As Pittsburgh’s tech sector continues to grow, the selection of rising startups becomes more diverse. Over the course of 2016, our universities, accelerators and entrepreneurs have produced an array of impressive companies working in a variety of industries, from healthcare—with groundbreaking work in stroke detection and cancer treatment—to ever-important cyber security.
One area that came out on top, sports and recreation, should come as no surprise in a city where local teams are revered. Fishing, golfing, baseball and fantasy sports enthusiasts especially should watch the new developments coming down the pike this year.
We asked local tech insiders who is on their radars to compile this list of 17 Pittsburgh tech companies to watch in 2017:
Anglr Labs: In a city surrounded by three rivers, it’s no wonder a startup like Anglr Labs would come about. Since its debut last summer, the company has specialized in products developed for fishing enthusiasts by fishing enthusiasts (co-founders Nic Wilson, Landon Bloomer and TJ Corbett). They launched the Anglr mobile app and online platform, which allows users to track and log their fishing trips, and created the Anglr Tracker, a rod-mounted device that was recently named one of the Five Top New Fishing Electronics for 2017 by Field & Stream magazine. Anglr has also gained an impressive amount of traction in a variety of national retail outlets, including Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops.
Cognistx: Founded in 2015 by tech entrepreneurs Sanjay Chopra and Jeffrey Battin and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) professor Eric Nyberg, Cognistx develops programs designed to help retailers better engage with their customers. Last year, the company made a major deal with the automotive repair giant Monro Muffler & Brake, who are using Cognistx’s SmartCognitives-branded platform to provide a more efficient, personalized mobile experience for its customers. They recently partnered with the Cheswick-based software company Club Prophet Systems to develop an AI-powered intelligent app able to deliver customized content and offers to avid golfers. The app will debut later this month at the PGA Show in Orlando.
Conversant Labs: Conversant Labs (see photo at top) has set out to make life easier for the visually impaired with a number of apps. Founded by Chris Maury—a developer who suffers from a degenerative eye disease—the company started out with Say Shopping, a voice-activated app that allows users to easily shop online without typing a word. A year after winning the 2015 UpPrize social innovation competition, the Shadyside-based startup released the first hands-free, voice-activated cooking app, Yes, Chef!. Available to download for free, Yes, Chef! talks users through 350,000 recipes from the site BigOven.com. And the Conversant team hasn’t stopped there—they’re currently beta testing TinCan.ai, a tool for developers working to create voice-based apps for Amazon Alexa.
Diamond Kinetics: Diamond Kinetics hit one out of the park with Swingtracker and Batfitter, two devices designed to enhance the performance of baseball players at all skills levels. Their technology has been used by several major league baseball clubs, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, as well as by coaches of high school and college athletes. In 2016, the North Side-based startup expanded its reach by teaming up with two other sports tech companies, Axon Sports and HitTrax, to build Hitter’s Revolution, a comprehensive training program for baseball players. Last December, they were named the Official Motion Technology Partner of the American Baseball Coaches Association, a title that guarantees their influence over future baseball training programs.
Flexable: As parents and professionals, Jessica Strong and Priya Amin understand the hassle of finding quality childcare. The two women decided to make the process easier with Flexable, a website designed to help parents find open spots on-demand at established, reputable childcare facilities. Developed during a stint at the AlphaLab accelerator, Flexable completed a successful two-month-long pre-launch, during which 60 childcare providers signed onto the service. Now officially launched, it promises an easy-to-use resource for busy parents and a way for childcare providers to generate previously untapped revenue. The company plans to grow throughout Allegheny County and enter new cities in 2017.
ForAllSecure: In a time when hackers are able to infiltrate the highest levels of government, the services offered by ForAllSecure are needed more than ever. The Oakland-based startup builds and thoroughly tests security tools able to automatically find vulnerabilities in various software. The company made a splash in 2016 when their Mayhem system took on 100 teams consisting of some of the top security researchers and hackers in the world to win the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Cyber Grand Challenge. A blog post on the ForAllSecure website says the team plans to use their $2 million DARPA winnings “to continue its mission to automatically check the world’s software for exploitable bugs.”
Forest Devices: When it comes to stroke care, time is of the essence, which makes accurate detection all the more valuable during an emergency. Enter Forest Devices, a startup at the Ascender tech accelerator (formerly Thrill Mill) working to save stroke patients. Founded by medical professional and former EMT Matt Kesinger, the company is working on its first product, AlphaStroke, a first-response tool designed to make it faster and easier for EMTs to diagnose a stroke. The first-of-its-kind technology promises to determine in less than a minute whether or not a patient is suffering from a stroke, which could prevent costly, and possibly fatal mistakes. AlphaStroke is currently undergoing clinical studies.