Investors are realizing Pittsburgh is a hidden gem.
For years, Jim Jen and his wife were flying at warp speed in the frenetic pace of life in Silicon Valley, working long hours for technology companies,dealing with traffic and trying to raise a family. Then they decided it was time to recalibrate for a better quality of life. “We wanted to move back to the East Coast to be closer to family.” They looked at Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh won them over. “We love this area, the family values that are inherent in the culture, and the way everyone rallies behind all the sports teams here.”
Now that they are closer to family, have an easier commute,and a lower cost of living, they really can do it all—without so much of the stress. In fact, Jim and his wife are enjoying more family outings, to places like PNC Park for Pirates baseball, and he was able to coach basketball teamsfor his son and daughter. He’s also now helping to launch technology companies in this region. As the head of AlphaLab, a start up technology accelerator,Jim helps entrepreneurs launch their companies with seed money, collaborative space, and expert advice from mentors and investors. Jim sees the same intensity and tenacity among the technology and entrepreneurial community in Pittsburgh as on the West Coast, but it’s supported by the balance afforded in other areas of life here. To date, dozens of companies have spawned fromAlphaLab, but Jim says the best part is the entrepreneurial community that has grown rapidly in this region, evidenced by venture capital investment growth,which is outpacing national VC investing trends, new company formations, and the diversity of sectors represented. Fueled in part by over $1 billion inresearch and the hotbed of talent at Carnegie Mellon University and theUniversity of Pittsburgh, more ideas are making their way out of dorms, labs and garages, and being brought to life with the grit and ingenuity that have become hallmarks of Pittsburgh’s economic vitality.
AlphaLab is a program of Innovation Works, one of the most active seed-stage investors in the nation, and a charter member of the Global Accelerator Network. AlphaLab recently introduced a spin-off of sorts, AlphaLab Gear, a new hardware and robotics accelerator. “It’s truly rewarding to be part of this community and to play a role in helping entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life and to market.”