4moms raises $41M

One of Pittsburgh’s fastest-growing companies just raised $41 million.

Thorley Industries, which does business as 4moms, completed its second institutional funding round, led by Castanea Partners. Existing investor Bain Capital Ventures also participated, 4moms said Wednesday.

The money is earmarked for new product development and to accelerate growth at 4moms, which puts a robotics twist on baby gear from strollers to playpens. CEO Rob Daley said in a prepared statement his company is “a world leader at developing consumer robots that solve real problems for families.” Ranked fifth among the 2014 Pittsburgh 100, which are ranked by three-year compounded revenue growth, 4moms’ rate was 354 percent.

More from the Pittsburgh Business Times here.

AlphaLab Winter 2015 Application is Now OPEN!

Are you an early stage technology company with big ideas? Well, you’re in luck because we’re currently accepting applications for AlphaLab Winter 2015 Cycle. You can apply here.

What is AlphaLab, you ask? AlphaLab is a nationally-ranked startup accelerator program based in Pittsburgh, PA.  We’re also one of the first accelerators in the nation, so we have lots of experience helping companies to launch quickly and successfully. Each cycle we select 6-8 companies to participate in our program and receive funding, mentorship and office space. The cycle includes many opportunities to build your product as well as your network.The program culminates with AlphaLab Demo Day, a chance to introduce your company to the world.

Another great benefit of being in AlphaLab is the ability to build your network. AlphaLab is a program of Innovation Works, one of the nation’s most active seed stage investors which has built a network of portfolio companies, investors, and expertise that AlphaLab companies are encouraged to tap into. We’re also a charter member of the Global Accelerator Network which means that you have access to GAN mentors, tools, and perks. The GAN perks range from $1,000 in Amazon Web Services credits to $60,000 in Microsoft Azure credits and beyond. You will also have access to the AlphaLab Alumni Network. This means that you will have sessions and be given feedback from the founders of some great companies such as Don Charlton and Robb Myer.

The office space is pretty awesome too. We have lots of soda, and cabinets stocked full of snacks and coffee. You get your own space as well as a lot of shared space so that you can collaborate with fellow companies. Collaboration is a major part of AlphaLab, and we encourage you to learn from each other.

So you know about us, now we want to know about YOU! We see a lot of applications so you really want yours to stand out but, this does not mean writing your app using an etch-a-sketch or sending us flowers. Below are some tips on what we DO want:

1. Do Your Research.

Is AlphaLab right for you? Read up on our program.

Is your company ready for AlphaLab? Read up on our blog post.

Can your founding team handle this? Read up on our blog post.

2. Take time to fill out the application.

Make sure that you understand our questions and are answering them. We want you to be as specific as possible – whether it’s in the target market, problem/ use case you’re solving, what you know/what you don’t know and your plans to test, this is the time to tell us.

3. Ask questions.

If you’re filling out the application and realize that you want to talk about your company with someone from AlphaLab we’re happy to meet with you during our office hours.

Stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter for more about the application cycle.

Recruiting software company The Resumator works to open the doors to new faces [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

By Deborah M. Todd / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bringing new employees onto a team forces managers to judge a mix of mandatory skill sets and intangible personality traits. In Silicon Valley — home base for tech giants Apple, Google and Twitter — that process has resulted in a workforce of thousands of highly skilled, innovative and loyal workers, most of whom happen to look remarkably similar.

Earlier this month, Apple reported that its global workforce is 70 percent male — a figure that mirrors Google and Twitter’s overall workforce.

A breakdown of racial demographics proves even more significant, with Apple reporting its U.S. workforce as 55 percent white, 15 percent Asian, 11 percent Hispanic and 7 percent black. At Twitter, the U.S. workforce was reported as 59 percent white, 29 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic and 2 percent black. Google’s U.S. workforce was 61 percent white, 30 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic and 2 percent black.

The figures, all released by the companies over the course of the last few weeks, raised eyebrows among industry insiders and sparked initiatives within all three companies to try to balance the scales.

