This article originally appeared in The Tribune Democrat.
Problem Solutions, a software and technology firm that also works to support and launch local and national startup companies, is one of 50 companies Google selected for the tech giant’s “Patent Starter” program, part of its stated plans to promote innovation within Google and throughout the larger technology space.
“It’s a great opportunity for a small business with a small R&D budget to have access to world-class intellectual property,” Problem Solutions President and CEO Mike Hruska said. “This is IP that has been created or acquired by Google, and they now want to see small businesses use it to innovate. This is their way of putting those ideas back into the wild.”
Problem Solutions obtained licenses for six patents through the program to develop and commercialize – and at least one of them will power a new startup, Hruska said.
“We are working on it right now, evaluating our current product development efforts for it and also looking at other adjacent markets we could go into,” he said.
The new projects build on the company’s efforts in the past year to create more startups. In 2015, Problem Solutions itself grew by about 50 percent and also launched two spinoffs with Boston-based ventures affiliate Aptima Ventures: Metricity Inc., which takes technology developed for defense and applies it to human resources and talent applications, and SkillBlaze, a mentorship and professional development developed by Problem Solutions and Pitt-Johnstown students. With those ventures and others connected to Entrepreneurial Alchemy and startup programming at and from Pitt-Johnstown, the new endeavors have raised more than $12 million in funding, Hruska said. At least another 10 early-stage business concepts are being considered for development this year, Hruska said.
“Those are dollars being invested in companies in our community or connected to our community,” he said.
Mike Kane, executive director at Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, said Problem Solutions’ ventures – and mentorship – build on the work of Entrepreneurial Alchemy, a collaboration point for budding business ideas, and others working to create a startup culture. Entrepreneurial Alchemy, funded through DCED, is run through the Community Foundation.
“What Mike has done with Problem Solutions is to grow a technology company, but also – because of his interest in seeing other startups be successful – he’s grown the culture,” he said. “That’s part of Entrepreneurial Alchemy, and it reinforces it. He needs to be applauded for that. He’s local. He grew up here, but he doesn’t have to be here. He wants his company to be successful here.”