WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ALPHALAB, ALPHALAB GEAR, INNOVATION WORKS AND THE HARDWARE CUP?

Innovation Works is regularly one of the most active seed-stage investors in the United States. Since the creation of its seed fund in late-1999, IW has invested over $70 million in more than 300 companies that have gone on to raise over $2 billion from investors across the nation. These companies include ModCloth, 4Moms, Civic Science, ShowClix, NoWait and Shoefitr.

 

AlphaLab, a program of Innovation Works, is a nationally-ranked software accelerator helps early-stage software companies quickly figure out the best way to build and grow in an immersive 4-month program with funding.

 

AlphaLab Gear is AlphaLab’s physical product-focused sister accelerator.

 

The AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup is a pitch competition is a pitch competition for early-stage hardware startups, holding competitions in 6 US regions and at least 5 international countries.

SO THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT ALPHALAB GEAR PROGRAMS?

Yes. There are two separate programs with separate applications, but together they are designed to take a company from an initial idea or prototype, through engaging early customers, to fulfilling demand by manufacturing at scale.

 

There is a 21-week Market Validation module running April through August and focusing on customer discovery, prototyping, legal and accounting, business model development, product iteration and customer traction.

 

Then, there is a 15-week Manufacturing at Scale module running September through December and focusing on design for manufacturing, tooling, regulatory, quality control, vendor negotiations, inventory management/fulfillment, and connections to manufacturers and supply chains.

DO I HAVE TO DO BOTH? CAN WE JUST DO ONE OR THE OTHER?

You can just do one or the other. There are separate applications for the two program modules. Note that being accepted for one program module does not guarantee your acceptance into the other program.

HOW CAN I APPLY?

Just go to our Apply page.

CAN I APPLY FOR BOTH ALPHALAB GEAR AND THE HARDWARE CUP?

Absolutely! And you only have to do one application. In fact, one of the first questions in the AlphaLab Gear application is whether you’d also like your application to be forwarded for consideration in the Hardware Cup.

 

DO YOU THINK OUR COMPANY IS TOO EARLY/TOO LATE TO APPLY?

We accept teams at all stages of development (we’ve accepted teams anywhere from ideation to $1M+ in revenues). If you are not manufacturing at scale, then you are not “too late.”

DOES OUR COMPANY NEED TO BE INCORPORATED?

No. If you are accepted into our program, we will help you think through issues surrounding incorporation and also connect you with experienced legal providers our companies have worked with before. We partner with a number of law firms that provide our companies with complimentary legal services and documents (e.g. certificate of incorporation, restricted stock purchase agreement, stockholders agreement, proprietary rights agreement).

WILL YOU SIGN A NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT (NDA)?

No. Because we look at hundreds of business plans each year, we do not sign NDAs. However, we will work with you to find the balance between understanding your company’s unique advantage without requiring you to divulge proprietary information. In your application, please avoid disclosing any technical information that you consider to be your “secret sauce,” but be as clear as possible about your competitive advantage.

WHAT'S THE SELECTION PROCESS LIKE?

A review committee consisting of our advisors, investors, and the AlphaLab Gear team will review all of the applications and select 20-30 companies for in-person interviews. After the face-to-face meetings and follow-up due diligence, we will select the companies based on the teams’ ability to develop and launch a winning product/service, the technology’s market potential, and the concept’s originality.

WHEN SHOULD SELECTED TEAMS EXPECT TO HEAR A FINAL DECISION?

We have March 1st and 2nd scheduled for interviews with our evaluation team. After that, we’ll have a short list and begin our due diligence. We expect to give final decisions to companies by late March for a start date of April 9th.

WHAT ARE THE START/END DATES OF THE PROGRAM?

The program starts on April 9th and runs 21 weeks until August 31st.

DOES PARTICIPATION IN THE PROGRAM REQUIRE RELOCATION OR CAN WE PARTICIPATE REMOTELY?

Participation in the program requires being present in Pittsburgh for the duration of the program.

 

DOES IT COST ANYTHING TO PARTICIPATE? CASH OR EQUITY?

Companies in our market validation module receive $25,000 for 4% equity or $50,000 for 7% equity (company’s choice). Companies that complete the market validation module have the opportunity to receive an additional $25,000 convertible note to support fulfilling customer purchase orders of at least $25,000. Companies in our manufacturing module receive $50,000 ($25,000 cash investment plus a $25,000 budget to pay for support services) in exchange for 4% common equity, or 3% equity for companies participating immediately after completing the market validation module. Companies also receive free office space in our 10,000 square foot facility, access to the AlphaLab Gear hardware lab, and use of other onsite facilities (conference rooms, full kitchen, etc). General office supplies, basic furniture, and free drinks/snacks are also provided.

WHO IS ON THE ALPHALAB GEAR TEAM? WHO WILL BE ADVISING ME?

In addition to the core team and our mentor network, you will also work with two program advisors:

 

Teresa Hammond is a Marketing and Sales expert with experience in consumer durables, food, consumer healthcare and nutritionals.  She was the CMO at 4moms, a Pittsburgh based high tech baby gear company where she was responsible for Brand Marketing, Product Management and Global Sales.  She has a background in CPG brand management with stints at HJ Heinz, Glaxosmithkline and Johnson & Johnson.

 

Uriel Eisen is an inventor and compulsive maker with more ideas than time. He’s led R&D for three companies with five products reaching mass production and the market. Uriel has a background in industrial design from Carnegie Mellon University with a focus on rapid prototyping. His hands-on learning style has led him to take up machining, composite design and fabrication, glassblowing, ceramics, woodworking, blacksmithing, and sewing to name a few.

 

Additionally, Olivia Payne helps coordinate the program and Aaron Evangelista maintains the shop. Olivia is a native of Pittsburgh. She comes to us with over a decade of non-profit operations and finance experience.  She holds a degree in non-profit leadership and management from Duquesne University. Aaron is a fixture of Pittsburgh’s maker scene. Aaron is skilled and knowledgeable on a large number of tools including laser cutters, 3D printers, metalworking tools and woodworking tools.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE CYCLE ENDS?

You will be a lifetime alum of AlphaLab Gear, which allows you to be connected to the Innovation Works seed and follow-on funds and Riverfront Ventures. You can receive support from our Executives in Residence, and will be connected to our network of investors and corporate partners.

DO WE HAVE TO STAY IN PITTSBURGH AFTER THE PROGRAM ENDS?

Companies are expected to remain in Pennsylvania after the end of their program. Our goal is to help you build a successful technology company while adding to the critical mass of flourishing tech companies in the region.

I STILL HAVE QUESTIONS. CAN I TALK TO SOMEONE AT ALPHALAB GEAR?

If you have specific questions about your application or the new cycle and want to talk through them with our team, please schedule office hours on our home page or email us through our contact page.