PITTSBURGH’S NEW NARRATIVE

A recent Forbes.com article highlighted cities from across the nation that are rebranding, including our ‘Steel City’!

Included here is just a snippet from the article:

  • Pittsburgh typically makes me think about steelworkers, bridges, Terry Bradshaw, and the American Mustache Institute, but the city’s newly elected mayor, Bill Peduto, says that’s changed.

    “For too long Pittsburgh has been viewed as a smoky industrial city but those days are over,” Mayor Peduto told me via email.  ”We have all of the right ingredients to spin innovative new businesses out of our universities, medical centers, and research institutions and attract companies from around the world.”

    Those ingredients are leading to progress, the most recent example coming in late December when Duolingo — one of the city’s startup darlings — was named 2013 iPhone app of the year by Apple.

    Pittsburgh Tribune columnist Eric Heyl notes “high-tech startups undertaken by Carnegie Mellon grad students attracted to the city by Google’s increasing presence” as well as “economic development corporations such as Catalyst Connection and Innovation Works.” Kate Stoltzfus, founder of Yinzpiration.com, cites startup incubators like AlphaLab and The Hustle Den for giving new businesses needed support.

To view the entire article on Forbes.com, please click here.

Emerging Pittsburgh Technology Companies Thrive in Oakland Community

Revv Oakland, the Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID), and Oakland Real Estate partnered in October 2013 to kick off Startup Oakland, a project that captures the benefits of locating startup technology businesses in Oakland and provides a home for new businesses to thrive and achieve success.

Revv Oakland, a community of technology startups that offers affordable and productive work environments for early stage companies, has already attracted 17 new companies that have created 75 new Oakland-based jobs and expanded startup workspace into more than 10,000 square feet of upper-floor space in the heart of the Oakland business district.

“In order to compete in a 21st century global economy, Pittsburgh must focus on job growth,” said Dan Gilman, Pittsburgh City Councilman District 8. “The companies starting in Oakland will continue to grow and provide a new tax base to the City, new consumers at our retail establishments, new homeowners in our neighborhoods, and new investors in the next generation of innovation. Startup Oakland is critical to the long-term vitality of not only Oakland, but the City and region.”

Not only are new businesses vital to Oakland’s economic success, but businesses also benefit from locating their startups in the neighborhood of Oakland. Shoefitr, a Revv Oakland business, was founded in 2010 by Carnegie Mellon University graduates Matt Wilkinson, Nick End and Breck Fresen. The company created software that uses 3D scanning technology to help online shoe shoppers find shoes that are the proper size and fit.

Shoefitr now has 41 clients who use the Shoefitr app on their website. There are 700 brands of shoes in their database, which grows daily. The app is accessed from 10 countries in 7 different languages. OBID recently published a feature article on Shoefitr’s growth and success on their blog.

“We have a lot of pride in this city and are excited to be a part of its transformation into a tech town,” said Matt Wilkinson, Co-Founder of Shoefitr.

The goal of Startup Oakland is to spur a technology movement that attracts many more businesses to Revv Oakland and for 100 companies to become OBID members and use Revv Oakland business space in the long-term.

“This partnership highlights Oakland as the perfect location for new and emerging technology companies and as a 21st century destination attracting future visitors, employees, students and residents,” said Georgia Petropoulos, Executive Director at OBID.

The future of Pittsburgh tech companies is in Oakland. Learn more about how to be a part of the movement at http://startupoakland.biz.

Startup Oakland is a unique partnership project that captures the benefits of locating startup technology businesses in the Oakland innovation economy. Formed by a strategic alliance between OBID, Revv Oakland and Oakland Real Estate, Startup Oakland is funded by the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development.

Startup Oakland Kickoff has Pittsburgh Buzzing About Oakland

SUO Kick Off Party

On Wednesday, October 30th, Startup Oakland celebrated the launch of their campaign to highlight Oakland as the premiere neighborhood for technology startup companies. More than 75 guests got to mix and mingle with one another, representing startups in Oakland (and those looking to locate in Oakland), OBID members, reporters, and community members. It was a great night to get to know our newest tenants in Oakland as well as to look to the future of our great business district. Startup Oakland is a partnership of the Oakland Business Improvement District, Revv Oakland and Oakland Real Estate funded by the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development.

Join the Startup Team Changing the Way We Shop Shoes Online

Pittsburgh, specifically the Oakland neighborhood, has recently been making headlines for advancements in business and technology. It’s now seen as a hub of big ideas, extensive research, and impressive implementation.

The wave of startup activity has also led to new job opportunities in the city, for every position from graphic designer to app developer.  It’s a great time to be a tech junkie in the Steel City. A big opportunity for talented job seekers now? A spot on the Shoefitr team.

A member of REVV Oakland, Shoefitr was founded in 2010 by CMU grads Matt Wilkinson, Nick End, and Breck Fresen. As avid runners, they saw a flaw in the process of purchasing running shoes online. Often consumers will shop for a shoe on an ecommerce website, pick the size the usually wear, and have a product delivered to their door that… doesn’t fit, which leads to a return.  A bad online shopping experience then leads to consumers shying away from ordering online.

“It’s all about customer service,” said Wilkinson. “Some people are hesitant to shop online even though they really want to.”

Shoefitr1

A Fitting Solution

The Shoefitr team wanted to create a solution that would fuse digital and physical; using technology to somehow help customers order products would fit correctly the first time, eliminating a need for returns, which are costly for retailers. The trio’s background in mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, and computer science turned out to be the perfect foundation for an app that would change the way we buy shoes forever.