The situation made Promise Phelon, chief revenue officer of West View recruiting software company The Resumator, briefly consider if the issues raised in Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s best-selling book “Lean In” — specifically about how more women need to step up to leadership roles — played a part in the situation.

But then, Ms. Phelon settled on the most important consideration: that this discussion offers an opportunity for her company to present a solution.

“When I saw those numbers, I asked myself two questions. Is this a systematic thing or is this about the point Sheryl was making about [women] getting a seat at the table? My conclusion was it actually doesn’t matter [how it happened]; it’s about breaking patterns,” said Ms. Phelon.

Shifting the paradigm that drives hiring decisions has been The Resumator’s primary mission since it was launched in 2009, said founder and CEO Don Charlton.

Mr. Charlton, a Masontown native who grew up steeped in the culture of coal mining, envisioned The Resumator as a way to help small- to medium-sized businesses level the playing field with large corporations when it comes to attracting top talent. After an independent launch, he teamed up with Pittsburgh startup accelerator program AlphaLab. Within a three-year period Mr. Charlton was able to raise $3 million in outside funding.

The Resumator’s offerings of job boards, referrals, questionnaires, interview management and custom assessments for hiring have so far helped more than 70,000 companies find more than 2.5 million candidates for various job openings. The suite of products and the data contained within them help the company streamline the job search process in ways that have helped it rise to the heap of a fledgling market.

The small business engine has also catered to some of the nation’s biggest players. Its portfolio of clients ranges from Major League Baseball’s MLB.com to the 2012 presidential election campaigns of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The company does not publicly disclose its financials, but a company spokeswoman said it has generated millions of dollars in revenue.

After adding Ms. Phelon as its chief revenue officer in December, the company opened a Silicon Valley office in March to keep close to West Coast investors. It embarked on an aggressive fundraising campaign in June that set an eight-week time limit to meet the $15 million mark.

That push paid off this week, with a goal-matching investment led by Boston-based Volition Capital and supported by Tucson, Ariz.-based Rincon Venture Partners, South Side-based Birchmere Ventures, New York-based Blue Cloud Ventures and Riverfront Ventures, an investment firm run by South Side-based Innovation Works.

Hiring a team of data scientists and looking for a new space for a staff expected to grow from around 60 to 100 by next year top a list of priorities to be addressed with the new funding. With eyes on Downtown, Mr. Charlton hopes to work with city officials to address parking concerns and find an appropriate space.

Mr. Charlton, who envisions the company becoming a household name among small business recruiters, believes having The Resumator’s name shining within the city skyline could be a win-win proposition.

“We have a strong desire and belief that the recruiting software industry, especially catering to small- and medium-sized businesses, is emerging,” he said. “We have a leadership position. We have the data and resources now to take that position and become a dominant and fast player.”

Capitalizing on those data — a set of more than 1 billion points compiled over the course of the company’s five-year existence — will be a key factor in boosting the software’s ability to help people make consistently solid hiring decisions, said Ms. Phelon.

Not only that, the method of screening applicants through algorithms comes with the bonus of weeding out biases within the hiring process.

“The Resumator is at a stage where we’ve got millions of resumes, hundreds of thousands of hiring decisions,” said Ms. Phelon. “We can actually reverse-engineer what success looks like inside a company and allow organizations to look at candidates irrespective of anything besides what their skills are, what they’ve done.

“And we can give people data-driven, evidence-based decisions on the candidates they should be considering, and quite frankly I think that would remove a lot of natural biases that exist in the hiring process.”

Besides letting data dictate hiring, Mr. Charlton said tech and other industries seeking to diversify their forces could also make sure positions that don’t require advanced degrees are as heavily promoted among minority and women as skilled positions.

Diversity within Apple, Google and Twitter is slightly better for nontech positions in the U.S., but the majority of those positions are still held by white males in Google and Apple. Twitter did not have information about the number of women working in nontech positions in the U.S. immediately available, but reported a 50-50 split between men and women in the positions globally.

