Colman M. Wolfson
Senior Program Manager, AlphaLab Gear
Cole is a founder and co-owner of Petagogy, a brick-and-mortar natural pet retail chain, where he led consumer marketing efforts, managed distribution channels, and handled all financial modeling, projections and accounting functions. He has bootstrapped Petagogy from nothing to a three-store operation that is regularly voted the top pet retail brand in the region by a number of media outlets. Prior to joining AlphaLab Gear, Cole was the Business Developer Manager for Innovation Works, where he raised funding from companies, foundations and other sources. Prior to that, Cole worked in business development for an international development non-profit. Cole has an MBA from the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Maryland.
I am the Senior Program Manager at AlphaLab Gear, and that means I get to spend my days (and many evenings) working with and supporting some of the coolest early-stage physical product companies you’d ever hope to meet. I provide business support and advice, develop our programming and keep the companies moving through it, and set the tone in our physical space, making sure it’s casual but respectful, laid-back but professional.
In my spare time, I am owner/operator, along with my wife, of a small chain of brick and mortar natural pet supply stores, Petagogy. We bootstrapped our first store from nothing, slowly building a customer base and revenues. After a few years of growth (and paying down debt), we opened our second. Now we’re gearing up for number three. Every year since we’ve opened we’ve been voted the top pet retail brand in the region by a number of media outlets. Running a public-facing business is, in my mind, some of the best possible experience for running an accelerator. It requires an ability to adapt to new circumstances, a willingness to do whatever needs doing, humbleness in dealing with your customers (whether pet parents or startups), and a desire to see businesses (your own and others’) succeed and grow. Plus, sometimes I get to pilot slick new technologies in my stores.
Twenty-year-old me would be surprised where I’ve ended up. I started with a degree in Anthropology from the University of Maryland, and went to work in international development. Something terrible would happen somewhere in the world, the federal government would put out an RFP, then my organization would send me there to figure out an intervention and develop a response. I was good at this, raising tens of millions of dollars and thousands of metric tons of food aid relief.
But I missed my beloved Pittsburgh and used the excuse of getting an MBA as a means to get back here. Two or so years later, MBA from the University of Pittsburgh in hand, I ended up at Innovation Works, where I used my skills in funding procurement to help grow IW’s budget. As I got more enmeshed in Pittsburgh’s startup scene, I started my own business (the aforementioned pet empire) and became a fixture at AlphaLab Gear. When the opportunity came to move over to Gear full-time, I jumped.
Despite working in the tech sector, I am a Luddite at heart: I am a collector of jazz records and ephemera from the 50’s and 60’s. When I’m not digging through record bins or standing in line at estate sales, I like to spend time with my wonderful wife, two young kids and two small dogs.