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Pittsburgh startup develops app for women business travelers

| Thursday, May 25, 2017, 4:09 p.m.
The women behind the mobile app Amelia are, from left, Sanjana Baldwa, Ellen Saksen and Kate Nichols.
Haggerty Media
The women behind the mobile app Amelia are, from left, Sanjana Baldwa, Ellen Saksen and Kate Nichols.

A Pittsburgh startup is developing a mobile application to connect women who are traveling on business.

“They won't have to settle for loneliness. They won't have to settle for crappy room service. They won't have to settle for feeling unsafe,” said Ellen Saksen, CEO and co-founder of GoJaneGo.co and its app, Amelia .

The app was one of a dozen startups featured this week at AlphaLab's 2017 Demo Day in Munhall. AlphaLab describes the venture as a “business woman's insurance against safety issues and burnout on the road,” noting that 50 million American women make about 200 million business trips a year.

Saksen, 42, of Marshall is partnering in the venture with her sister Kate Nichols, 36, of Morgantown, W.Va., and app designer Sanjana Baldwa, 22, of Boston, a Carnegie Mellon University graduate.

All three are accustomed to the tribulations that businesswomen face on the road. Saksen recalled a business trip that her sister took in which Nichols stayed in a hotel in New York's Meatpacking District and wanted to go for a run just before dusk.

“She didn't feel safe, and I remember her telling me how frustrated and irritated she felt,” Saksen said. “A strong, accomplished woman didn't feel safe going out in the dark alone.”

With the app, Nichols might have been able to connect with other women business travelers in the area who wanted to join her on a run.

A pilot of the Amelia app — inspired by aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart — connects women on business trips through mutual LinkedIn connections and interests. It will run through the fall before officially launching, said Saksen, who is selling the concept to companies.

“I think the app is a brilliant idea,” said Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis, herself a frequent business traveler.

Cassotis, who has met with the developers, said the app “caters to an important, underutilized market segment — professional women traveling for business.”

Cassotis think the app could benefit more than just women who are traveling on business.

“I think there's a place where airports can benefit from that,” Cassotis said. “There could be a place where these women can meet and network (at the airport) rather than waiting at the gate by themselves.”

Emma Curtis is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7822, ecurtis@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @EmmaCurtisPGH.

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