Interview with BlastPoint

Alison Alverez and Tomer Borenstein

Meet Alison Alvarez and Tomer Borenstein, the founders of BlastPoint.

Before starting BlastPoint, Alison had a career in building big data tools for large Fortune 1000 companies. Through her work, she came to realize two things:

  1. When it comes to big data systems, everyone asks for the same subset of features.
  2. Only really large companies can afford to hire data scientists.

She believed that by building technology that met the ~90% of data needs, she could make data science tools accessible and affordable to businesses of all types and sizes.  Alison pitched her idea at a CMU entrepreneurship event and met Tomer, an experienced software engineer and recent Computer Science Masters graduate. In 2016 they launched BlastPoint, with the mission to make big data accessible, usable, and affordable to all types of businesses. They have been making headlines ever since, and most recently won the 2017 UpPrize social venture competition.

Continue reading “Interview with BlastPoint”

Liked this post? Share it!

Self-study research

notebook, pen, and baby picture. With text "Self-study research" over top.

Throughout the Spring, I had been posting a blog entry about once a week. I had a writing schedule that worked well for me. Then something happened that disrupted my routine – I had a baby. This is my second child, so I had a better idea of what I was getting into. But I was still surprised (or rather, reminded) how much an infant disrupts your entire life. I had high hopes of continuing to work on my start-up challenge over the summer, but baby #2 put the kibosh on that.

However, having a second child gave me even more ideas for potential startups. There is so much worry and work that goes into pregnancy, giving birth, and caring for an infant. And I think there is a lot of business potential in products and services that make parents’ lives easier.

So while I didn’t have time to write regular blog posts over the summer, I did have time to engage in a little self-study. Continue reading “Self-study research”

Liked this post? Share it!

3 ways to validate your startup idea without building a damn thing

picture of yellow measuring tape, with the words "validate first, build later" written overtop

Last week, I shared my ideas about MVE’s: Minimum Viable Experiments. To recap, an MVE is a type of experiment that should…

  • require minimal set-up,
  • require minimal cost and materials, and
  • ultimately help you determine whether you’ve got a startup idea worth pursuing, or not.

MVEs are great because they take the focus away from building and shift it towards validating. In fact, I think that the longer you can pursue your startup idea without building anything, the more open you’ll be to new ideas, and the more successful you’ll be when it comes time to execute.

So to help you embrace the validate first, build later mantra, I’ve created a list of three ways to test your startup idea without building a damn thing:

Continue reading “3 ways to validate your startup idea without building a damn thing”

Liked this post? Share it!

The MVE: Minimum Viable Experiment

picture of beakers and experimental jars with the words "the minimum viable experiment" written over top

You have all been dutifully instructed to “fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” A lot of ink (virtual or otherwise) has been spent making sure you do your customer research. But as much as the start-up crowd seems to value research,  it still seems like you can’t call yourself a “real entrepreneur” until you build something.

For example, if you spend your time investigating better ways to help senior citizens get to where they want to go, you’re just a do-gooder. But if you tell everyone you are making the “Uber for Seniors,” you are suddenly an entrepreneur.

Even the Lean movement, which espouses an experimental approach, puts a lot of focus on building something. (That “something” being the “minimum viable product.” Emphasis on product.)

I think that would-be entrepreneurs would find a lot more freedom to explore and grow their ideas if there was less pressure to come up with a “thing” to build. Instead, it may be better to focus on conducting worthwhile experiments. So in this post I’d like to introduce the MVE: minimum viable experiment.

Continue reading “The MVE: Minimum Viable Experiment”

Liked this post? Share it!

The Startup Pitch

set of clear elevators with the words "perfect your startup pitch" written overtop

In graduate school, whenever we were getting ready to attend a conference, we would all get together to practice our elevator pitches. In theory, the reason we practiced our pitch was that if by some miracle we found ourselves on an elevator with a philanthropically inclined Bill Gates we’d be ready to win him over with a 30 second spiel on our research. In practice, this never happened. We did use our elevator pitches to introduce ourselves to like-minded researchers and build our professional networks, which is almost as good.

The general formula we followed was:

Pitch = problem to solve + method to solve it

My pitch went something like this… Continue reading “The Startup Pitch”

Liked this post? Share it!

Good startup ideas: Where do they come from?

Good Startup Ideas: Where do they come from?

Lately I’ve been thinking about startup ideas.  That is, I haven’t been thinking about any particular idea, but rather I’ve been contemplating how to generate good startup ideas. I’ve been noodling questions like…”where do ideas come from?” And, “how do you make an existing idea better?”

Continue reading “Good startup ideas: Where do they come from?”

Liked this post? Share it!

Interview with Greg Buzulencia, CEO and founder of ViaHero

Greg Buzelencia, founder and CEO of ViaHero

Meet Greg Buzulencia, the CEO and founder of ViaHero.

Greg has always had a passion for travel, and loves planning unique, off the beaten path experiences for his friends and family. In April 2016 Greg launched ViaHero so he could turn his passion for travel into a business. ViaHero enables every-day travelers to connect with trip “Heroes,” who provide itineraries full of insight, experiences, and tips that only a local would know. And while ViaHero currently specializes in planning unique trips to Cuba, they are quickly expanding to include other exotic destinations soon. (Iceland, anyone?)

Continue reading “Interview with Greg Buzulencia, CEO and founder of ViaHero”

Liked this post? Share it!

Resources for Startups in Pittsburgh

Resources for Startups in Pittsburgh

A little over a year ago I moved from San Francisco, CA to Pittsburgh, PA. It was a decision I was initially unsure about, but I couldn’t be happier in my new home.  Pittsburgh has gotten a number of accolades recently. Movoto named Pittsburgh the smartest city in the US due to the incredible number of universities, libraries, and museums we enjoy. And while Pittsburgh may have a “Rust Belt” locale, it wont stay rusty for long. Forbes magazine named it a “comeback city” due to its incredible recovery from the steel industry collapse. Overall, yinzers (the local slang for Pittsburgh natives) are a well-educated and industrious group. And for small business owners, Pittsburgh has a lot to offer. Here are some of the many resources available to Pittsburgh startups.

Continue reading “Resources for Startups in Pittsburgh”

Liked this post? Share it!