5 Reasons why Pittsburgh is THE place for Tech Startups
Bossman suggested I write about this topic, and within seconds I became ecstatic.
Being from Pittsburgh, it hit me the what will be in the contents of this post will be the gist of my “Pittsburgh Pitch”- how I try to convince family and friends who are not from the area that Pittsburgh is the real deal.
That Pittsburgh is the furthest thing from a dirty, rusty, smoky steel town. Those days are long gone. We have entered a new era in Pittsburgh long ago, and tech is playing a major role in that.
Not long ago, my former boss inquired about my growing up in Pittsburgh. His exact words: “Everyone I’ve ever met from Pittsburgh talks about the city like it’s the greatest place in the world. And maybe it is. I haven’t been there yet”.
The greatest city in the world might be going a tad far, but Pittsburgh is a unique and incredibly underrated city in SO many ways.
Before I list my five reasons, I would like to hit you with a few examples from fellow acquaintances after they experienced the City of Bridges for a significant amount of time.
Acquaintance Uno - A few years back, a college buddy of mine three years my elder hailing from DC ended up being stationed part-time in Pittsburgh for Ernst and Young (EY). Once this was revealed to him, he reached out to me recalling that I was from the area.
His feelings of spending time here, in one word, would perhaps best be described as “lukewarm”.
Months later, I reached out to him to inquire how he was enjoying his stay in Pittsburgh. His attitude had completely shifted. He told me he loved the city, the accessibility of it, the friendliness of the people, the bars (this particular person liked to enjoy one or two frosty beverages and thus had a particular affinity for the South Side) scene. He also alerted me that he enjoyed his time here so much that he was thinking of buying an investment property in the area.
Acquaintance Dos- Another college buddy recently came to visit his hometown friend who just moved to Pittsburgh a few months ago to start and run a chain of sub shops.
We got to talking, and the exact words from his mouth were: “Best city in America”.
This particular person didn’t grow up in the middle of nowhere, wither. He hails from New York.
Now that the above portion of this blog has concluded… let’s get to the real reasons why your Tech Startup should set up shop in Pittsburgh.
1- Pittsburgh is attracting MAJOR players
That’s right. It all started when Google decided to open up a joint office here back in 2006 with Carnegie Mellon University, also known as CMU around these parts. We will get into the monstrous impact of CMU shortly.
The arrival of Google here really jumpstarted Pittsburgh’s rise into ultimately becoming what it is today: an unlikely city home to some of the biggest names in technological innovation.
Following Google, names like Uber and Zoom (to name a few) have flocked to the city. Pretty cool stuff. Even Amazon listed Pittsburgh as one of its five possibilities to expand partial headquarters in. While they ultimately settled on Arlington, Va, the mere fact that big Jeff Bezos considered Pittsburgh speaks volumes of the evolution of the city.
2- Tech & Healthcare: A Unique Duo
Pittsburgh is also home to UPMC: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. While I’m not trying to say that UPMC is on the same level as something like a Johns Hopkins, it ain’t too far behind.
UPMC offers world renowned health care. So much so that individuals, even elite athletes, come from all over the globe to seek UPMC medical care. UPMC is also known for their research.
UPMC is great on its own, but when it is combined with the tech and robotic elements of Carnegie Mellon, an elite (and nearly unparalleled) duo of medical and technological research is formed.
Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh’s Mayor for much of the 21st century, put it this way:
“What Pittsburgh has, and what Silicon Valley doesn’t, and what Boston doesn’t have as good as us is that we have the ability to create world-class research to become a global innovation center for corporations around the world”.
Well said, Bill.
3- Carnegie Mellon University
We have Carnegie Mellon to thank for jolting the tech revolution that has taken place in Pittsburgh.
CMU is an Ivy League level university centered around technology, namely robotics. Carnegie Mellon Launched their Robotics Institution well before the turn of the 21st century with a primary focus on AI.
Over time, CMU has become a mecca for research and development within the robotic community, drawing names like Google, Zoom and Uber to partner with them and set up offices in the city. When I referred to Uber earlier on, one of the factors that convinced the giant to come to Pittsburgh was to work with CMU on self-driving cars.
CMU's technology in this realm is simply second to none.
CMU has become so well respected around the world that even the government pairs with the university to test out various technological research and development projects.
YinzCam, a software company that builds mobile applications, IPTV platforms and augmented-reality experiences, specializes in creating applications for professional sports organizations.
Started by CMU Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering Priya Narasimhan, the company has blossomed into a big-time player in sports around the world. As an example, YinzCam’s video technology is used for NFLRedZone to aid instant replay in NFL Stadiums.
YinzCam is one example of many that have come out of Carnegie Mellon.
4- Livability & Affordability
Pittsburgh is routinely rated the #1 most livable city in America:
While you may be surprised to hear that, it does makes sense.
Pittsburgh has a lot to offer: Great sports teams, many employment opportunities in tech and healthcare, a beautiful city skyline, many bridges connecting surrounding areas of the city, friendly people… I could go on and on.
These days, the cuisine in Pittsburgh is getting national attention.
Brought to prominence by names like Carnegie and Warhol, arts are a plenty in Pittsburgh.
Museums and libraries are too.
Did you know that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is widely considered one of the best anywhere around?
Did you know that per block, the South Side contains the most bars anywhere throughout the country?
Over time, Pittsburgh has also put its stamp on many other industries. BNY Mellon, PPG Industries and Kraft Heinz produce tens of thousands of jobs.
Perhaps, most importantly, the city is livable because it is affordable. Pittsburgh offers nearly everything that a major city does at a fraction of the price.
The drink you imbibe in while hanging out in DC or Manhattan that costs $17 only costs $9 here.
While I am not comparing Pittsburgh to Manhattan, the City of Bridges has a uniqueness about it that lures in virtually everyone who experiences it.
At the start of this post, I alluded to my “Pittsburgh Pitch”: Essentially my effort to convince those who laugh at the idea that I would consider staying in Pittsburgh in favor of moving to a “Major City”. In short, they believe Pittsburgh is an ugly steel town with little to offer.
That is just not the case.
Lastly, something that I love about Pittsburgh is the pride that resonates from those who call it home.
We bleed black & gold.
Pittsburgh, despite all of its triumphs within the tech and medical communities, is still a blue-collar city at heart.
To me, that makes it the best of both worlds.
You won’t walk into a bar and encounter people who think they’re a huge deal because they work on Capitol Hill and are obsessed with talking politics.
You won’t encounter the hustle and bustle and chaos of Manhattan.
But you will observe a happy medium. Sit down at a bar in our city and you may be surrounded by a doctor, housing contractor, factory worker or lawyer. All very different professions, but they all share one bond: the city of Pittsburgh
5- This YouTube Video
NOTHING I have ever read or watched summarizes Pittsburgh better than this video produced by Time. A Must Watch:
That’s all I got for my longest post of all time. I hope my “Pittsburgh Pitch” succeeded and you’ll consider bringing your Tech Startup to the most underrated city in America…
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