Noting that secretaries and customer care workers cashed in on Twitter’s $24 billion initial public offering just as easily as executives, Mr. Charlton said tying a lack of diversity solely to a lack of STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — training among women and minorities was a “red herring scapegoat” that could delay action for generations.

“One of the things I think a lot of minorities don’t know is that personal wealth creation — especially an acceleration of personal wealth creation — occurs when you join very early companies that have a high probability of failure,” said Mr. Charlton.

“You don’t have to be a computer scientist or engineer to be in tech. We have plenty of women and minorities in our company right now who wouldn’t know how to code if their life depended on it but they feel just as much involved in tech as we do, every single day.”

Calling themselves capitalists in the purest sense, Mr. Charlton and Ms. Phelon said opening doors to new faces in the workforce isn’t about charity so much as a means of maximizing options for quality talent.

Within a tech company founded by a black man that boasts a 40 percent female executive board, standing out as the new face among industry counterparts is a reality. On the other hand, so is standing out for being exceptional.

“The best way to break patterns is to shape the pattern,” said Mr. Charlton. “We believe by us focusing on building a really great business and this happenstance of what our demographics are, it will all play out in the end.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/08/24/West-View-based-The-Resumator-works-to-open-the-doors-to-new-faces/stories/201408200145#ixzz3BPeAsSuy

Wish Waiting for a Table Was Less Painful? There’s an App for That. [Entrepreneur.com]

When Taiwanese restaurant chain Din Tai Fung needed a more efficient way to manage the hourlong waits for tables at its U.S. locations, it turned to mobile tool NoWait. “Our locations seat as many as 2,000 guests a day,” says Aaron Yang, partner and operations manager for Din Tai Fung USA. “NoWait has become essential to help us, and we’ve gotten very positive feedback from both hosts and guests. We’re definitely seeing a decrease in wait time.”

The dumpling specialist, which has locations in 10 countries, is now using NoWait in all six of its U.S. restaurants.

Robb Myer conceived NoWait after one too many holdups at his favorite eateries. Formerly a director at an employee-benefits and consumer-health company, Myer teamed up in 2010 with developers James Belt and Richard Colvin and marketer Luke Panza to launch their NoWait host app for the iPad, which moves traditional restaurant wait lists from paper to tablet.

Arriving customers provide the restaurant host with a cell number and receive a text message confirming their spot on the wait list. When their tables are ready, customers are notified by another text; the setup gives them the freedom to leave while they wait, without having to carry a pager from the restaurant.

On the restaurant side, the service provides hosts with a running clock on each individual party, as well as a floor map of the establishment with progress bars that indicate when tables will open up. At the end of each day, NoWait sends the restaurant manager an e-mail summary with analytics about seating totals, wait-time quote accuracy and the number of parties that left or were removed from the list.

Take a seat: NoWait's Robb Myer.

Take a seat: NoWait’s Robb Myer.
Photo © Billy Delfs

In February, Myer and his Pittsburgh-based team launched a free consumer-facing version of the app for iOS and Android that can be used to add a name to a list or to check wait times. It also has a “suggest a restaurant” feature that encourages diners to vote for eateries that should use the service. Within the first three months, the feature generated 80,000 votes for 13,000 U.S. restaurants.

NoWait says it is seating 5 million guests per month, up from 700,000 per month in 2012. Restaurants that use the system “can turn their tables faster and ultimately seat more guests,” Myer claims. “We see a 15 percent increase in revenue after the implementation of NoWait at a restaurant.”

NoWait is free for use by restaurants that seat up to 200 parties per month; the standard package covers 1,200 parties for $119 per month and includes additional features such as text-message customization, two-way texting and a wait-time predictor. An enterprise option, available for large clients, has been implemented by the Buffalo Wild Wings, First Watch and On The Border chains.

Next up for NoWait, which has received more than $15 million in funding from investors such as Birchmere Ventures and Drive Capital, is to expand beyond restaurants to markets such as doctors’ offices. Now that’s an innovation worth waiting for.


