SOLIDWORKS Entrepreneur: AlphaLab Gear Provides a Powerhouse for Hardware Startups out of Pittsburgh

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, AlphaLab Gear is a nationally ranked hardware accelerator with a mission of helping early-stage physical product companies grow and scale in order to move through the first stages of the company faster. AlphaLab Gear invests up to $125,000 in each startup then provides guidance in two different modules: the first focused on customer discovery, and the second is focused on manufacturing at scale. With an excellent staff, on-site technical experts, mentors, investors and a large customer base, AlphaLab Gear’s companies are positioned to successfully launch their product into market.


AlphaLab Gear accepts up to 8 companies in-to each cycle of their program. There is a separate application process for each module. The modules are positioned at the points in time that hardware companies are best equipped to fundraise and scale successfully. Companies go through market validation first. The market validation lasts 21 weeks between April and August. Startups focus on customer discovery, prototyping, legal and accounting, business model development, product iteration and customer traction. The second module, focused on manufacturing at scale, lasts 15 weeks and takes place from September through December. The teams turn their energy toward designing their product for manufacturing, tooling, regulatory, quality control, vendor negotiations, inventory management/fulfillment, and connections to manufacturers and supply chains.


AlphaLab Gear has aided in the launch of 37 companies.

Maven Machines

Maven Machines brings fleet management to the 21st century with its modern mobile-cloud platform. Maven’s innovative solution combines smart hardware and software that reduces accidents, improves compliance, cuts maintenance costs and makes the fleet more competitive by tracking trucks in real-time.


Maven Machines joined AlphaLab Gear in 2014. The team was introduced to a wide range of experts on all subjects from technical engineering skills to finance. CEO, Avi Geller described the excitement of being a part of AlphaLab Gear, “We obtained our first customer, PGT Trucking, while in AlphaLab Gear. The program Ilana Diamond and her team ran was great. I specifically moved to Pittsburgh to be part of this premier program. We started out with a 3D printed headset for truck drivers made in-house and progressed to a contract manufactured earbud by the end of the program. Today, Maven Machines has   grown into a leading IoT platform that works with big data which is highly scalable and flexible. Our platform shows tremendous potential in other industries too and we’ve begun real-time data collection and visualization with major providers of manufacturing equipment as well.”

“My favorite event while being part of AlphaLab Gear was Demo Day. It seemed like everyone from Pittsburgh was there. It was incredible to see the progression that all the teams made in such a short amount of time. Being at AlphaLab Gear exposed us to an excellent blend of public and private organizations that wanted to provide assistance to the startups. The city of Pittsburgh showed interest in what teams were working on. Companies, like SOLIDWORKS, were an instrumental asset. Maven Machines utilized SOLIDWORKS to make countless iterations of the Maven Co-Pilot™, our Smart headset,” said Craig Campbell, VP of Marketing.

AlphaLab Gear occupies 10,000 sq-feet, and is located one floor down from its sister accelerator, AlphaLab. Each startup gets a private office – called a “garage” – to work out of. All the furniture in the main area is moveable to allow for maximum collaboration. A lab on-site provides the companies the ability to build their prototypes and test them before sending the designs to a manufacturer. The lab contains an electrical, woodworking, metal working, and 3D printer space.


I had a chance to speak with the Founding Executive Director, Ilana Diamond, about AlphaLab Gear and the companies they work with. “AlphaLab Gear is a spin out accelerator from AlphaLab. Because of my past experience with product companies, AlphaLab asked me to run their hardware accelerator. At AlphaLab Gear we strive to provide the resources that our companies ask for. Many of our companies come from the Hardware Cup competition, where SOLIDWORKS gives the winners licenses. We have found that most of our companies use SOLIDWORKS when designing their products. The partnership with SOLIDWORKS has been an asset to many of our companies. It has accelerated the phases of the products.”

“Working at AlphaLab Gear had been an incredible experience. I have learned that you never know if something is going to be negative or positive. And if something seems negative, it can still turn out positive.” Ilana added, “Learn something from every person you meet. In order to be a successful entrepreneur you need to be able to understand things from other people’s points of view.”

AlphaLab Gear is excited to run its two module program for the first time this year. Applications for the 2018 Program are now open and close February 11th, 2018. Applications for the 2018 AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup are also open.

Thank you to Ilana Diamond and AlphaLab Gear for supporting SOLIDWORKS Entrepreneurs and sharing with our community.

Isabelle Smith

Education and Early Engagement Intern at SOLIDWORKS at Dassault Systems SOLIDWORKS
Isabelle Smith is the Education and Early Engagement Intern for SOLIDWORKS. Focused on helping Startups and Entrepreneurs reach their highest potential, Isabelle strives to continually increase her knowledge on the Startup world. She has worked with Entrepreneurs at numerous startup events, competitions, workshops and accelerators. Isabelle looks forward to continuing her career with startups world wide.