Ascender’s 2020–2021 Incubator

Ascender’s 2020–2021 Incubator
Ascender’s 2020–2021 Incubator

The initial year of any new business venture tests most founders’ strength, commitment, and ingenuity. Throw in a global pandemic and an overnight shift to ‘virtual everything,’ and you’ve got a true test of perseverance.

Our 2020–2021 Incubator cohort of eight Pittsburgh-based early-stage companies from various industries, including education, food & beverage, and finance, didn’t shy away from the challenge. Instead, they approached last year as an opportunity to grow and build their best businesses.

“Ascender’s [Incubator], to me, is talented people with passion and great ideas who are ready to take their ideas to the next level,” commented Bobby…

From fashion to AI and social enterprises to hardware, meet our most diverse cohort to date.

Ascender’s 2021–2022 Incubation cohort.

Our community for entrepreneurs continues to grow with the acceptance of 11 startups into our 2021–2022 Incubator. The free yearlong Incubator provides companies with more than $12,000 in business assistance through in-depth coaching, mentorship, educational programming, access to a network of industry experts, and all the amenities included in Ascender’s membership. After reaching milestones tailored to their businesses, companies are also eligible to receive up to $5,000 in equity-free direct funding.

Founders for each early-stage startup were selected from a competitive pool of more than 55 innovative companies and completed Ascender’s Pre-Incubation Bootcamp, a multi-day intensive program combining virtual workshops…

Address everyday business problems by thinking like a designer

6 Online Tools for Entrepreneurs New to Design Thinking
6 Online Tools for Entrepreneurs New to Design Thinking

You probably clicked on this story because you aren’t familiar with design thinking. Great, you’re in the right place.

Design thinking is one of those buzzwords you hear during a business webinar or startup podcast, but it’s also a concept that we swear by and incorporate into our work at Ascender. The design thinking process (empathize, define, ideate, prototype, & test) helps you develop your own creative potential, build empathy with stakeholders, and deliver your best work. It’s also a human-centered framework that makes visual collaboration with team members accessible and engaging.

But, design thinking (and team collaboration in general)…

How to score big points on your next application

Top Score: Your Application
Top Score: Your Application

Writing a strong accelerator/incubator application takes practice. Too often, founders with innovative solutions miss the mark and fail to communicate their products’ and teams’ potential. As we continue to accept applications for our Incubator through March 8, 2021, we brought together an all-star panel to pull back the curtain and demystify the application process (Watch the full conversation at the bottom of the page). You’ll see that there aren’t any cheat codes, but there are plenty of tips to help entrepreneurs like you step up your application game.

Typical Application Sections

Below, we’ve unpacked what you should consider when responding to the five…

Meet the newest additions to Ascender’s board of directors.

Ascender’s Board of Directors.
Ascender’s Board of Directors.
Ascender’s board of directors.

As we enter the new year, we’re excited to announce the election of four new members to our board of directors. During our December 2020 board meeting, Allison Howard, Aster Teclay, Jim Gibbs, and Mara Leff were appointed to the Ascender board. These appointments increase our board of directors to 11.

“Connectivity and a strong network of innovators are the bedrock of the Ascender community,” said Bobby Zappala, interim chair of the board. “With the appointments of Allison, Aster, Jim, and Mara, we’ve succeeded in pulling in the right folks at the right time to meaningfully support entrepreneurs on their…

Pittsburgh Startup Community Gift Guide
Pittsburgh Startup Community Gift Guide

Supporting local entrepreneurs is what we do all year long, so it’s no surprise that we love to focus on local startups when it comes to our holiday gift-giving. The team at Ascender has handpicked unique gifts for everyone on your list from local companies affiliated with our entrepreneurial programming. All the companies featured on this list are fresh, local, and growing bigger than ever with Ascender’s support.

Real Talk: A casual, honest conversation with Pittsburgh-based startup investor Will Allen.

Will Allen, Co-Founder of Nascent Group Holdings and Founder of the Will Allen Foundation.

Will Allen’s 12-year career in the NFL continues to shape his strategy for investing in startups and informs what he admires in entrepreneurs. As Co-Founder of Nascent Group Holdings, Will has been an active investor for the past seven years and oversees investments in the tech and real estate sectors. But he’s been training for this role since he was eight—fighting adversity, persevering, not getting cut from a roster— these lessons have molded him into the person he is today and influence the relationships he fosters with startup founders.

“I’m not trying to change anybody . . . people change…

Free online business resources recommended by Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

To make the most of the resources in this post, you’ll want to grab your library card or apply for one online. The links below will help you:

Taking your idea from spark to business is a huge task, and the right preparation can make sure that yours is one of the sparks that will succeed. While advisors, consultants, and business incubators can…

We’ve been hard at work. Check out what Ascender’s been up to.

Pittsburgh’s Community for Entrepreneurs

So much has changed since Ascender was founded, and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished. Our mission has always been to help entrepreneurs succeed, and we’ll continue to invest in this goal. To date, more than $7 million has been raised to support startups, 200 founders have participated in our Bootcamp program, and over 80 companies have grown through our Incubation program. The companies we partner with are diverse, representing more than 15 industries, with 50% founded by entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups.

To remain ahead of the curve, we continue to update, evolve, and expand our values, images, and programming.

Brand refresh


Ascender is a vibrant hub with educational programs, mentorship, expert coaching, incubation and a collaborative coworking space that helps drive innovation.

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