The Blast Furnace is the University of Pittsburgh 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 network, co-working space, and a hands-on, experiential curriculum.
Upon completion, students are ready to launch their business, raise funding, or apply to accelerators such as AlphaLab, AlphaLab Gear, Ascender (formerly Thrill Mill) and IdeaFoundry. 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 products, services or businesses and receive hands-on learning on 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.
- All levels of University of Pittsburgh students with a big idea or an entrepreneurial dream should apply.
- Student teams that compete successfully in the University’s pitch competitions will be invited to participate without application
New for 2017: Blast Furnace Fellowship
The Innovation Institute is pleased to debut the Blast Furnace Fellowship program. Occurring in tandem with the traditional Blast Furnace Cohort 5, the Fellowship program is a more time intensive and immersive program that also offers $10,000 per team to work “full-time” on their idea throughout the months of May and June 2017. Fellowship recipients attend the same programming as the traditional program, in addition to extended class sessions and topical workshops continuing after the Demo Day. Teams must consist of at least two members, preferably from different schools. Undergraduate participants must be a rising junior or senior and must have been through at least one Pitt or non-Pitt entrepreneurship program, competition or class. Upon application, those seeking a Blast Furnace Fellowship will schedule an interview to be considered for the program.
Blast Furnace Fellows must make the following commitments:
- Work 30 hours per week on their startup in the Blast Furnace offices
- Create a legal entity by the end of the program
- Conduct 50 customer discovery meetings
- Apply to up to five local or national external accelerators OR five meeting with local angel investor or VC firms
The Blast Furnace 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. The Cohort 5 Demo Day is set for June 8.
In the News:
Pregnancy-focused startup wins $2,500 at Blast Furnace Demo Day, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, June 2017
Online Service Aiming to Match Moms-to-Be With Doulas Wins Student Pitch Competition, Pitt News, July 2017
Aeronics and uTranslated among nation’s top student startups, Pittsburgh Business Times, April 2017
Pitt Student Startup to Present at Congress, The Pitt News, August 2016
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