By Audrey Russo, President and CEO, Pittsburgh Technology Council
Access to capital for tech start-ups and entrepreneurs is an integral facet of any tech-based business ecosystem. This statement is nothing new, and while SWPA has been the beneficiary of organizations like Innovation Works and Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, there continues to be more demand for seed-stage innovation investment than supply. Of course we love the work of regional incubation centers like AlphaLab and others, but we need more to match the call for seed-stage capital. Once startups gain their legs and strength, further investment paired with expertise is pivotal for viable and sustainable company formation. However, I am not going to pontificate on the intricacies of requiring or not requiring capital. There are many examples of thriving companies in our region that have secured customers and found success with no outside investment.
After much preparation and planning throughout 2011, the Council was thrilled to launch Venture In, an event series dedicated to bringing top venture capitalists to
Pittsburgh. The first event series of its kind in the region, Venture In gives local tech companies access to the most prominent technology venture capitalists in the world. As of this writing, we’ve hosted Intel Capital, Bain Capital,
BlueRun Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Bosch Ventures and OnSet Ventures, with more top firms in our pipeline. Initially, we sought out firms with at least one investment in a regional company, and if possible, some type of other connection to the Pittsburgh region. (If there is one thing I have learned over the past 10 years living in the 'Burgh, everyone is just one connection away.) To provide additional value to our member companies, the partners who come to speak as part of Venture In must also be willing to meet individually with regional companies to hear their pitch and learn about our companies. We also ask that they remain connected to the Pittsburgh Tech Council to strengthen the necessary ties for future regional tech-based investment.
Now, with the initial chapter in the books, we are committed to accelerating Venture In to create a continuous flow of top investors into our region. This is just the beginning. Our intention is to escalate the prominence of the innovation that abounds in this region, and serve as connectors for companies and capital. The pleasant surprise that we have witnessed from investors is a direct result of exposure to and immersion in Pittsburgh’s innovation environment. This positive reaction is not just because of the technology being developed here, but at the steady transformation of the region into a vibrant center of invention, company creation and entrepreneurialism.
While our members are working feverishly at building their companies, the Council is concentrating on providing value by facilitating connections that strengthen and reinforce a robust, tech-based business culture. Access to capital, a risk-tolerant environment and leadership expertise are the most common concerns we hear from companies who start in SWPA, and at the Council, we heard these calls loud and clear. Venture In is just the beginning of our strategy to link investors to Pittsburgh companies to create inertia in our region.
Now if we could only increase direct air flights to and from Pittsburgh…