Tailored Programming: The Right Support At The Right Time

There are two points in time when hardware companies are best equipped to fundraise and scale successfully:

  1.  When they have identified their first target market and proven that customers will pay to use their product, and
  2.  When they’re ready to manufacture at scale.

AlphaLab Gear helps companies reach these points faster through investment, deep one-on-one engagement, network building, office space, and a la carte resources on topics such as sales, digital marketing, customer acquisition, business operations, human resources, fundraising, and manufacturing. We help companies build their products reliably, at scale, and at a price their customers are willing to pay.


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 a program of Innovation Works, which regularly ranks as one of the top seed-stage investors in the U.S. Qualifying AlphaLab Gear companies are eligible for additional funding from the Innovation Works Seed Fund.


Our mentor network is one of the most valuable aspects of AlphaLab Gear. Companies benefit from the guidance of entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors who have developed and launched products, raised capital and negotiated manufacturing and distribution partnerships.

Companies have opportunities to meet 1-on-1 with mentors during meetup events, talks, or through personal introductions. Mentors are able to provide relevant strategic and tactical guidance to companies that is specific to each company’s industry, stage and goals. Check out our mentors here.

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.

Investors & Customers

AlphaLab Gear has an extensive network of investors and corporate partners. Many of our companies find their first investors, customers, suppliers, advisors, and other partners through introductions from our network.

Our Team

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

Cole Wolfson, Senior Program Manager

Cole manages AlphaLab Gear, overseeing everything from company recruitment, evaluation, and due diligence, to stewarding investment, providing one-on-one mentoring, developing and executing program curricula and events, and connecting companies to a network of hundreds of investors, mentors, partners, and customers. During his time at AlphaLab Gear, Cole has worked closely with over 50 companies, helping many of them find their first customers, raise their first investments, and grow their businesses. Cole is a founder and co-owner of Petagogy, a brick-and-mortar natural pet retail chain that he bootstrapped from nothing to a three-store operation that is regularly recognized by the industry as a top independent super-premium pet retail brand. Prior to joining AlphaLab Gear, Cole was the Business Developer Manager for Innovation Works, where he raised funding from companies, foundations and other sources. Prior to that, Cole worked in business development for an international development non-profit. Cole has an MBA from the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Maryland.


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.

Staci Offutt, Startable Program Associate

Staci runs Startable Pittsburgh, a youth entrepreneurship and maker program, which teaches students technology innovation in hardware product creation. She also assists AlphaLab Gear cohorts, helping the startups design their products and utilize onsite and community resources for prototype fabrication. Staci is an artist, maker, tinkerer and fabricator who has worked on the operations side of many different business models, including her own studio practice, cultural event production, and curatorial projects. She has a BFA from West Virginia University and an MFA from Parsons, The New School.

Space & Perks

Collaborative Workspace

Need space? We’ve got it. Use your own private office when you need it; collaborate in our open workspace when you want.


Free and discounted access to products and services essential to any startup like Amazon Web Services, Solidworks, Stripe, ZipCar and more through our Global Accelerator Network membership.


Help with finding an intern through connections with local universities such as Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Legal & Accounting Support

Access to free and discounted legal services including a complimentary incorporation package through Dentons Cohen & Grigsby’s AlphaLaw program as well as complimentary filing of initial intellectual property through Fox Rothschild. Access to free and discounted accounting and tax services through Sisterson & Co.

Program Partners