Coordinator, AlphaLab Gear
Leah runs the AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup, an international pitch competition for early-stage hardware startups. She leads the outreach, marketing, and event management efforts for the US regional competitions, connecting entrepreneurs, angels, VCs, and the startup community across the nation. She also provides support to partners holding Hardware Cup events around the world, including partners in Israel, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and India.
Additionally, she manages marketing for the AlphaLab Gear program, which includes everything from traveling to meet startups around the US to creating and implementing a social media strategy to planning collaborative events in the AlphaLab Gear space.
Leah brings a wide range of marketing, management and event planning skills to the accelerator programs. Prior to joining Innovation Works, she worked with the Forbes Funds on the UpPrize social innovation challenge in Pittsburgh. Her varied background also includes leading marketing and sales for the Santiago, Chile branch of COINED Spanish language school, launching and managing a market in Nantucket, and managing marketing and event efforts for a restaurant group in Washington, DC. She holds a BA in Public Communication & Spanish from American University.
My career has been built on figuring out how to do things, and then doing them. Right out of college, when I was coordinating the marketing efforts of a successful restaurant group in DC, my boss sat me down and asked if I wanted to be part of a new venture. They were gutting a small building on the west end of the island of Nantucket, and creating a beach market. Would I be interested in figuring out the store layout, what merchandise and food to sell, connecting to purveyors, setting the pricing system, hiring and training staff, and managing the day-to-day operations of the market?
Though I had no experience doing, well, any of those things, I accepted the position, and the market ended up being a huge success. The initial estimate was that we’d only need a few employees to run the market, but we ended the season with 20 employees and about $500k in sales. And while it was one of the most challenging projects I’ve undertaken, it’s also the one that’s given me the confidence to say yes to even larger and more ambitious projects.
I bring this can-do attitude to everything I do, and it’s a large part of how I landed the coolest job in the the world. I get to spend half of my year promoting and supporting the work of startups at our hardware accelerator, and the other half of the year traveling the US to find and highlight the best and brightest new physical product startups in the nation for the AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup. We celebrate the founders brave enough to take a path that can be extremely difficult and isolating, and we give them a stage to get the word out about their company, an audience of supporters and investors, and some pretty great prizes along the way. We’ve seen some really beautiful things come out of it, from investors in the audience putting their money into presenting companies, to startups finding new customers among our event attendees, to founders who have followed each other from afar finally getting to connect in person.
The best part of what I do is that is that nothing is set in stone. We are constantly updating and iterating on our competition and our programming to do what will benefit the startup community the most. I get to work not only with new and seasoned entrepreneurs, but with those who run the programs that support them, the corporate partners who become important clients, and the VCs who take a chance on them.
As a Pittsburgh boomeranger who spent 5 years in DC and 4 years in South America before returning to the land of Steelers and pierogies, I bring a fresh perspective to a community that I care deeply about. When I’m not organizing events and crafting emails, I’m eating pasta, brushing up on my Chilean Spanish, and trying to do yoga. It’s about balance, right?