Pittsburgh Technical Council

President's Note: Major Shifts Right Before Our Eyes

President's Note: Major Shifts Right Before Our Eyes

Article Published: February 14, 2017

By Audrey Russo

Audrey PicThe pace of change in innovation has taken giant steps that few of us could have imagined. 

Nowhere is the evidence more profound than the demonstration of world-renowned ideas and startups that have emerged from Pittsburgh’s research universities and their alumni. These potential disruptions, which are also developed outside and parallel to university discoveries, have changed the landscape of our city and region. As in the typical Pittsburgh persona, we work quietly and resolutely in solving deep problems across every aspect of living, focusing on health, life sciences, food access and quality, information, security and crafting solutions to ease our lives. 

Pittsburgh’s presence on the “map” remains a city of cadenced, tempered growth. We are slower than other regions where company formation and exits have clipped us.  However, with the continued creation of incubators, shared working spaces and the pinning of global technology companies expanding their presence, it is critical that in 2017, we not only understand the eclipse of change around the world, but apply the resources to ensure that capital and support to take companies to scale are fortified. 

Late last fall, CliftonLarsonAllen asked me to address an organizational-wide meeting in Minneapolis to provide some perspective on the future of technology and how it will impact service providers. 

We need to think of these changes as shifts. So think about just 10 years ago. Think back to 2007. The iPhone was just announced, and there was no Uber, AirBnB, SnapChat, Tinder, NoWait, Duolingo, WhatsApp, Pinterest or Instagram. Facebook was in its infancy. These companies/technologies have completely reshaped the business and cultural landscapes. They have created more changes in one decade than ever in the history of humankind. We are so plugged in that many of us sleep with our smartphones. In the workplace, we assume your device is pervasive and work/life spills are inherent. 

At the beginning of this last decade, we were fraught with boundaries and policies about social media. We attempted to create distinct silos in work/life separation and we failed more than often than not. People were taking less time off, productivity soared and automation of repetitive tasks was built. Open offices perpetuated collaboration and an infusion of “boundarylessness.”

What about the next five years?  We will see dramatic shifts in robotics, fintech/blockchain, predictive analytics, health information solutions for patients and security. We see those trends already. But what about investing and access to capital and talent?  There will be new mindsets around angel and venture investing. There will be new platforms to get more non-typical investors putting money into new markets. (Think about Eve Picker’s Small Change real estate funding platform that TEQ covered in the last issue.) The democratization of investing will be another way to get engaged in markets that were off limits to most. 

Communications will completely disrupt and democratize journalism. We will question even more what it means to be a journalist, find new platforms to deliver information/news and create channels that reach larger audiences. We are on the brink of new information vehicles that will overturn television. 

We are seeing massive shifts right before our eyes. This is evolution and we are fortunate enough to embrace this. At the Pittsburgh Technology Council, we can see these new patterns because we support the individuals and their companies who are expanding their markets for new possibilities, each and every day. 

The biggest opportunity for us, southwestern Pennsylvania, is to ensure that everybody can evolve with these rapid changes. We must ensure that nobody is left behind. I believe Pittsburgh has the unique opportunity to achieve this, more so than other cities, which are also investing in their innovation ecosystem.  

We have the uncanny capability to build and resurrect and build again. The changes in the next five years will tell the world about whether we have created a place where our residents are thoughtful, inclusive, highly technical and paired with no tolerance for leaving anyone untouched by opportunity. 

Today, this week, this month and this year is the start. Embrace change, find opportunity with it and ensure that we take everyone along for the ride. 

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