With Hardware On the Rise, Pittsburgh Gears Up for Largest International Competition Yet

Press Release from Alphalab Gear Hardware Cup

With Hardware On the Rise, Pittsburgh Gears Up for Largest International Competition Yet

Have you tried a friend’s VR headset, or seen a smart thermostat, or watched that incredible SNL skit making fun of the Amazon Echo? Do you know anyone with a Fitbit or Apple watch? Better yet, have you ever used an ATM, one of the earliest uses of Internet of Things (IoT)? Well that’s the hardware revolution in action, and you’re a part of it!

And the numbers back up this trend. According to CB Insights, “The second quarter of 2017 saw nearly 140 deals and $1.2B in funding to consumer hardware startups. And last year was a record year for deals and dollars. Some $4.4B went into consumer hardware across 624 separate deals. Half of the activity went to early-stage opportunities, including nascent companies in emerging areas like robotics, smart-home solutions, and AR/VR.”

To capitalize on this growing hardware trend and highlight promising physical product companies around the nation, AlphaLab Gear, Innovation Works’ hardware startup accelerator based in Pittsburgh, launched the first Hardware Cup pitch competition in 2015.

Now gearing up for its fourth year, the AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup has teamed up with Startbot, Bosch, and Philips to hold the 2018 Hardware Cup, a competition where early-stage hardware startups compete for $50,000 in investment and over $50,000 in other prizes.

Past AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup winners include VaGenie, a gamified Kegel trainer and biofeedback app, LucidCam, a 3D VR camera, and Curb, a home energy monitoring system.

Even companies that don’t make it to the finals can reap huge benefits from participating. Take it from 2017 Hardware Cup competitor Jeffrey Ly, CEO of Xboard: “We got to meet investors, we got to meet future clients, future mentors, ” he says. “We met manufacturing contacts, we met fellow entrepreneurs from the hardware-focused space…and we didn’t even win!”

The Alphalab Gear Hardware Cup is once again a global competition with regional events in planning across several countries worldwide. Within the US, six regional semifinals are already planned for Pittsburgh, Boston, DC, Chicago, LA, and Austin. (Semi-finalist companies located outside of these cities can apply for a travel stipend to attend their regional event.) The winner from each competition will then take an all-expenses paid trip to Pittsburgh for the International Finals competition, scheduled for April 18, 2018. Applications are now open for a limited time!

New this year, the international finals will be held as part of the IEEE’s N3XT® Frontier Tech & Startup Summit, which will bring together technical entrepreneurs who wish to strengthen their business development skills, learn how to make their ideas into inventions, and receive inspiration from visionaries sharing their success stories.

“We are thrilled to partner with IEEE, Bosch, Startbot, and Philips on the 2018 Hardware Cup. And not only do we have the chance to highlight these cutting-edge startups and connect them to a huge network of entrepreneurs, potential customers, and investors,” explains Ilana Diamond, Managing Director at AlphaLab Gear, “but the day after the International Finals, we set up 1-on-1 meetings with some of the nation’s top hardware investors. These meetings enable immediate and future investments, and are connections that serve the startups well after the Hardware Cup ends.”

Interested startups can submit their application at www.alphalabgear.org/hardwarecup.


AlphaLab Gear (ALG) is a top-ranked accelerator nationwide, providing early-stage physical product companies with investment, an extensive mentor network, educational programming, and manufacturing assistance. Founded in 2013, ALG is a program of Innovation Works, one of the nation’s most active seed-stage investors.