Interview with Jim Jen of Innovation Works’ AlphaLab Accelerator Programs

“To build a successful accelerator program, it is important to havejen_resized a strong network that includes investors, mentors, and corporate partners.” — Jim Jen

Jim Jen, Executive Director of Innovation Works’ AlphaLab accelerator programs, shares his insight on how Innovation Works developed their two accelerator programs to take companies from early stages — whether an idea or initial product — and get them to where they can launch a working product, achieve customer traction and raise funding for growth.

The conversation starts with Jim discussing the importance of building an accelerator program that fits within the ecosystem of the city or region that it serves. During the conversation, he shares with listeners the selection process of startups for both AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear (hardware, robotics, and physical products accelerator). Jim also stresses the importance of a strong network that includes corporate partners and alumni to the successful transition of startups from the AlphaLab programs to a growing tech company.

Jim concludes the conversation by sharing his thoughts on how economic development organizations can build a successful accelerator program:

  • First, if your organization is considering an accelerator program, you should take a “step back” to understand what other regions and accelerators are doing, to think about your own region and its strengths, and to be very clear about what stage company you are targeting and how the program will help them.
  • Second, building a network to support the accelerator program includes building a corporate community that can act as mentors or early customers for participating startups.

About Innovation Works’ AlphaLab Accelerator Programs

innovationworks2Launched in 2008, AlphaLab is an industry-leading startup accelerator developed and managed by Innovation Works, a technology-based economic development organization and the seventh-most-active early stage investor in the United States. The program provides companies with a $25,000 investment as well as access to AlphaLab’s extensive mentor network and free and discounted professional services. In 2013, Innovation Works launched AlphaLab Gear, a hardware and robotics accelerator that provides up to $50,000 investment and specific expertise in design, manufacturing and supply chain for physical product companies. Combined, AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear have funded 100 startups that are among the fastest growing in the Pittsburgh region, attracting almost $100 million in follow on funding and creating several hundred high-skilled jobs throughout the Pittsburgh region. Learn more…

About the Excellence in TBED awards

The SSTI Excellence in TBED awards recognize exceptional achievement in addressing elements that have been found in successful tech-based economies. These include a research base that generates new knowledge, mechanisms for transferring knowledge into the marketplace, an entrepreneurial culture, sources of risk capital, and a technically skilled workforce. For more information visit:

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