Direct Mentorship/Support

In addition to a $5,000 investment, our team will create a tailored, benchmarked strategy to move your business forward.

Dedicated Workspace

Your startup gains 24/7 access to dedicated workspace in a first-class collaborative environment.

Strategic Partnerships

You’ll get access to industry leaders who have partnered with Ascender to refine your business model, test your product/service and connect to potential follow-on funding sources.

Growth Resources

As your company grows, you’ll gain access to legal, accounting, prototyping (TechShop) and other professional and business services.

Tailored Programming

We will curate high quality programming designed specifically for your team’s needs.


Our incubator program has helped launch dozens of companies since 2013. Join the ranks of some of the brightest entrepreneurs in the region. View


What type of business should apply?

Ascender works with startups across a broad range of industries, including software (SaaS, mobile applications, enterprises, B2B and B2C), hardware (manufacturing, devices, wearables, etc), social ventures, healthcare technologies, educational technologies, even non-profit organizations.

We don’t limit the definition of entrepreneurship to startups seeking venture capital. While we certainly work with these “hockey stick growth” businesses, we also support and foster the growth of entrepreneurial enterprises that may never need to raise funding, including small family-owned business models, local impact models, local retail businesses, and others.

How is Ascender able to accelerate such a broad range of entrepreneurs?

Our team doesn’t claim to have expertise in every industry. However, at an early stage, startups of all shapes and sizes will face similar challenges, and our team is very experienced in navigating those challenges.

Once we’ve worked with you to develop a working business model and a plan of attack, we leverage strategic partnerships with industry leaders in the region to accelerate your growth.

Do I need a full team in order to apply to Ascender?

Though not set in stone, we like to see teams as opposed to individuals. Though an individual is capable of making significant progress, our experience shows that a team is much less likely to get “stuck” and much more likely to discover creative solutions to problems than a one-person startup.

Moreover, we strongly prefer startups with the technical aptitude to build the core business assets. For example, if your company is web-based, someone on your team must have the technical knowledge to build the necessary front and back end platforms.

We completed our submission. What happens next?

After submitting your company plan, someone from our team will reach out to you to get any unresolved questions answered, provide you with feedback and set your expectations appropriately about what comes next.

How does Ascender connect us to mentors and advisors?

Rather than inundate each startup with “too many voices” at the beginning of the process, our team will work with our network of mentors, advisors and industry experts to better guide your progress. Once your startup clears certain determined benchmarks, we’ll connect you directly to the appropriate mentors and advisors.

When do we have to leave the incubator?

Our program has no predetermined end date. If your startup continues to meet its benchmarked targets, you’ll continue to have a dedicated workspace.



The world’s first impact investing fund coupled with a research-based social innovation challenge. The goal is to support purpose-driven innovation by investing in companies working on a set of key social challenges. UpPrize was created through a unique partnership between BNY Mellon, the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and The Forbes Funds.
Partner Website:

Remake Learning

A resource for people, organizations, and ideas shaping the future of teaching and learning in the greater Pittsburgh region.
Partner Website:

Innovation Institute

The Innovation Institute provides a comprehensive suite of services for Pitt Innovators, from protecting intellectual property to the commercialization of new discoveries through licensing and/or new enterprise development. The Institute also provides a wealth of educational programming, mentoring and networking for Pitt faculty, students and partners. Through the affiliated Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, the Innovation Institute also assists entrepreneurs throughout Western Pennsylvania in starting, growing or transitioning their businesses.
Partner Website:

Sprout Fund

Led by The Sprout Fund, Ed-Tech Refinery offers a suite of services to transform local learning innovations into new ventures and better connect education technology enterprises to the Remake Learning Network, a professional network of educators and innovators in the greater Pittsburgh area. Through the Refinery, selected ventures will access free services including: user testing, curriculum design and teacher training.
Partner Website:

Tech Shop

A community-based workshop and prototyping studio on a mission to democratize access to the tools of innovation, offering the Pittsburgh maker community more than 16,000 square feet of workshops equipped with world class tools and equipment, computers loaded with design software featuring the Autodesk Design Suite, hundreds of classes each month, and the support and camaraderie of a community of like-minded makers.
Partner Website:

UPMC Enterprises

The commercialization arm of UPMC. Through this division, the company invests their financial and intellectual capital into developing solutions that benefit not only UPMC, but the wider health care industry. As a leading academic medical center, they use the strength of their clinical, technical, and business resources to identify and solve complex issues through novel approaches, and then turn these innovative ideas into thriving companies. Partners of UPMC Enterprises gain access to research capabilities, clinical insights, operational expertise, and the people.
Partner Website: