Fourth River Solutions (4RS) is a non-profit consulting company that is operated by and staffed with predoctoral and postdoctoral researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duquesne University. 4RS predominantly consults for start-up tech companies with its services, including market research, business model evaluation, value proposition definition, and investor pitch preparation. Since its inception about five years ago, 4RS has completed over 30 engagements with Pittsburgh-based startups. We wanted to learn more from the man behind the operations — Chris Chukran. Here’s what he had to say:

Fourth River Solutions seems like a win-win for the student consultants getting experience and for companies getting great business problem solving. Tell us about that.

We view graduate-level researchers as a critically untapped resource in Pittsburgh’s blossoming technology ecosystem. With more studies showing that the path to success in academia is increasingly restrictive, PhD candidates and post-doctoral fellows are eager to translate their analytical skillset to new spheres – with a specific emphasis on life-science startup companies and large consulting firms. We aim to catalyze that transition by offering hands-on business experience to highly capable advanced degree seekers and holders. As an advantage of being a purely volunteer organization with low overhead costs, our prices significantly undercut that of traditional consulting firms, which is a considerable value to cash-strapped startup businesses.

How does Fourth River Solutions find consulting projects?

The first mechanism is by generating in-person connections at networking events through which we identify needs our business can address; however, a significant proportion of our engagements arise by referral of organization or individuals with whom we have previously worked. Lastly, we have an existing partnership with the Pittsburgh Life Science Greenhouse to serve them as well as their portfolio clients.

Do you see this growing in the future?

Absolutely. With graduate-level researchers pursuing non-academic careers at increasing rates, the need to gain experience outside the lab will correspondingly expand. This is particularly true of Pittsburgh, which possesses both vibrant entrepreneurism and elite graduate training. As we refine our core competencies and scaling strategy, it is critical that we leverage our partnerships and resources to maximize our active membership while becoming ever more integrated in Pittsburgh’s startup culture. Beyond that, we see our model having the potential to expand to additional university cities at some point.

Read the previous PTC Member Profile with Webbula here.