With a growing innovative economy, Pittsburgh, Penn. is a city on the rise. It is constantly changing with the new technological wave, even being compared to Silicon Valley for its advances in technology like 3D printing and self-driving cars.
Most recently, Mayor Peduto and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced five startups that have been matched with city champions and government staff that will mentor and guide them throughout pilot projects. URA started as one of the first redevelopment authorities in Pennsylvania in 1946 and has played an important role in helping local communities reinvent themselves.
URA’s Ellen Batemen shared with 1776 how her team at URA works to strengthen the local economy through work with startups.
What impact do you see the startup ecosystem having on the local economy?
Pittsburgh startups are diversifying our ecosystem into emerging industries such as autonomous systems and advanced polymers.
The increasing presence of startups in key industries is leading the way towards Pittsburgh’s emergence as RoboBurgh as well as attracting talent and companies from around the country.
Additionally, the robust startup ecosystem in Pittsburgh has provided more jobs, especially for the graduates of local universities. We are seeing an increased retention of graduates and young professionals in the city as new and exciting companies are taking root and hiring.
Where does VC funding come from the most for your startup ecosystem? How can Pittsburgh provide more access to capital for its startups?
There are several VC firms in Pittsburgh that help fund our startups when they are raising rounds. Additionally, startups can seek out funding from organizations such as Innovation Works or the URA.
The URA has an evergreen fund allowing the authority to invest in the city’s startup ecosystem. Tech companies are eligible for up to $200,000 through the Pittsburgh Entrepreneur Fund, which are administered through convertible notes.
Over the past five years, the number of investment deals in has grown at 13 percent per year in Pittsburgh, significantly outpacing the United States average of 4 percent.
Pittsburgh can provide more access to capital for its startups by having more options for early-stage funding. Many startups struggle to raise funds to grow or development their companies past the MVP stage or to the next stage of growth. Funding at this juncture can “make or break” a company as they are struggling to grow and get investors, customers, and improve their products or services.
However, Pittsburgh is continuously attracting the interest of new funds by improving how we tell Pittsburgh’s story and highlighting the many startup successes the city has had. We continue to expand on the opportunities for VCs to find and connect with startups through events, incubators, and competitions.
If you were pitching Pittsburgh’s startup ecosystem, what would your 2-minute pitch include?
Pittsburgh is the home of some of the top accelerator programs in the country. There is an environment here where the creation and growth of new companies is encouraged and supported. Startups in Pittsburgh have access to some of the best resources through top research universities as well as skilled graduates to build their teams. These resources have not only attracted startups but big companies like Uber, Google, Disney, and Amazon. Pittsburgh is steadily making its mark as a hub for innovation, tech, and research and development.
Additionally, the city and state have initiatives to support the startup ecosystem in Pittsburgh. The state has tax incentive programs such as the Keystone Innovation Zones and Research & Development Tax Credit programs to aid young, developing companies.
The city has an incubator program of its own. The city’s department of innovation & performance manages PGH Lab, an incubator program that allows companies to work with the city and various city authorities to pilot their products. This program is beneficial as it allows startups to gain valuable data from testing in real world scenarios and the city benefits from learning about newly available technologies that may improve day to day city and authority functions.
Urban Redevelopment Authority is striving to build a better Pittsburgh. By working with the city, URA is attracting the right talent to Pittsburgh and helping it stay there.