Software developer Nick Greco inhales the rich aroma of the Strip District coffee shop. This morning, he’s ditched the dual-monitor computer in his office in favor of a steamy beverage and a laptop. But with just one screen—and no room on the coffee shop’s tiny table for another—he can’t get as much done.
Then, Nick has an idea so big, he quits his post-college job, goes into business with mechanical engineer Ben Matzke, and vows to make the modern, mobile worker more productive. “I’m kind of a big risk taker,” says Greco. “I’ll put all my eggs in one basket and hope for something big.”
Over the next year, that basket became a sleek, butterfly-shaped laptop dock. The aluminum housing hides a high-definition, USB-connected display that slides out and flips up on a self-supported arm, acting just like the second monitor on a desktop rig. The whole gizmo—laptop attached—collapses to one piece. It’s called DuoScreen, and its design is so elegant, it’s a wonder no one’s done it before. But as Greco and Matzke discovered, even great ideas need help.
In December 2013, Greco, Matzke, and the early DuoScreen designs were accepted into Pittsburgh’s Thrill Mill start-up accelerator. A few months later, industrial designer Jake Howell joined Greco and Matzke to improve the DuoScreen’s functionality and appeal. He traded up the original plastic shell for aluminum, opening the product to new uses such as laptop ventilation and an ergonomic angle for keyboarding.
The second week of September marked the end of Thrill Mill for the start-up, now incorporated as Nomadz. With a shiny prototype, a Kickstarter campaign launching September 15, and tech investors watching the results, it’s a critical time for the company. If successful, Nomadz hopes to start manufacturing DuoScreens and selling them primarily business-to-business. If not, more new ventures await.
“I think Pittsburgh’s becoming the next start-up area, especially in robotics,” says Greco. “It’s only going to get better and bigger.”