The Blast Furnace is the University of Pittsburgh student accelerator that provides student entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills they need to commercialize their ideas. The program gives students of all levels from anywhere in the University access to a deep mentor network, co-working space, and a hands-on, experiential curriculum.

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Upon completion, students are ready to launch their business, raise funding, or apply to accelerators such as AlphaLab, AlphaLab Gear, Ascender (formerly Thrill Mill) and IdeaFoundry. The Blast Furnace was created by the University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute for Pitt students at all levels who have a desire to be entrepreneurial, create new products, services or businesses and receive hands-on learning on how to accomplish these dreams.

How to Participate

  • All levels of University of Pittsburgh students with a big idea or an entrepreneurial dream should apply.
  • Student teams that compete successfully in the University’s pitch competitions will be invited to participate without application


The Blast Furnace provides education in innovation and entrepreneurship based on the “Lean Launchpad” business model curriculum designed to move students through the initial stage of customer discovery and validation.

It’s all about “getting out of the building” where Blast Furnace teams learn from talking to industry leaders, customers, partners, competitors and fellow entrepreneurs.



  • Nine (9) week commitment with two sessions per week:
  • Access to a deep bench of experienced mentors
  • The last session of each cohort is Demo Day, where the student teams pitch their idea to a panel of VIP’s from Pittsburgh’s local startup scene and take their best shot at winning the coveted Blast Furnace Cup.


In the News:

Hooked on Aquaponics, University of Pittsburgh Environmental Engineering Student Club Wins $35,000 and a Ford Connect Transit Van to build their vision of a 21st Century Food System, Pitt SSOE Communications, December 2017

Blast Furnace Alum leading University of Alabama at Birmingham accelerator, Pittsburgh Business Times, August 2017

Mowing Down Obstacles, Innovation Institute Blog, September 2017

Pregnancy-focused startup wins $2,500 at Blast Furnace Demo Day, Pittsburgh Post Gazette,  June 2017

Online Service Aiming to Match Moms-to-Be With Doulas Wins Student Pitch Competition, Pitt News, July 2017

Getting Oxygen To Babies In Developing Countries Is Difficult. A Bicycle Could Soon Change That  90.5 WESA, July 2017

Aeronics and uTranslated among nation’s top student startups, Pittsburgh Business Times, April 2017

Pitt Student Startup to Present at Congress, The Pitt News, August 2016


By participating in the Blast Furnace, you will learn what it takes to be an entrepreneur, regardless of whether you choose to move forward with your initial idea. Over one-third of our participants choose to incorporate their business and/or successfully apply to local or national accelerators.


What Participants Are Saying

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