A six-year-old sits down and draws a racetrack with crayons. Her dad captures an image of the project, and minutes later the two of them are racing cars at their fingertips on a tablet screen.

Playsketch, a Portuguese startup, offers its consumers the ability to sketch an idea and bring it to life as a video game. Co-founders Luís Lucas Pereira and Pedro Machado Santa visited Pittsburgh to take their concept to market using contacts and entrepreneurial lessons learned from Carnegie Mellon University.

“The growth in our contact network really gave sense to the word ‘acceleration,’” Santa said. “In just one month and a half, we established more than a thousand contacts with different companies and experts, and we gathered a contact network in the U.S. that it would take years to build up in Portugal.”

inRes is an early stage acceleration program for Portuguese entrepreneurial teams. The program is part of the Information and Communication Technologies Institute, a partnership between Carnegie Mellon and the government of Portugal. Last fall, four Portuguese teams visited Pittsburgh for six weeks and also spent a week in Silicon Valley visiting startups and venture capitalists, while making connections with other innovators.

“The inRes program is a testament to CMU|Portugal’s commitment to technology transfer and innovation, and is an invaluable expression of Carnegie Mellon’s broader dedication to international collaboration,” said José F. Moura, director of the CMU|Portugal Program and the Philip L. and Marsha Dowd University Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “inRes is one very exceptional example of CMU|Portugal programs that have precipitated many successful spinoffs, such as Veniam and Feedzai.”

College of Engineering Program in Portugal

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

College of Engineering Program in Portugal

Feedzai, a highly successful company stemming from the CMU|Portugal program, uses machine learning for fraud prevention. “I am excited to see how this year’s group of entrepreneurs and all future teams chosen to participate in the inRes program will succeed in the tech innovation market,” said Paulo Marques, CTO of Feedzai. “inRes and CMU|Portugal as a whole are proving to be an important pillar in the startup ecosystem of Portugal and the United States.”

Along with Playsketch, the other inRes teams included Adapttech, which offers smart prosthetic-fitting solutions; Sceelix, a software that generates complex 3-D scenes on a massive scale; and Scraim, the provider of an online service for project and process management.

The teams were paired with experts from CMU’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, including the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) and the Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation.

Santa was not the only entrepreneur who returned home with vastly expanded contact lists—all of the entrepreneurs made contacts that will be enormously valuable to their companies.

“CMU|Portugal’s inRes program gave us the opportunity to go into a country that has every single market we are trying to tap into on a huge scale,” said Francisco Rebello de Andrade, general manager of Sceelix. “What we managed to do in terms of contacts will help us not only in the short term, but also in the long term.”