Entrepreneurship can be scary for many reasons. In a small office above a restaurant on Forbes Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, these myths and fears are being squashed.
Located within the University of Pittsburgh campus, and the city’s Innovation District, is 1486 Labs. Here Pitt Business undergraduate students are using their classroom learning to be real-life entrepreneurs. 1486’s first project, called DataFlections, centers on the creation of a digital community for professionals who purchase and manage external data.
“You are given real-world problems and are expected to research and discover real-world solutions,” said Kasey Verna (BSBA ’23), a talent management specialist in the company. “It’s very rewarding, and you are surrounded by thought-provoking and educational content all the time.”
Learning by Doing
The creator of 1486 Labs is Andy Hannah, who received his MBA from Pitt’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business in 1992 and has been in the entrepreneurial space for nearly 30 years. His companies have spanned a range of industries including analytics, software, consulting, and materials science.
Hannah wears many hats. He also serves as an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship and analytics at Pitt, an entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) with Pitt Business, president of Othot, Inc., and now executive director at 1486.
“As an entrepreneur and educator, I had no choice but to start something new. I wanted to create a new company based on what I know — that the buying and selling of data is a $1 trillion industry full of inefficiencies, and pain,” he said. “I want to solve those problems. In addition, I wanted to create an opportunity for students to learn about entrepreneurship ‘by doing’ – not just through case studies or lectures. It’s like a med student learning medicine by working with a live patient as opposed to an anatomy book.”
Collaborating on Real-World Challenges
Collaboration is at the core of 1486 Labs. The physical space is set up for all perspectives to be shared. Whiteboards cover most of the vibrant walls and each desktop. The front room of the office is well-lit and overlooks Forbes Avenue, just a block away from Sennott Square, home of the College of Business Administration. As 1486 grows, its space will incorporate more lounging, working, and sharing spaces.
Breanna King (BSBA ’25), who serves as a content manager, said, “This environment is unique because it is constantly changing and evolving. Just like in a real-world business environment, there are always new sets of challenges that pop up.”
Bring Ideas to Life
Hailey Hunter (BSBA ’23), who serves as a marketing manager, recommends this opportunity to all business students. Paid positions are posted on 1486’s LinkedIn account.
“It is an incomparable learning ground for students to get hands-on experience in both data analytics and entrepreneurship– a passion I didn’t even know I had until coming here,” she said. “The organization gives you the opportunity to get your hands dirty and bring ideas to life, all while disrupting and empowering an entire industry. If you like to learn and work on projects that have real impact, this is the place for you.”
All three students credited their experiences with 1486 to help them develop and finetune skills that will advance their careers after college.
“Real-life experience in what it takes to create something from nothing,” Hannah said. “It involves fearlessness in entering a market and creating a niche — and the value of teamwork in an entrepreneurial environment.”