Shoefitr created software that helps online shoe hunters find not only shoes they like, but shoes in the proper size, with the proper fit. The software uses 3D scanning technology to take the inside measurements of shoes, comparing them to shoes that the consumer already owns. The consumer then searches on the web-based app to find shoes fit to them.

At the beginning, the team struggled with establishing a fit baseline on which to build their technology. “It was just an extremely difficult problem to solve,” Matt Wilkinson told us, “You can’t find anyone with a PHd in shoe-fitting.”

The past three years, however, have shown that the team proved more than capable of taking on the challenge of creating a new, unique solution in the technology space. After years of building the business’s infrastructure, creating a database of products, and branching out to styles beyond running shoes, the team is now focused on creating a useful product for every shoe buyer. Their goal is to give meaningful shoe recommendations to every shopper.

 

Startup Success

Today, Shoefitr has 41 clients. These are any businesses using the Shoefitr app on their website. There are now 700 brands in the Shoefitr database, which grows daily and is accessed from 10 different countries in 7 different languages.

While success rates vary by usage and client, the app has an effectiveness rate of over 90% for shoe sizing, and has helped retailers reduce shoe returns by up to 38%. The 20-person (and growing) team focuses on sales, operations, and product development, and is split between San Francisco and Pittsburgh. Along with plenty of talent, the team also has plenty of great things to say about their hometown.

“We have a lot of pride in this city and are excited to be a part of its transformation into a tech town,” said Wilkinson.

The Shoefitr team has big plans for the company’s future. Now that they have actionable data on which to build their solution, they want to help retailers significantly increase sales and lower the rate of return. And they want to accomplish this while also making the buying process more engaging and personalized for shoppers, keeping the entire process simple.

“ It’s a compelling combination to provide a big wow factor with very little effort from the shopper,” said Wilkinson.

Shoefitr2

Making Connections

Another challenge that Shoefitr faces is getting their name out there. Key partnerships on a national scale with Running Warehouse and recently Nordstrom, as well as local partnerships with organizations and companies such as REVV Oakland and AlphaLab have gotten them off to a tremendous start. The company currently operates out of a REVV space on Oakland Avenue, right above Fuel and Fuddle, a popular spot for local students to stop in. “That takes us back to our college days,” said Wilkinson.

Oakland’s easy access to college students has been a big plus for the Shoefitr team, as they employ student workers when possible. Part of the company’s growth within the immediate future will be in bringing on new, full-time team members. So who are they looking for?

Wilkinson noted that beyond exceptional talent, they pay close attention to candidates with a competitive edge and a sense of accountability. “Most importantly, we want someone who is going to take pride in building an awesome business,” he said, “Someone who will want to be a part of a team that helps build something special.”

Interested job seekers can apply for positions such as Software Engineer, Footwear Taxonomy Specialist, Senior Inside Sales Professional, Graphic Designer, and more here. Creating new technology, fitting a need in the industry, and just plain working hard has made Shoefitr a big topic in the Pittsburgh startup community. So are you a perfect “fit” for their team?

A Good Student is Easy to Find

Each member of a business’s team plays a role in its success, from the CEO to intern. That’s why it is vital for companies to choose interns who will gain quality skills from the experience, but also who can contribute ideas and work that will help the bottom line.

Choosing great interns is especially important for startup companies, who often have smaller teams and are looking for quality to make up for small quantity. With the number of startup companies in Oakland booming, it’s convenient that so many educational institutions are located within and around Oakland. Here are what local schools have to offer new companies in search of fresh talent:

University of Pittsburgh

  • Size: 35,330 students, 16 schools of study

  • Programs and opportunities of interest:

    • Pitt’s Employer application helps businesses recruit student interns

    • Pitt also embraces Innovation Commercialization through the Office of Technology Management/Office of Enterprise Development

    • The OTM and OED also work to establish and grow partnerships for research, licensing, and startup creation through Partner with Pitt

 

Carnegie Mellon University

  • Size: 12,000 students, 7 schools and colleges

  • Programs and opportunities of interest:

 

Carlow University

  • Size: 2,310 students, 6 schools of study

  • Programs and opportunities of interest:

    • The Carlow Diversity Initiatives program looks for and creates professional opportunities throughout Pittsburgh on issues related to world affairs and race relations

    • The Carlow Career Development Center helps students grow professional skills and find job opportunities

 

Duquesne

  • Size: 10,045 students, 10 schools of study

  • Programs and opportunities of interest:

Robert Morris University

  • Size: 5,413 students, 5 schools of study

  • Programs and opportunities of interest:

Point Park University

  • Size: 3,827 students, 82 undergrad programs

  • Programs and opportunities of interest:

    • The Point Park Center For Management Excellence provides management consulting to organizations, businesses, and individuals. They offer a range of seminars and workshops

    • Students learn vital career and networking skills thanks to the Career Development Center, which also helps them find jobs and resources they need to succeed professionally

    • Students and alumni can find jobs through the Point Park Career Network

Chatham University

  • Size: 2,170 students, 41 undergrad degree programs

  • Programs and opportunities of interest:


Even more schools in the area offer great opportunities for driven students and, in turn, driven startups looking for those driven interns. With Pitt’s campus located in the center of the neighborhood, Oakland startups have first pick at some of the region’s best and brightest!