SuLo by XYZ portable charger station
Features & Articles

You can rent a phone charger at 32 local businesses thanks to Pitt alumni

  • Technology & Science
  • Our City/Our Campus
  • Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

When she was a Pitt undergraduate studying economics, Jiaman Xu (A&S ’19) often saw students anchored to outlets, staring at their tiny screens hoping for even the slightest increase in power before the start of their next class.

After graduating from the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, she found herself coming back to the problem — and to fellow Pitt alumni for help to solve it.

In November 2020 her business, XYZ Technology Company, launched SuLo by XYZ, a rentable portable charger and application for smartphones and other small electronic devices that can charge a phone within 30 minutes.

“That's something a conventional charging cord cannot do,” XYZ Technology business specialist, Haochen “Robbie” Wang (A&S ‘21) said. “You don't have to waste two hours plugged into a wall.”

Each SuLo by XYZ unit comes with lightning, micro-USB and USB-C built-in cables. Users download the app, which directs them to a nearby rental location. Upon receiving the charger, users scan the QR code and go about their day, then return the unit at another location closer to their destination.

“People do everything with their phones,” said Wang. “Our service is designed to save you time.”

The chargers are now available at 32 Pittsburgh businesses, including Crazy Mocha Coffee Company and Visit Pittsburgh, as well as the University of Pittsburgh itself — a milestone for the company, said Xu.

SuLo by XYZ stations are now in a Cathedral of Learning computer lab, Lawrence Hall, The Perch, the University Store, the Petersen Events Center and the Eatery at Towers, with plans for other locations underway.

“We are a Pittsburgh-born startup,” said Xu. “We received a great education from the University and get great resources from local organizations.”

Xu cited University resources as especially helpful in launching the company and landing the Pitt contract. She thanked the Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence (IEE) and Brent Rondon, who she said is “a great mentor.” Rondon and the IEE introduced Xu to Purchasing Services, which was integral in executing the contract between SuLo by XYZ and the University to add stations to the Pittsburgh campus.

“This is something new for Pittsburgh,” said Rondon, a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) consultant. He described the SBDC as the University’s “best-kept secret,” given the organization’s ability to provide professional development, collateral materials, consultations, networking opportunities and more.

“SuLo by XYZ is genius and adapting to a lifestyle the new generation is demanding,” said Rondon, who noted the importance of supporting the city’s minority women in tech.

She wants to start here in Pittsburgh, and for that, we’re going to assist her as much as we can.” The University has established various goals and initiatives, including those that are part of the Plan for Pitt, to support diverse businesses such as SuLo by XYZ.

Kendall Farley (CBA ’20), who studied marketing and professional writing at Pitt and was a student worker at the IEE, is an XYZ Technology marketing specialist. On landing the University deal, she said, “It’s a full-circle moment. The University has given me so many opportunities, provided me with so much. To now be in a position to give back and help students makes it even more special and rewarding.” 

Though Xu, Wang and Farley bring different experiences and educations to the company, Wang cited the team as having a common language — passion and belief in the product.

Xu, from Chengdu, China, said the team’s different backgrounds also “nourished our insights and allowed us to fully understand each other's strengths and create a roadmap to working more efficiently.” Wang is from Shanghai, while Farley hails from Cresco, Pennsylvania.

Looking ahead, the SuLo by XYZ team is focused on one goal: developing Pittsburgh into a smart city and providing innovative technology that connects people and local businesses, said Xu. Along the way, she hopes to inspire others.

"I want to encourage young people to learn about real-world business and be passionate and optimistic about the future," she said. "More importantly, understanding how your actions and insights can help people live more efficiently and make a better society, a better world. That's our key SuLo by XYZ message."


— Kara Henderson