There comes a moment in the life of a young company when a product changes from a great idea that helps some people solve a problem into an essential product for a large group of people.  The kind of product that forms the backbone of a large company, the kind of company a college football bowl is named after.  Earlier this year, that moment may well have happened for local start-up StatEasy.

StatEasy was started many years ago by former volleyball player and active coach, Mike Ressler.  As an undergraduate assistant for the women’s volleyball team at Carnegie Mellon University, Mike applied his computer science skills to create a better way to track volleyball statistics.  A few years after graduation, his wife, also a volleyball coach, and a few other coaches asked Mike if they could use the software for their teams.  At that point, Mike smelled an opportunity.  He immediately began to improve the product to make it usable for a wider variety of people, even adding huge enhancements such as the ability to synchronize statistics with video.  He soon found more and more coaches that wanted to use StatEasy (and who now love it and swear by it), including the head coach of the men’s team at my alma mater, Penn State.  So many coaches liked StatEasy that Mike brought on a co-founder, and they are currently turning the idea of accurate feedback through statistics and video synchronization into a legitimate competitor in the volleyball market.

Then, out of the blue came bowling, and with it, a chance to pivot from lifestyle business to growing company.  The volleyball coach at St. Francis University showed StatEasy to the new head coach of the bowling team, and he was immediately stoked.  It was exactly what he needed, and something like he had never seen for bowling – a way to reliably score and capture statistics (not to mention break down video) for his team’s every match.  Mike and his co-founder got to work immediately and answered the call by creating a complete solution for bowling in only 6 weeks!  Their solution solves many problems for bowling coaches, one of the biggest being the complicated nature of the collegiate scoring systems (some of the scoring rules of bowling are so new and complex that even the coaches aren’t comfortable with them), and their hopes are that StatEasy could become the standard way to score and capture statistics for entire bowling conferences and eventually the NCAA.  And then it only gets better from there. When most colleges are using StatEasy for bowling, what do you think the high schools will start using?  What about the parents who want their kids to get a bowling scholarship?  And the bowling leagues that the collegiate bowling players join after they graduate?  When a company solves problems for an entire sport (while already helping numerous coaches in other sports), that’s the kind of company that grows big – really big.  The kind of company that can help Mike Ressler realize his dream of the StatEasy Bowl, with him watching the action from a bright orange blimp in the sky.

StatEasy’s Website:  www.StatEasySports.com
StatEasy’s Twitter Feed:  @StatEasy

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The following is from a blog post by Burgher Jon:

I traded a couple tweets with Mike Capsambelis (@mikecaps) several weeks ago and it got me thinking about the bubble in tech investing.  The Pittsburgh startup scene is one of the fastest growing tech startup scenes around, for the full year of 2010 the VC dollars in our system were up almost 68% compared to a national increase of only 12%.  If this growth is bubble related, it would make Pittsburgh a likely target to become a GIANT splatter when the bubble bursts.  I’m not overly concerned about this though, and I’ll give you three reasons why…

[click here to read the full story]

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Last week Tim, the CEO of Wawadoo made time to have a drink with me. I had met his co-founder, Chris at open coffee club last week and was anxious to find out more about the young Alphalab company.

Wawadoo is the recommendation engine for events. As they explain it, “just view our list of events, vote ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ if something interests you, and receive increasingly accurate recommendations on things to do every time you choose.” On the concept level they may have something: how many times have you wondered what to do or found out about something you wanted to go to after it was over?

I was excited to hear that Tim’s thought this through much further than the concept level, it’s a potentially interesting business model. Like many interest-based sites, there is a lot of potential for related business to leverage targeted advertising. For example, if I’m a bar I could advertise to people who frequently attend events at the neighboring concert hall or happy hours that are similar to mine.

The difficulty in a business like this is getting to critical mass. The users have to be present in order for the businesses to find value. Tim and Chris, the founders of Wawadoo, think they can do it. “We’ve seen a great response from local organizations. I think they see something like this as the future of finding an event” says Chris, the COO of the company (and a talented developer). “We haven’t opened the site yet and we already have interest of event promoters and organizations who want to co-promote with us,” Tim added, “This will be a great way to get the word out to users. It also means that the businesses must see something there.”

Soon you’ll get to decide. Go to www.wawadoo.com, enter your email address, and you’ll be one of the first members of the public to try it.

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Since Groupon is now a household name, I was excited to see the news that ShowClix, a local startup and Innovation Works portfolio company, landed a partnership with them.

The partnership comes just after they experienced a 275% growth in new clients in 2010. Now with this new deal with group buy juggernaut Groupon, ShowClix’s is proving once again their local startup to watch.

I remember a few years ago when I first saw there ticket scanning doohickey at a local show. I thought, “What is this, there is no way this scanny thing is going to take down Ticketmaster”. I’m glad there making me put my foot in my mouth on that one.

ShowClix has also announced that there are over 100 new features for administrators of events. You check out the video below so see some of them in action. These new features add more robust social media intergeneration and tracking. Two very important thing to success in this Facebook and twitter dominated world.

ShowClix Introduces New Event Ticketing Admin from ShowClix on Vimeo.

Read the full press release after the jump.
[click to continue…]

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The following is from a blog post by Burgher Jon:

Pittsburgh’s own Accelerator, AlphaLab was in the news last week as a founding member of the TechStars Network. TechStars is a nationally renowned accelerator with centers in NYC, Boston, Boulder and Seattle. One of the primary men associated with it is Brad Feld, a guy I’ve mentioned several times on this blog. The TechStars Natwork was formed to help develop synergies with other accelerators across the country in conjunction with Barack Obama’s Startup America. I think the move positions AlphaLab well to take advantage of some network benefits and perhaps even some Federal help. Just exactly what ends up coming out of it, will be interesting to see.

[click here to read the full story]

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