How Apps Empower Users to Weigh Their COVID-19 Risk

How Apps Empower Users to Weigh Their COVID-19 Risk

When you venture out for the day, you check your weather app to see if storms are on the way. If there’s a storm system moving through, you bring an umbrella or raincoat, just to play it safe. The forecast helps you plan for the day, anticipating problems that might come your way.

NOVID, developed by Carnegie Mellon University professor of mathematics and Expii founder Po-Shen Loh, applies the same principle to the probability of encountering COVID-19. Users can see, in real-time, the immediate threat of COVID-19 in their circles monitored by degrees, in the style of “six degrees of Kevin Bacon,” Loh joked.

Because NOVID helps pre-detect risk, opening the free app is less about telling someone they already have COVID and more about informing someone of their risk of contracting it so they can make better decisions about how to avoid it. Loh hopes the experience can give back some autonomy to users when it comes to understanding how the disease spreads and the risks associated with their choices.

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IRL to URL: How Pittsburgh Organizations Are Adapting Events in the Age of Social Distancing

IRL to URL How Pittsburgh Organizations Are Adapting Events in the Age of Social Distancing

By now, we’re all familiar with the Zoom conference call, board game night, or networking event. But for Pittsburgh organizations with big events on the horizon, a webcam alone isn’t going to cut it. As online interactions become the norm, organizations are quickly shifting plans to recreate some of the magic of in-person gatherings online.

StartNow spoke to two organizations about how they’re replicating live events online with the help of technology, the local community, and an engaged audience.

“I’m over the Zoom happy hours,” joked Day Bracey, co-founder of the Fresh Fest Beer Fest, America’s only Black beer festival. With the festivities moved online, Fresh Fest Digi Fest will stream and share over 54 hours of content for festival attendees in a single day.

From noon to 9 p.m. on August 8, programming will be streamed across six different online channels, each uniquely themed and plotted out over the festival’s app. Programs include lectures, interviews, and live DJ sets and art. Other channels will feature pre-recorded content from local chefs cooking up recipes using beer.

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How Tea Made in a Small-Town VFW Is Helping Rebuild Haiti’s Forests

How Tea Made in a Small-Town VFW Is Helping Rebuild Haiti’s Forests

Mark Sotomayor won’t get to walk at commencement this week, but it’s fair to say the Grove City College senior is a few steps ahead of most of his classmates when it comes to a post-college career.

Sotomayor is the CEO and founder of Treecup Tea, a small-batch tea company based in Evans City, a small town roughly 30 miles north of Pittsburgh.

“The two main things, flavor-wise, that set us apart are unique global flavors as well as healthy, low-calorie brews,” he said in a phone interview.

Founded in 2017, while Sotomayor was a sophomore, Treecup’s motto is “buy a tea, plant a tree” — for every bottle of tea that is sold, Treecup plants one tree in Haiti’s deforested Artibonite Valley.

Sotomayor, an entrepreneurship major, said he was drawn to social entrepreneurship both as a way to differentiate the brand in the marketplace and as a way to motivate himself beyond the pursuit of profit.

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How to Hire the Right Candidate. There are lots of options. That’s good – and bad – for startups

How to Hire the Right Candidate. There are lots of options. That’s good - and bad - for startups

Team development is everything in the beginning. If a startup doesn’t staff wisely, the ship can quickly flounder. But finding a great hire is no easy task in a saturated job market, especially when the perfect candidate might not be looking for a job. Despite a vast sea of online job boards, tools, and applicant tracking systems, hiring remains a struggle.

Think of a superhero movie. The mission is just too daunting for the protagonist alone. The hero will search through their directory of fellow superheroes, rebels, and those with complementary skill sets. As the team is assembled, it becomes clear that some recruits are already engrossed with other work, see too much risk in the proposed job, or have unsettled business with one of the team’s members.

Something that a successful protagonist never does is settle.

The team is going to assist in developing a vision, reaching goals, and even setting limits. That’s why it is so important to reach for the best. In the early stages, a startup will likely begin with active recruitment — the process of attracting prospects that often are not seeking work. If the vision of the startup is strong, shows promise, and inspires the prospect, they might be unable to resist the temptation of an intoxicating new career journey.

“When you’re a startup, you’re not going to be able to compete from a compensation perspective with Amazon and Google, or the other big banks. So you can’t lead with that package,” said Craig Markovitz, an entrepreneur and assistant teaching professor of entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. “What you can offer people is an opportunity to really make a contribution to see the results of their labor and commitment — and that’s really the kind of person that you want.”

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Pittsburgh Startup Bets Pop-up Childcare Can Transform the Workplace

Pittsburgh Startup Bets Pop-up Childcare Can Transform the Workplace

Flexable aims to help employers accommodate workers with kids.

As any parent knows, finding suitable childcare is a drain on your time — and your bank account.

But one Pittsburgh-based startup is looking to alleviate some of the worries associated with finding someone to watch your kid when the nanny’s car breaks down or off-site daycare closes.

Pittsburgh-based Flexable is a B-to-B service that sets up flexible childcare at workplaces, networking events, and conferences, working with employers to provide on-site childcare to their employees.

“Childcare has always been something traditionally in American culture that rests primarily on the parents themselves,” said Priya Amin, one of Flexable’s co-founders. “So this is something that is new to a lot of organizations, to see themselves as being part of the solution.”

Employers offering on-site daycare isn’t new — a few well-known companies like Campbell’s, Patagonia, and Nike have been offering similar services for years — but the trend is growing. Early studies show that having childcare in the workplace improves employee performance and can significantly boost retention rates. Plus, parents won’t lose a day of work due to a school closure or because their au pair falls ill.

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