Pittsburgh Startups: Reimagining Shoes, Car Buying, Insurance, and Waiting in Lines

Posted on August 24, 2012 by casepops | 3 Comments

In case you couldn't tell, we're a startup based in Pittsburgh. We've called the area home, and are excited to launch our our business in a town that has fostered the launch of many other great startups! Though, typically, most people single out places like Silicon Valley or New York as places to launch startups, Pittsburgh and its awesome environment just seem to breed entrepreneurship and innovative ideas! In fact, it's been named the "Best City to Relocate To" by CNBC! The startup scene is growing and growing too, thanks in large part to Carnegie Mellon and its renowned entrepreneurship program.

“We have every bit as good a program as Stanford and Berkeley and MIT does, we just happen to be in a different place,” he added. “What we teach is cutting edge stuff.” - Art Boni, Carnegie Mellon University

We've been fortunate enough to become acquainted with some of the area's other great up and coming startups, all of which have gone through Alpha Lab, Pittsburgh's hot incubator program.


Everyone shops online now, right? Even though "old folks" would cringe, many people even buy shoes online without trying them on! Well, quit your cringing, because Shoefitr is going to revolutionize the way we all buy shoes online. Shoe brands are like hamburgers. They're all generally the same shape as each other, and serve the same function. But, the devil is in the details.  Hamburgers taste different at every restaurant and no, we're not suggesting buying your shoes with a side of mayo!  The correlation is, a Size 9 New Balance might seem the same as a Size 9 Asics, but on most occasions the two actually fit quite differently.  Shoefitr scans the internal geometry of every shoe and uses this information to suggest what size to buy.  They compare this information to your current pair of shoes, which assures the customer a perfect fit.

Shoefitr LogoShoefitr sizing differences via casepops

Shoefitr has found success in the market by proving that it can reduce the number of returns to online shoe retailers. Large retailers like The Athlete's Foot and Brooks Running are already on board with Shoefitr, and the future is only looking brighter for this innovative Pittsburgh startup. When asked about starting a company in Pittsburgh, Shoefitr's founder had nothing but praise for the city:

There's a very supportive atmosphere in Pittsburgh. Everyone we meet is willing to help us and give us advice. You don't find that in other cities. We can also afford to operate here on a much lower budget, which is making our job a lot easier." -Matt Wilkinson, Shoefitr

So, next time you're looking to buy shoes online, look for Shoefitr on the website. It might save you from making that annoying return!

Insurance Zebra

Car insurance. Complicated and annoying, right? Not if Insurance Zebra has anything to do about it! As they say on the Insurance Zebra blog, "Most people’s excitement level when buying car insurance is somewhere between shopping for floor tile and tooth fillings.  It’s just not that exciting." By making shopping for car insurance simple, streamlined, and easy to understand, Insurance Zebra is making the process less painful.

But how? How can shopping for something you don't even want to buy even be remotely fun? Insurance Zebra at least makes is bearable by only requiring ZIP code and car type on their home screen. With that information, they draw up data on the best insurance provider for you in the area.

[caption id="attachment_940" align="aligncenter" width="713"]Insurance Zebra Startup Pittsburgh via Casepops The site is so simple to use, it's scary![/caption]

"When you call us, real people answer the phone. Imagine that...Try getting that type of service from a giant insurance carrier."

This Pittsburgh startup clearly has its users in mind. Focusing on providing a service, they've made it easy to get in touch and speak with a real human being.


We wouldn't need that car insurance help if the guys at Autoref weren't so good at helping us buy cars! But, alas, this Pittsburgh startup is making used car buying easier too! Great customer service? Check. Simple, easy to use website? Check. Free to use? Check! Following its mission, Autoref seems to check all the right boxes when it comes to providing a valuable new service:

"We believe the entire process of shopping for a car should be easy, fast and enjoyable. We built this service because we think there is a better way."



The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that what sets Autoref apart from other sites is that it puts the entire negotiation process online. By letting shoppers negotiate online with local dealerships and "save" cars to a virtual garage, the site helps provide dealerships with a sense of security that neither party is wasting their time, by guaranteeing offers. Buyers can save time and avoid the possibility of feeling ripped off, while dealers can avoid feeling as if they've spent too much time making a sale. Everyone wins, and that's always good!

So far, what do all these Pittsburgh startups seem to have in common? Oh yeah, a focus on the consumer! Imagine that, someone's actually looking out for what consumers want, and providing innovative solutions to very obvious shortcomings in our current society!


You know what might be worse than shopping for car insurance? Waiting in line! Especially when it's for your favorite restaurant, waiting in line can really put a damper on your excitement. Good thing NoWait has a solution to the boring, tedious restaurant wait. It's quick pitch?

"The restaurant wait list that replaces pagers and eliminates lines."

The genius of this Pittsburgh startup, again, is in the simplicity. Using the app, restaurant managers can notify patrons of exactly when their table is ready through text message. Instead of forcing customers to wait around close to the hostess stand, or to hold some clunky, dirty old buzzing pager, NoWait makes use of the technology we all have in our hands already - smart phones.


As Veena Bissram explains on Mashable, "NoWait is primarily geared towards casual dining restaurants that don’t accept reservations, such as Red Robin, T.G.I. Friday’s and Texas Roadhouse. The app syncs with the iPad, iPhone and iPod so that managers, servers and other hosts can receive updates on their devices in real-time." For these restaurants that don't take reservations, the app serves as an invaluable tool, giving the hungry customer the freedom to go shopping next door or have drinks at the bar, instead of being tied to the front door, pager in hand, waiting for space to free up. Sounds good to us!

At Casepops, we're happy to be a part of this great list of Pittsburgh startups. There's an awesome community of innovation here, and we hope we can contribute our part down the line with our product launch!

Posted in alpha lab, autoref, insurance zebra, nowaitapp, pittsburgh, shoefitr, startup, technology, Technology, Tips for Startups

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3 Responses


October 01, 2012

Thanks for the information you shared.I’m looking for a good insurance company provider for my new car.I’ll check that Insurance zebra that you mentioned here.


August 24, 2012

Thanks again for the shout out Gabe and Brit. We’re so happy to see articles like this about all these awesome Pittsburgh startups!


August 24, 2012

You got it, Mike! Glad to get the word out!

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