| Business

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Business incubator AlphaLab shows off fledgling Western Pennsylvania firms

Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review - Dimitry Bentsionov (left) and Matthew Pegula cofounded tech startup company WorkShirt Inc.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jasmine Goldband  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Dimitry Bentsionov (left) and Matthew Pegula cofounded tech startup company WorkShirt Inc.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review - Matthew Pegula presents his tech startup company, WorkShirt Inc., during the AlphaLab Demo Day in the Strip District.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jasmine Goldband  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Matthew Pegula presents his tech startup company, WorkShirt Inc., during the AlphaLab Demo Day in the Strip District.

Email Newsletters

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.

On the Grid

From the shale fields to the cooling towers, Trib Total Media covers the energy industry in Western Pennsylvania and beyond. For the latest news and views on gas, coal, electricity and more, check out On the Grid today.

AlphaLab's latest companies

In addition to Workshirt Inc., these companies spent the last 20 weeks at AlphaLab:

• PoweredAnalytics, makes it easy for data scientists to optimize products and processes. CEO: Collin Otis

• Woo with Style, a mobile website that helps men who don't know what looks good on them. CEO: Angela Lynn

• Meaningfy, provides on-demand market intelligence services to sales and marketing people. CEO: Andre Lessa

• SolePower, makes a power-generating shoe insole to capture energy from walking and convert it to usable power. CEO: Matt Stanton.

• NetBeez, makes a network-monitoring tool that verifies the impact on users of configuration changes. CEO: Stefano Gridelli

• Digital Dream Labs, makes a platform where children play games while learning logic, math and chemistry. CEO: Matt Stewart.

By John D. Oravecz
Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 12:06 a.m.

Matthew Pegula had a dream job, working as the director of technology at a major Pittsburgh tech company.

“The only way I would leave that job would be to do my own thing, which I did,” said Pegula, who with a friend, Dimitry Bentsionov, co-founded tech startup WorkShirt Inc.

The two entrepreneurs and the founders of six other early-stage companies received $25,000 from AlphaLab — an “accelerator” that helps startups — and spent the last four months trying to establish some of the region's newest tech companies.

Each one spoke on Wednesday at AlphaLab's 10th annual Demo Day, pitching their accomplishments to about 500 fans from Pittsburgh's entrepreneurial community and to venture capitalists who might be interested in providing more backing.

“These companies typically are at the earliest stages of growth,” said Rich Lunak, CEO of Innovation Works, a government-funded nonprofit that invests in startups and started AlphaLab in 2008.

“After 20 weeks of intensive assistance and mentoring, many have gone on to grow into profitable businesses, attract follow-on funding, hire talent from the region, grow their customer base and launch additional products,” Lunak said.

Typically, about 80 percent of AlphaLab's graduating companies attract further funding, said Jim Jen, AlphaLab's manager.

Pegula, 33, and Bentsionov, 27, started their AlphaLab experience with one product — an iPhone app call HitchedPic. Then they founded another — a website named Photailor — that they consider a bigger opportunity.

AlphaLab's mentors helped them see a broader strategy that they call “demand-driven photography.”

“While HitchedPic is probably the best photo-sharing app out there for wedding photos, we see Photailor as the star of the show at the moment,” said Pegula, who left Strip District-based Deeplocal Inc. to start WorkShirt.

HitchedPic allows a bride and groom to collect photos and videos from their wedding experience. “It dominates life for months, and HitchedPic documents the whole thing, the entire wedding journey,” Pegula said. Friends and relatives upload their photos and share full access.

HitchedPic started as a paid site, at $49 for one year, but switched to a free model as Pegula and Bentsionov moved to increase usage.

But a problem with all those wedding photos, Pegula said, is that many are similar, like the bride and groom walking down the aisle from different angles. So HitchedPic made a registry — like a gift registry — where the couple asks for certain photos.

“We started to get the feeling that there was a greater opportunity out there,” Pegula said.

The result was — which could “turn millions around the world with cameras into paid photographers.”

Its target market is “stock photography” used by advertisers, graphic artists and publishers to illustrate print and online content.

“The stock photo market as it exists now is a multibillion-dollar industry,” Pegula said. But stock photograhy can be “boring,” and the trend is toward genuine content, “what people see in real life,” rather than airbrushed photos, he said.

At, publishers ask for specific “real” photos and offer to pay. “Stock photography is ripe for a bit of a shakeup, and today, smartphone cameras can take high enough quality photos,” Pegula said.

He and Bentsionov said they can compete with stock photograhy companies like Getty, Corbis and Shutterstock, supplying photos that fit the real-life trend they think is there.

Publishers pay $3.99 to post a request. An order posted on Tuesday, for example, offered $15 for a photo of a FedEx truck “parked on a street on a business district.” Photographers whose work is selected get the $15 deposited directly to their bank account.

Pegula grew up in Plum and graduated from Allegheny College, and Bentsionov grew up in the North Hills and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. They describe themselves as design-oriented software engineers.

John D. Oravecz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7882 or

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Business Headlines

  1. Stocks shake off Middle East tensions, drop in consumer confidence
  2. Powder metals fabricator Atlas Pressed Metals diversifies appeal to customers
  3. Existing-home sales fall 3.4% in October
  4. Hedge fund Elliott Management grabs 6.4 percent stake in Alcoa
  5. Collectors willing to overpay for silver, value ‘all in the eye of the beholder’
  6. Ford to quit using Takata air bag inflators
  7. Pfizer acquires Allergan in $160B deal
  8. Stock markets finish with minor losses
  9. Not all in support of UAW contracts
  10. Kmart brings back the Bluelight Special
  11. Self-driving cars met with rule hurdles