May 3, 2018
The academic year might be over, but a dedicated group of nearly 30 entrepreneurial Pitt students of all levels from across the University will be working to launch their big ideas into the world.
Now in its third year, the Blast Furnace, a program of the Innovation Institute’s Big Idea Center for student entrepreneurship, has been tweaked to be more rigorous and provide more resources to select student teams who have participated in previous Big Idea Center programming.
All 10 of the teams selected for this cohort competed in the Randall Family Big Idea Competition in February and March.
Their ideas range from medical devices to allow children to communicate their pain levels and keep IV lines from tangling and disconnecting to breakthrough treatments for traumatic eye injuries to a streaming ghost story series.
“In its 10th anniversary year, we had the most teams and the highest quality of participants in the Randall Family Big Idea Competition,” said Babs Carryer, Big Idea Center director. “In this improved version of Blast Furnace, we selected the projects with the most potential to participate with the goal of launching successful startups.”
Over the eight week program, the teams are working closely with mentors and Innovation Institute Entrepreneurs in Residence for Student Programs to hone their value propositions and initial go-to-market strategies. They will be meeting in the new Big Idea Center space at the Innovation Institute, inside the Gardner Steel Conference Center at the intersection of Thackeray Avenue and O’Hara Street. The Big Idea Center unifies student entrepreneurship programming at the Innovation Institute. It was launched with $2 million in seed funding from Pitt trustee Bob Randall.
At the end of the program, the teams will pitch their ideas to a panel of veteran entrepreneurs from the local startup community at an invitation-only event as they look to launch their companies and potentially apply for admittance into regional business accelerators and incubators, such as AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear, Ascender, Idea Foundry and LifeX.
The top award winner in the Big Idea Competition, Four Growers, has already been accepted into the prestigious Silicon Valley accelerator, Y Combinator.
“By focusing on fewer teams that have had previous experience in developing their ideas, we expect to devote more time and attention to each team and increase their odds of success,” Carryer said.
The students in this cohort are almost evenly divided between graduate and undergraduate students and come from seven different schools.
Here are the teams:
Allows private property owners to monetize access to their land to hunters, fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts
Small pill bottle that can help reduce the opioid epidemic through stropping friends and family giving pills to someone else
Experiential marketing platform that uses artists and creative works for commercial advertising and venues/events
Online ghost story series for the millions of people who believe in or are interested ghost stories
An app-based educational platform for medical students to help them learn and retain information
Traumatic eye injury treatment via a gel placed on the eye.
A device to prevent IV lines from becoming entangled and becoming disengaged form patients in the hospital intensive care unit
A device to help hospitalized children communicate their pain level so that medication can be more effectively dosed and administered
Therapy for traumatic eye injury via an injection that can be done by the emergency medical services or in the emergency room
A device that allows wheelchair users to better operate their wheelchairs without injury and to track the wear tear of the wheelchair