Hardware is Hard. We Say Bring It On!

AlphaLab Gear is committed to helping hardware companies launch new products into the market. 

Whether it is launching your initial product or getting ready to manufacture at scale,  AlphaLab Gear helps companies reach these points faster through investment, hands-on 1:1 engagement, network building, office and workshop space and more. Our program is completely custom to meet a company’s immediate needs ranging from building a prototype to deep-dive financial analysis to design improvements for large scale manufacturing. We help companies build their products reliably, at scale, and at a price their customers are willing to pay. 

Our program is also designed to help hardware startups with all aspects of business such as sales, digital marketing, customer acquisition, business operations, human resources, and fundraising. AlphaLab Gear is here to help build strong products and companies.

Investment

AlphaLab Gear invests up to $50,000 in the form of a convertible note and receives up to 2% common stock equity from participating companies. 

AlphaLab Gear is the hardware accelerator program of Innovation Works, which regularly ranks as the largest seed-stage investor in Southwestern Pennsylvania and as one of the top seed-stage investors nationally. Qualifying AlphaLab Gear companies are eligible for additional funding from the Innovation Works Seed Fund.

Hands-on Programming

AlphaLab Gear’s team of hardware experts are ready to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty helping companies build their products. Whether you need help soldering a batch of prototype circuit boards or building strong supply chains, our team has the tools and connections to get it done. 

All AlphaLab Gear companies have access to additional programming from our network of mentors and business experts. Our robust program offers special deep-dives into sales, digital marketing, fundraising and more. 

Is your company ready to build things? Our Scalable Innovation program helps connect AlphaLab Gear companies with local manufacturers ready for production. Let our manufacturing experts connect you with the right manufacturer at the right time.

Networks

Our network is one of the most valuable aspects of AlphaLab Gear. Companies can benefit from connections to fellow entrepreneurs, mentors, technologists, investors, manufacturers and more. 

Companies have the opportunity to network during events, programming, or through personal introductions. AlphaLab Gear’s network can help provide relevant strategic and tactical guidance to companies that are specific to each company’s industry, stage and goals. 

AlphaLab Gear, AlphaLab, AlphaLab Health, and Innovation Works collectively have an extensive alumni network of over 300 companies, many of which remain engaged with our current companies, offering expertise and guidance. Check out the AlphaLab Gear, AlphaLab, AlphaLab Health, and Innovation Works company pages to see our portfolio and alumni companies.

With our extensive network of investors and corporate partners, many of our companies are able to find their first investors, customers, suppliers, advisors and other partners through introductions from AlphaLab Gear. 

AlphaLab Gear companies also have access to the Global Accelerator Network which provides free and discounted products and services essential to any startup like Amazon Web Services, Solidworks, Stripe and more.

Office Space & Workshop

Collaborative Workspace

Along with AlphaLab Gear investment, companies will receive 24/7 access to free office space. Our space is equipped with conference rooms, private offices, a fully stocked kitchen, and showers to keep a hardware entrepreneur ready for business. 

AlphaLab Gear has an ever-growing and extensive workshop of tools to help hardware companies build their products. You can find these tools and more to help build your product:  

  • Full range of electronic fabrication tools
  • Full wood and metal working shop
  • Laser printer
  • Variety of 3D printers
  • Resin printers

Our Team

Meet the members of the AlphaLab Gear team as well as the broader team at Innovation Works.

Mike Formica, Managing Director of Hardware & AlphaLab Gear

Mike Formica has led multiple startups to successful exits as a founder and CEO. He has over 25 years experience accelerating company growth through new product development that is driven by a customer-centric approach and anchored by a commitment to strong manufacturing.

Mike was Founder and President of 3Rivers3D, one of the largest manufacturers of high precision 3D imaging systems. Leveraging in-house manufacturing and a local supply chain, 3Rivers3D experienced explosive growth and produced thousands of units annually out of their Pittsburgh headquarters.

Prior to 3Rivers3D Mike was CEO of AssistWare Technology. There he commercialized and launched SafeTRAC, one of the industry’s first commercial lane departure systems. AssistWare produced hundreds of thousands of units to the worldwide trucking industry.

Mike’s first startup was Axsys Fiber Automation. They pioneered the use of computer vision in fiber optic assembly. In two years time the group developed and launched 5 new robotic assembly, test and inspection machines. Most recently Mike was President of Neya Systems, a developer of autonomous off-road vehicles. Initially a DoD focused provider, Mike led the expansion into commercial markets leading to large growth in the mining and construction industries.

Mike has won numerous awards, including: PA Governor’s Entrepreneur ImPAct Award, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist, Business Times Manufacturer of the Year, a Carnegie Science Entrepreneur Award, a Best Places to Work Award, and several Industry Best Product Awards.

Mike is a former US Navy Nuclear Power Officer and a graduate of the Navy Nuclear Power School. He graduated with a BSEE from the University of Pittsburgh where he was an Honors College Scholar and was 4-time All Big East in Cross-Country and Track.

Mike has been highly active in the regional startup ecosystem. He has mentored numerous startups and frequently speaks at local events. He created and currently teaches a class at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Engineering titled “Engineering a Startup” which focuses on hardware-based product companies.

Jessi Mazzoni, Program Manager of AlphaLab Gear

Prior to joining Gear, Jessi led a Pittsburgh-based medical software company, MiJourney, through growth and eventual acquisition by Smith+Nephew as the company’s Director of Operations and Product. For the past year and a half, she completed a Social Innovation Fellowship with 412 Food Rescue while earning her Master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon. From 2015-2017 Jessi lived and worked in Zambia as a Peace Corps Volunteer. In her spare time, she creates a podcast, promotes her very serious book, and enjoys rock climbing and biking.

Afshan Khan, Portfolio Executive

Afshan was CEO of Focal Point Products, an international manufacturer and distributor of polyurethane millwork building materials for home construction, commercial projects, and building renovation. Earlier in her career, Afshan held a number of key positions in Xerox Corporation, in business development, M&A, and strategic planning. Afshan holds an MBA from the Carnegie Mellon Tepper Business School, and a BS in Business Administration and English from Duquesne University.

 

Jeff McDaniel, Portfolio Executive

Jeff has 15 years’ experience in innovation, corporate strategy, manufacturing and energy technologies, and operations in both early stage and Fortune 500 companies. Prior to Innovation Works/AlphaLab Gear, Jeff was in charge of business development and strategy for the emerging technology R&D portfolio for Westinghouse Electric Company. Before joining Westinghouse, Jeff held marketing, strategy, and development roles at the Ex One Company, a global manufacturing technology incubator headquartered in western Pennsylvania. He led the successful commercialization of Imagen, LLC, a manufacturer of dental implant and bio-medical devices through 3D printing, becoming that startup’s General Manager and Vice President. Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy and a JD from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

Matt Verlinich, Manufacturing Program Associate

Matt was the founding General Manager of TechShop Pittsburgh. He then went on to found Clear Ice Rocks, where he invented, prototyped, crowdfunded, mass-produced, and fulfilled orders to over 55 different companies. In his role as Manufacturing Program Associate, Matt engages with accelerator and early stage hardware companies to identify design and manufacturing needs, and provides connections to resources for design for manufacturing, prototyping, components, and supply chain partners.

Program Partners