PGH Lab Alumni Offer Advice for Upcoming Cohort

Sharing Best Practices Posted 6.2.2017
Written by Annia Aleman
ThPGH Lab Alumni Offer Advice for Upcoming Cohort
They say the best advice a climber receives ascending a mountain; listening to the person coming directly down from it. As PGH Lab gears up for its second cycle, we asked the 2016 cohort to share tips for the new companies entering PGH Lab. This is what they had to share.

How did PGH Lab help you develop your product?


Allison Plummer, founder of TransitSource, pointed out that the program’s structure of “build and test your product”, gave her a clear vision of how to deploy her product. “PGH Lab was the catalyst to creating our first fleet of Sentinel Boxes - we grew from a fleet of 1 to a fleet of 5. In addition, in the course of four months, TransitSource also developed its first data product, the safe blocks maps.

During the four-month pilot, the HiberSense team had one objective, to test how three different components of their micro-climate control technology worked in an office setting. For the pilot period, the HiberSense team decided to focus on learning how the communication component of their technology performed, “the pilot period allowed us to understand how far our sensors and vents could reach.” said Brendan Quay, CTO, HiberSense

As for the Renergé team, Founder Lisa Weiland described that the PGH Lab program played a key role in helping to initiate market entry of her product… “many technologists are so focused on the technology itself that they sometimes fail to get an otherwise great idea out there.”

Any suggestions on how to work with your City Champion?


Companies were matched with a “City Champion”, a city employee that guides the companies and serves as mentor throughout the pilot period. Renergé worked with Henry Pyatt, Manager of Small Business Development for the Office of Mayor Peduto. Lisa said that working with Henry was very easy. “I recognized that he too was very busy and treated him with respect.”

TransitSource with its bike technology worked with Kristin Saunders, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the City of Pittsburgh. Her advice to communicate with the City Champions is to think of them as a - sounding board- “For the most part, they are going to leave the "how" up to you. Those "when" and "who" and "where" questions are where their insights and experiences really help you gain momentum and move fast since they are going to be super familiar with who's permission might be necessary to work in a certain space or what building project timelines might be that impacts yours.”

HiberSense’s pilot was placed at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the team worked with Jennifer Wilhelm, Manager of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. For them, having one contact person to connect them with various URA employees and facilitate employee trainings was crucial for their pilot. The team suggests to communicate often “once every two weeks or once a month. If you want to take advantage, you want to get more frequent contact.”

Best piece of advice you will give to an upcoming PGH Lab company


TransitSource - Multiply all your time estimations by at least 3 and get your installations up and running as soon as possible.

HiberSense - Consider old technology vs. high technology. Make sure you understand the environment you are going into, what you want your tech to do and the environment that you encounter. Find different solutions to unexpected challenges.

Renergé - Be candid with your PGH Lab champion and program manager about what you believe you can reasonably achieve in the near term vs. the long term… “in my experience, PGH Lab will make a sincere effort to meet you where you are.”

Meet the second PGH Lab cohort

Contact Annia Aleman if you have any questions at annia.aleman@pittsburghpa.gov

Follow PGH Lab activity on Twitter: @PghIp #PGHLab