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48 Hours of Startup Action in the Steel City

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

On Betaspring’s tour of great American cities—and in our search for awesome revenue-focused companies—Pittsburgh did not disappoint. In a 48-hour whirlwind visit, we met strong founders, interviewed great companies, spent time with our friends at Alpha Lab and Alpha Lab Gear, judged a hardware startup competition, took a Tech Shop tour, and admired the changes happening adjacent to the new Google headquarters...all of which deepened our understanding of what makes the Pittsburgh startup scene tick.

Pittsburgh is a city on the rise, with a culture that marries a midwestern vibe with maker/hustler grit. The city’s DNA still reflects the work ethic and powerful convergence of brain and brawn that made Pittsburgh an industrial mecca. Neither all tech nor all steel, Pittsburgh is growing where bits and atoms can find both old and new places to co-mingle.

The end result is an exciting spectrum of startups across industry verticals. And many of them driven by revenue. Top questions I heard on our day back: Was startup activity solely driven the city's well-ranked schools? No. Was tech talent floating around? Yes. Were there growth companies on the radar? Definitely. 

What else did we glean from our visit? The startup scene in the 'Burgh is a collaborative one, accustomed to sharing resources, referring deals across platforms, and admirably good at experimenting with partnerships across the public and private sectors. Ditto on how capital is moving across a patchwork of economic dev, angel, traditional equity, research, and philanthropic sources.

The work isn’t done and there’s no evidence that Pittsburgh is ready to take their foot off the entrepreneurial gas. It is important (and always refreshing) to remember that there is a whole country between Boston and San Fran—a country of go-hard, qualified founders that are building big businesses with global potential.

Thanks, Pittsburgh. We’ll be back soon.

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