Intern Interview: Ryan Archer (SitWith)

After our post “Interning @ A Startup” we thought that it would be great for readers to meet a real-life intern from one of our current companies. We decided on Ryan Archer. Ryan is an intern at SitWith, rising sophomore at Carnegie Mellon, and cross-country star.

How did you become a SitWith intern?

I heard about the position on Tartantrak, CMU’s recruiting site. I sent in my resume and Will responded within a few days and brought me in for an initial interview.

What was the interview like?

My first interview was more relaxed and involved getting to know the SitWith guys, along with general questions about my experience and skills. The second interview was more technical, and I had to write some code for web and mobile development. In both cases, the guys were very relaxed and it was not too stressful.

Tell me about a typical day in the office.

Most of my days start around 9 when I arrive at the office. Will is usually here around that time, though the other developers tend to arrive later in the morning. I spend most of my time developing the iOS application and prefer to code in the open space at AlphaLab with employees from the other companies. My day ends around 4 or 5, though the hours are extremely flexible.

Do you enjoy the startup culture?

The atmosphere at AlphaLab is relaxed and enjoyable. The kitchen is stocked with free food and drinks, and AlphaLabs often provides lunch for the companies. The SitWith employees are easy to get along with, and they even invite me out to lunch or coffee every now and then. Everything that I have developed has been important to the company, but there is no unnecessary pressure to get work done.

What is your educational background?

I am a rising sophomore computer science major at Carnegie Mellon. I have taken programming and theoretical computer science classes before, but I did not have much mobile development experience. SitWith enrolled me in a course to quickly advance my iOS programming skills.

Would you recommend this type of internship to others?

Overall the internship has enabled me to use my skills in an exciting, fast-paced environment. It also allows me to have a large role in the growth of a new company. SitWith was very flexible regarding my ability and my role in the company. Anyone who is willing to participate and really make a difference in a well-run startup should consider interning at SitWith.

We will be posting more about the companies, and even more ways that you can get involved to help them. Until then, be sure to stay tuned in on Facebook and Twitter for more fun ways for you to interact with this talented group.

Interning @ a Startup

Everyone has a friend that works at a startup and envies them. Startups are awesome! You get free coffee, unlimited fruit snacks, and the ability to wear jeans everyday, but beyond the perks there are a lot of great career benefits as well.

Responsibility. When you’re one of five employees, everything you do is a necessity. Unlike a large company where you may just be there to shred paper, when you’re at a startup you’re taken seriously and given projects that are actually important.

Learning. You will learn everything there is to know about building a company. You will see your bosses fail, win, and hit lots of bumps along the way.

Opportunity. With a small team, you’re going to get to know everyone (if you don’t, then you’re doing it wrong). This is great because you will gain contacts, and since you’ve been there from the start, there is a greater chance that you may be brought on for a full-time position once the company begins to grow.

Fun. Whether you’re attending a tech happy hour, or jamming to the new Beyonce album while coding, fun and play is a major part of the startup environment.

 If you read this and thought, yes! Where do I find a position? — Then you’re in luck. Three of the current AlphaLab companies are looking for full-time interns.

SitWith - is looking for an intern with development experience in iOS, as well as web development.

Easely - is looking for talented software engineers.

Nebulus – is looking for a developer (extra points if you’re a musician).

We will be posting more about the companies, and even more ways that you can get involved to help them. Until then, be sure to stay tuned in on Facebook and Twitter for more fun ways for you to interact with this talented group.

Alphalab Companies Cycle 13

Welcome to AlphaLab: The Cycle 13 Companies Are Here

We are excited to introduce the latest AlphaLab companies for our Summer 2014 cycle. (Cycle 13!)

Announced on Wednesday at Open Coffee, the new cycle of companies ranges from an app for moms to data visualization technology for touchscreens to collaboration software for musicians. Although the companies are different, there is a common thread between them — the founders are incredibly talented and driven. As Deborah Todd noted in the Post Gazette, the founders come from all backgrounds — from musicians to Rhodes Scholars. Vanessa Jameson of Covey recently left Google to build her company. The founder of SitWith, Will Lutz is a Navy Veteran and current MBA candidate at CMU’s Tepper School. The Nebulus team consists of musicians and software developers from Carnegie Mellon University.

