3rd floor

Join us for a 24-hour idea, pitch, and team development competition where you will be able to pitch your idea, form a team, work with entrepreneurs in residence, and win cash prizes.

Start Smart Series – January 22, February 18, & March 19

The Start Smart series hosts various seminars and workshops throughout the semester that cover a wide range of legal topics for startup businesses. During each event, you will be able to learn from K&L Gates’s startup lawyers and gain valuable insight on how to legally start/run your startup. Dinner is included with each event.

January 22: How to Start a Business on a Student Visa, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m., Swartz Center

February 18: Protecting Your Intellectual Property, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m., Pitt Barco Law Building, Room 113

March 19: Top Ten Legal Mistakes Startups Make, 5:00 – 7:30 p.m., Swartz Center (located on the 3rd floor of CMU’s Tepper Quad)


She Innovates – January 31 (6:00 p.m. start) – February 2 (Noon end), Alumni Hall, Connolly Ballroom

The Women in Computer Science (WiCS), School of Computing and Information, and the Big Idea Center are delighted to bring you She Innovates, Pitt’s only all-women hackathon.  This hackathon is for all female students – undergraduates and graduates – in the Greater Pittsburgh area with or without a computer science background!  Come for a weekend filled with hacking, technical talks, mentorship, and fun!

Randall Family Big Idea Competition – February and March 2020

This competition is an experience-based learning opportunity for Pitt students with Big Ideas who enjoy working in diverse teams to bring those ideas to life.  It is open to all Pitt undergraduate and graduate students across all schools and departments.  Discover how to take your idea to the next level towards startup creation.  This competition spans February and March of each year and awards a total of $100,000 in cash prizes to winning teams, with a grand prize of $25,000 given to the team with the most startup promise.  Since its inception in 2009, the competition has attracted hundreds of interdisciplinary teams seeking to bring their Big Ideas to market.

Application deadline: Feb 7, 2020 11:59 p.m.

Notification of acceptance: Feb 11, 5 p.m.

Bootcamp (attendance required):   Feb 14, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., O’Student Center, Dining Room & Ballroom

Practice Pitches: Feb 21, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Alumni Hall, 5th Floor

Semi-final Round: Feb 28, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., WPU, 5th Floor

Meet Your Mentor: Mar 5, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Final Round:  Presentation submissions are due Apr 8

Virtual Awards Ceremony: Watch the Virtual Awards Ceremony that was held on Wednesday, April 22 here. Read the ceremony’s virtual program here. View this year’s winning teams here.

1st place: $25,000

Polycarbin: Waste diversion platform to isolate valuable, post-consumer, bio-medical propylene plastics in laboratory & hospital settings


2nd place: $15,000

Laser Lines: digital laser alignment device for prosthetics to increase patients’ mobility and independence

Reachable: Creates simple, independent, portable, and inexpensive devices that enable people with limited mobility to live independently

Sterile Vision: Augmented Reality system for doctors and nurses to use in the operating room to improve efficiency and effectiveness


3rd place: $5000

Canal: device to prevent your cellphone battery from overheating and thereby losing battery effectiveness

Noma AI: patient monitoring system using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to help reduce medical errors

SimpL: Augmented Reality-based workout app to improve form and prevent injury

ZeroDK: smart toothbrush holder to track oral hygiene and ideally lower dental premiums


4th place: $2000

CardioRevivalists: a way to rejuvenate hearts to increase the donor pool for transplants

NanoNares: nose-on-a-chip technology for disease, drug and vaccine modeling

PENY: Patient Experience Navigator, a real time patient experience analytics platform for patients to voice complaints in the hospital

SunPatch+: a wearable patch that gives you a visual indicator of when to reapply sunscreen

Video award: $2000

Chela: a marketplace for sustainable fashion


Thank you to all of our mentors, judges, and sponsors for your support during the COVID-19 crisis.


Blast Furnace – June and July 2020

The Blast Furnace is Pitt’s student accelerator providing access to a deep mentor network, inspirational co-working space, and a rich curriculum preparing student startups for creating and growing their businesses.

The Blast Furnace was created by the Innovation Institute’s Big Idea Center to work with 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. Students can apply to Blast Furnace if they have completed a Big Idea Center program or other learning opportunity. Students must apply with a vetted idea and a team.

The Blast Furnace runs every May and June for a nine-week intensive period of stakeholder discovery, coaching, product-market fit, and operational planning.

