March 29, 2017


5 Teams selected as Blast Furnace Fellows will split $50,000 to launch a startup by June

Hudson Companies donates $10,000 to support new Fellowship program

In the clearest indication yet that Pitt students are thirsting to be entrepreneurial, the Pitt Blast Furnace student accelerator has announced its fifth and largest cohort of 30 teams.

New for this cohort, five teams have been selected to receive $10,000 each for a fellowship where they will work full time from April to the end of June on launching their idea as a full-fledged startup.

“The growth of the Blast Furnace just two short years reflects the growing culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at Pitt,” said Greg Coticchia, Blast Furnace director and Innovation Institute entrepreneur in residence for software and information technology.

“We are excited to expand our support of our student entrepreneurs in this cohort through the Blast Furnace Fellowship program, which allows our students to invest in themselves and bring their ideas to life,” Coticchia added.

The Blast Furnace Fellows teams (in red font in the table below) must work 30 hours minimum per week at the Blast Furnace office space at the Gardner Steel Conference Center, conduct a minimum of 50 customer discovery meetings, apply to up to five local or national accelerators or angel investors and create a legal entity by the end of the program.

A portion of the fellowships is being offset by the Hudson Companies of Hermitage, PA, an industry leader in real estate development, investment, and general construction. The Hudson Companies’ privately held investment and development portfolio consists of investment grade real estate including credit tenant leased facilities, multi-family apartment communities, medical office, and multiple commercial office facilities located in institutional grade investment markets. As an established general construction company, it specializes in educational, medical, office, and institutional facilities. The Hudson Companies has financed, developed, acquired, invested, and managed properties in six states, including Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas

“At The Hudson Companies, we pride ourselves on teamwork, innovation, and incorporating an entrepreneurial approach to our business. We are pleased to support the growth of entrepreneurial programs at Pitt, and the Blast Furnace in particular, as it aligns with our company values,” said Jonathan Hudson, second generation vice president.

To date, 56 teams comprised of close to 200 students from across the University have participated in the Blast Furnace, with a third of them going on to incorporate startups, and 10 percent have been accepted into competitive regional accelerator programs such as Alpha Lab, Alpha Lab Gear, Idea Foundry and Ascender (formerly Thrill Mill).

Two recent Blast Furnace teams, Aeronics and uTranslated, have been named Best University Startups for 2017 by the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer (NCET2). They join HiberSense, from the first Blast Furnace cohort, who received the same honor last year.

Blast Furnace is an nine (9) week program open to Pitt undergraduate and graduate students at the main campus. It consists of 9 weeks of Lean LaunchPad workshops and 8 evening socials with presentations and Q&A sessions with successful entrepreneurs and early-stage investors. Blast Furnace is a capstone course option in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Innovation, Product Design and Entrepreneurship certificate program and is offered for credit in the College of Business Administration.

Each cohort concludes with a Demo Day where student teams pitch their ideas to a panel of VIP’s from Pittsburgh’s local startup scene. Cohort 5 Demo Day will be held June 8, 2017.

The Cohort Five teams are:


Team Name Description Team Members Team Lead School
Ardoor Buyer-initiated home buying Marty Bacik, Jake Bacik, Jim Bacik, Bonnie Bacik College of Business Administration
Arrive Global running event travel planning Lot Serebour, Chris Mahoney Katz School of Business
Beta Location based engagement Johy Nyarko, Robert Innis Katz School of Business
Big Brother Chinese casual life service center Ningyu Qin Swanson School of Engineering
Coursehub University course discussion platform Nikush Dalia, Sai Kappagantula, Alexander Citerone, Jack Connors Swanson School of Engineering
CRM Personal CRM organizing/tracking tool Lauren Borrelli, Nathan Czapor, Jonathan Hopkins, Erik Markovich Katz School of Business
Dirt App for hiring local college students Matt Mendelson Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences
Ediyu College student work organizer Akhil Aniff, Brian Amaratunga, Michael Gabrin, Caitlin Reed, Priyanka Mishra, Eunice Cheng Swanson School of Engineering
EEGBuds Brain waves to control external devices Ker-Jiun Wang, John Apostolides Swanson School of Engineering
Espy At home Alzheimer’s blood test James McKay, Tim Shearer Swanson School of Engineering
Fiber Optic Lighting Illuminated clothing/textiles Teddy Valinski Swanson School of Engineering
FitnessMe Connecting fitness enthusiasts with mentors William Starr, Marissa Pronio College of Business Administration
Flash Educational Crowd-sourced study resources Christopher Guirguis, Isaac Grove School of Dental Medicine
For Moms Portal connecting mothers with community resources Alysia Tucker, Cynthia Clark School of Public Health
Four Growers Indoor commercial urban farming Brandon Contino, Cameron Beichner, Dan Chi Bhanu Narne Swanson School of Engineering
Helios Ink UV resistant tattoo ink pigment Collin Azinger, Joseph Aiello, Robert Manns Swanson School of Engineering
H2Info Drinking water lead level resources Raanan Gurewitsch, Ryan Rosenbaum, Christian Abad, Meera Rubinchik School of Computing & Information
Inoko Mobile temperature control for medical needs Josh Peters, Michael Lynch Swanson School of Engineering
IntrxActions Check for prescription interactions Shannon Ye, Mikhaila Rice, Wenqi Chen School of Pharmacy
Journey Network Travel plans by travel experts Evgeny Kostromskoy, Bryent Wagner, Sam Vescovi Katz School of Business
Little Bits  

Mini ERP with bulk buying for small businesses


Tim Janyszek, Karisa Pancottini College of Business Administration


 Phone case for clinical trail adherence


Collin Wolf, Lauren Brock, Edwin Mellett, Chris Corsi  School of Pharmacy
Monarch Solar Modular rooftop solar Jay Murray, Ben Stutz, Nick Faughey Swanson School of Engineering
Neuro-miR Prevent onset of neurocognitive disorders Jay Venkatachari School of Public Health
OxyGen Portable oxygen concentrator James Newton, Wendy Yingxin Zhang, Ashwin Prabhu, Sushrut Bhalerao School of Medicine
pHresh Color changing cleaning system Sean McCarthy, Peter Carter, Zach Abrahamsen Swanson School of Engineering
Red Ribbon Cure Hidden HIV cell elimination Jay Venkatachari, Marc C.E. Wagner School of Public Health
Root Computer and mobile phone security Kevin Householder, Matt Yurdo, Chris Coluci, Wenjia Huo Swanson School of Engineering
Solo Safe Chemical indicator for drinking cup drug tampering Priya Chandrasekaran, Jonathan Perlman, Aakash Sudhakar Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences
Vishu Social fitness app Chidi Nwakpuda, Henry Ayoola Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences