Pitt Student Startup to Present at Congress

By Lauren Rosenblatt

Two Pitt alumni and one Pitt professor will travel to the nation’s capital next month to present their startup company, HiberSense, to Congress in the first-ever University Startups Demo Day.

The startup was chosen to participate as one of 35 companies in the Demo Day, an event in Washington, D.C., for universities and their communities to showcase the entrepreneurial work of their students and faculty. The National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer, an association of university startup officers, is sponsoring the Sept. 20 event which 200 companies applied to attend.

Jacob Kring and Brendan Quay, both Pitt alums in the electrical computer engineering program, and Daniel Mosse, a professor in the computer science department, created HiberSense in the spring of 2015. The company’s cornerstone is technology that uses sensors and automated vents to keep a room at a comfortable temperature, saving money and energy along the way, Quay said.

The technology has three parts: sensors that monitor the temperature and the movement of people in a certain space, a web application where a user can give the company feedback on how they are feeling temperature-wise and a central machine that automatically opens and closes air vents.

“There are people in the same cubicle or on the same floor where one is hot and one is cold basically all of the time. We are able to come to a compromise for them and make them both equally comfortable,” Quay said.

Pitt’s Innovation Institute nominated HiberSense for the Demo Day along with three other projects, according to Greg Coticchia, an adjunct professor in the business school and the director of Blast Furnace, a student startup accelerator from Pitt’s Innovation Institute.

According to Coticchia, Blast Furnace has worked with about 150 students since it began in 2015. In that time, participating students and faculty created 40 companies, and a third of them went on to receive funding for their work.

The HiberSense project started in the spring of 2015 when Mosse approached the two students about helping with his idea. Quay joked the inspiration came from Mosse’s never-ending battle with his daughter to find a comfortable temperature for both of them.

The team became an officially incorporated company in December 2015. From there, they participated in the first Blast Furnace.

Now, they are a part of the PGH Lab, an initiative from the city of Pittsburgh to improve the city with technology. Through this, they are piloting their technology on one floor of the Urban Redevelopment Authority headquarters downtown. Once that ends in October, Quay said they hope to enter more competitions, including the Thrival Fair and Maker Faire, and continue to grow their customer base.

Right now, they are looking at using HiberSense in both offices and homes and are working to find a type of vent that is compatible in both types of buildings. Quay said they currently have units in about eight houses.

They are also hoping to refine their sensors to get better quality data and make sure there’s no data lost. Their main focus, he said, is to “nail” their current pilot program and do the same for any future programs they hope to get.
“This is our full time job. This is our life project,” he said.

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