Our goal is simple: we want to increase your chance of entrepreneurial success. We want you better prepared. We help you decide if your idea can be successful upon graduation.

For information on how to apply, please email jmalandro@innovation.pitt.edu.


Innovation Living Learning Community

This first-year, on-campus, living experience is a partnership between the Big Idea Center, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences (A&S), Residence Life, School of Computing and Information (SCI), and Swanson School of Engineering (SSoE).  These partners will help freshmen learn about innovation and entrepreneurship through engaging, interactive, and fun experiences throughout the year.  The mission of this LLC is to allow students to explore the entrepreneurial process and create a community of innovative students who will maintain an interest in entrepreneurship and the Big Idea Center and partner programs for the remainder of their time at Pitt.

The Forge

Students who have successfully completed the Blast Furnace student accelerator, and who are still current students at the University, are eligible to apply for the Forge, Pitt’s newest program for ongoing startup incubation.

Forge teams have 24-7 access to Big Idea Center space and come together monthly for meetups that encompass peer-to-peer learning and sharing. Forge participants also have access to Big Idea Center Entrepreneurs in Residence and outside mentors.

Forge teams can apply for seed funding awards to help defray certain startup expenses.

Students can participate in the Forge until they “graduate” to an outside incubator or accelerator, such as YCombinator, AlphaLab, AlphaLab Gear, etc.

Alumni who are starting a startup may also be eligible to participate in the Forge, although seed funding is not available outside of current students.

Fall 2020

Big Idea Kickoff – September

This is your opportunity as a Pitt student to connect to the University of Pittsburgh innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem and learn about education, funding, and mentorship opportunities in the new academic year as you contemplate your journey from the lab or classroom to the marketplace.
Register here.

IBM BlueHack – October

BlueHack is a friendly competition that drives real results!  You and your team will embark on a two-day journey that will drive both IBM’s business and society forward.  Sponsored by IBM, this hackathon allows students to brainstorm and work with mentors and entrepreneurs in residence to move their ideas forward and potentially win prizes!  No prior coding or computer science skills required to apply!

Theme for 2019: Transforming Healthcare

Save Your Spot

She Creates – October

The Big Idea Center (as part of Pitt’s Innovation Institute), School of Computing and Information, Pitt Career Center, CMU Project Olympus, Chatham, and Innovation Works are proud to present a panel of women CEOs from Pittsburgh’s leading startups.  They will discuss the challenges around women as tech leaders and as founders in startups including the gender investment gap and the lack of women in founder-roles.  Get inspired by these ambitious female founders and learn why you should be a part of the revolution!


Pitt x CMU Global Entrepreneurship Week – November

During one week each November, thousands of events and competitions in 170 countries inspire millions to engage in entrepreneurial activity while connecting them to potential collaborators, mentors, and even investors.  At the University of Pittsburgh, our Global Entrepreneurship Week partners with Carnegie Mellon University for one amazing week!  Don’t miss it!  Individual events listed below:

  • Student Shadows with Pittsburgh Startups
    • Participate in an exclusive opportunity to visit with awesome startups right here in Pittsburgh!  Hear from members of their teams about life in a startup and what it takes to succeed in an innovative and entrepreneurial environment!
  • The Money Table
    • A graduate student investment competition where YOU are the angel investor.  Put real Pittsburgh startup companies in YOUR hot seat.  As you grill local entrepreneurs, real angel investors assess your investment team in a single elimination tournament.  No experience required!
  • Steel City Startups:  Pitt x CMU
    • Join us for this reception to kick off Global Entrepreneurship Week at the University of Pittsburgh.  Hear TEDx style presentations from Pitt and CMU innovators and hear how they were motivated to pursue commercialization, what path they are taking, and the challenges they’ve faced.
  • Product Management Development Association (PDMA) Pitch Competition
    • Eight teams (four graduate and four undergraduate from Pitt and CMU) will pitch their innovative ideas to an expert panel of judges to compete for prizes. The winning teams will receive prizes as well as access to a variety of resources which are generously donated from local sponsoring companies.
  • Everyone Wins, Meet UpPrize Social Innovators
    • Interested in learning more about taking entrepreneurial action to help solve local, regional, national, or global challenges?  Students, alumni, and the Pittsburgh community are welcome to join us for a conversation with Pittsburgh mission-driven organizations.
  • Startup Job Fair
    • Attend the Startup Job Fair to network with Pittsburgh startups looking to hire full-time, part-time, interns, and paid positions in sales, marketing, operations, IT, engineering, and more.