 While several of the teams are from Pittsburgh, we also welcome Easely and ResearchWe to the growing Pittsburgh ecosystem. Ashwin Muthiah and Harris Gani of Easely are both from Atlanta; and the ResearchWe team moved here from the farthest, including the United Kingdom and California.

 OK … you’re probably thinking, “These founders sound great–tell me more about the companies!” So, we’ve provided a list of company descriptions below:

  • Covey is a location-based mobile app for moms to connect with other moms nearby without any planning. Covey will enable an engaged community of local parents and caregivers who can easily discover each other in the physical world for social outlet and support.

  • SitWith is a social discovery app that connects four people over a casual meal. SitWith creates great conversation and connects communities while removing the pressure of meeting new people.

  • Easely is a company that makes art more accessible to consumers by personally curating and delivering art to your door based on your preferences and taste. Easely’s renowned curating team has handpicked a collection of artwork from artists around the world available on Easely as originals, prints, or even everyday items like posters.

  • ResearchWe helps researchers expand their access to human subjects for research studies, such as paid clinical trials, psychological research, and focus groups. By  creating a centralized place allowing researchers the ability to advertise and manage their studies (and for consumers to find those studies), ResearchWe catalyzes discovery by crowdsourcing participants for research.

  • DataSquid is leveraging cutting edge data visualization technology developed at Carnegie Mellon University to help users gain new insights on their data by enabling them to slice, sift, stack, and pivot through data naturally with their fingers on a tablet.

  • Nebulus is creating Google Docs for music with its social music production platform which allows users to record music and collaborate over the cloud.

We are excited about these companies and believe in the tremendous potential for each of them to change the ways we connect, create and analyze. We will be posting more about the companies, including ways you can get involved to help them. Until then, be sure to stay tuned in on Facebook and Twitter for more fun ways for you to interact with this talented group.

Pittsburgh Startups Rise to the Occasion for Steve Case 100K Challenge

With popular TV shows like HBO’s Silicon Valley and documentaries like Startupland filling the airwaves, startup is the buzz word on everyone’s lips. And with an increasing number of startup scenes thriving in cities across the nation, the buzz is more than just hype. That’s what Steve Case, former CEO and co-founder of AOL, is now on a mission to highlight with his new campaign, Rise of the Rest.

Rise of the Rest is a road trip with an entrepreneurial cause. Centered around the idea of promoting startups beyond Silicon Valley, Rise of the Rest aims to help cities located between the two coasts raise capital and attract investors.

From June 24th-27th , Case will make four stops in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Nashville, to chat with local entrepreneurs and host pitch competitions. The winner in each city will receive $100,000 from Steve Case as an angel investment in their company.

As a long time supporter of startups, Case is no stranger to providing venture capital. Through his role as chairman and CEO of Revolution, a Washington D.C. based investment firm, Case has been bolstering new business ventures since 2005, backing more than 30 companies to date. In his most recent efforts, he has partnered with Startup Weekend, the 3 day long pitching and networking event, to form Up Global, an umbrella company unifying Startup Weekend with other startup tools and programs. Revolution and UP Global, along with Google for Entrepreneurs, will be presenting the Rise of the Rest event.

So what can you expect from Case’s Pittsburgh visit on June 25th? First, stop by our very own AlphaLab Gear where we will be hosting a “fireside chat” with Steve Case and a guest. The talk will focus on the unique Pittsburgh entrepreneurial ecosystem. Following the chat, stay for the most rewarding event of the day, the Pitch Competition. Once the winning pitch has been chosen, head to Thrill Mill to celebrate with a networking happy hour.

Visit Rise of the Rest to get in on the action and RSVP. Be sure to follow AlphaLab, AlphaLab Gear and Innovation Works on Twitter and Facebook for updates about the event and to share your opinion.