Bonnie Pfister
Anne Marie Toccket in Peru
Anne Marie Toccket at Machu Picchu, Peru in 2012

Stop into The Big Idea Bookstore & Café on Bloomfield’s Liberty Avenue right across the street from the West Penn Hospital and meet Anne Marie Toccket, an entrepreneur who has traveled around the world but choose Pittsburgh as the place to call home.

The Big Idea is Pittsburgh’s first — and now one of three –“B corporations” — organizations that have a legally binding fiduciary responsibility to take into account the interests of workers, the community and the environment as well as shareholders – the Big Idea is also the gathering place for an ongoing workshop of young writers, the Pittsburgh Vegan Meetup Group and – come Jan. 4 – a screening of Doctor Who.

You can check out Toccket’s profile and those of all the Neighbors at, a virtual concierge that highlights live, work and play options in the 10-county region. On the site you can look for a job among the thousands gathered by our powerful job aggregator, sign up for updates about the region through our social media channels or RSS feeds and take the “Find Yourself in Pittsburgh!” quiz to be matched up with Neighbors who may share your interests and have tips on what’s fun and engaging to do in the region.

You can also watch her video below or here.

Phil Cynar
Carnegie Mellon University President Subra Suresh

It was a record year for creating startup companies – 36 of them – at Carnegie Mellon University. University President Subra Suresh, along with Senators Bob Casey, Pat Toomey and U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, announced the achievement at the 2013 LaunchCMU event on Nov. 13.

A research and entrepreneurial showcase presented by the university’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, LaunchCMU was an opportune platform for this news focused on innovators willing – and able – to launch and grow companies in the Pittsburgh region.

Doyle, via live webcast from Washington, D.C., spoke to an audience gathered on campus. “It’s remarkable that one university has spun off so many startup companies in just a year,” he said, “but Carnegie Mellon has so many talented faculty, students and alumni that it shouldn’t be surprising. CMU’s combination of world-class researchers with centers set up to help them commercialize their work has made the university a national leader in startup creation, and it’s made a important contribution to the Pittsburgh region’s economic growth in the process.”

Alumnus Bruce McWilliams, chairman of the Research and Technology Commercialization Committee of CMU’s Board of Trustee, noted the role of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and that of the Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation in helping launch new ventures. “Through streamlined university policies and investment supporting faculty and students with entrepreneurial interests, Carnegie Mellon is expanding its impact and creating an example for other research institutions around the world,” said McWilliams, who is also president and CEO of SuVolta, Inc.

President Suresh noted that CMU and its innovators are making impactful strides from a place other than a major metro on either coast. Expected in places like San Francisco or Boston, the successful launch and growth of startups – in Pittsburgh – speaks to a regional mindset that recognizes academia as a key partner in re-engineering an economy. For the past 30 years, knowledge and innovation have been powerful drivers of the Pittsburgh region’s transformation and prosperity and competitiveness as a result.

Technology today is baked into the Pittsburgh region’s key industry sectors including advanced manufacturing, energy, financial and business services and healthcare and life sciences, in addition to information technology. The region is home to 120 corporate R&D centers, and $1B in university R&D expenditures pave the way to bringing to market great ideas and the “next big thing(s).”

Among the 36 CMU startups of this record year are PECA Labs, a medical device company that’s developed a heart valve that could save thousands of children from undergoing repeated open heart surgeries; PieceMaker Technologies, which markets the PieceMaker 3D printer, software and support services which allow store to print and deliver goods on demand; and SolePower LLC, a company commercializing power-generating shoe insoles for charging portable electronic devices.

Phil Cynar

FeatureFuturePerfectPghEast will meet west – Pittsburgh and the Silicon Valley – next week when the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and team up for a tech-centric business development/talent attraction trip to the west coast, Nov. 11 – 12.

Future focused, Pittsburgh takes tech to the edge. It’s a significant hub for IT among east coast cities. Driving this is the presence of world-class universities such as Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, both of which fuel an ever-growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in addition to providing a large talent pool for global tech brands. Google, IBM, ANSYS, Intel are just a few that have made a home in Pittsburgh. Cybersecurity, interactive entertainment, robotics, e-commerce, big data and SaaS are a sampling of the areas where Pittsburgh has made a mark.

While in California, the PRA will be doing what it does best – economic development marketing – by talking to west coast tech leaders and business investment influencers about Pittsburgh as the perfect place for an east coast IT satellite. The region’s top-rate talent pool, safe-from-natural-disaster location, Eastern Time Zone and years of experience in providing tech-driven global business support services are among the strengths the PRA will highlight. For California-based companies, Pittsburgh is a complement, not competition. And did we mention cost-effective? (We’ve got Boston, New York and D.C. beat in that category, hands down!)

At the same time, – the region’s “virtual concierge” for Pittsburgh’s plentiful live-work-play opportunities — will be telling tech talent in the Valley about the soft landing that the region can provide for those looking to make a career and/or life change. Money goes a long way here (yes, you can actually afford to buy a home in Pittsburgh), and talented individuals can go farther faster in their careers and advance within region’s famously supportive entrepreneurial environment. As’s tagline says, this is a place to “advance your career and build a life you’ll love.”

If you’re in the Silicon Valley or know tech types who work/live there, there’s a fun opportunity to learn more about Pittsburgh in person at a Nov. 12 “Future Perfect Pittsburgh Party” at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, 655 Mission St. We’ll be showcasing a sampling of Pittsburgh in this quirky venue – one of only three in the U.S. and a sister of the ToonSeum in Pittsburgh – from 6 – 8 p.m. Luke Skurman, CEO and founder of  Niche (one the U.S.’s largest online content startups) will share why Pittsburgh has worked for him. A San Francisco native, Pittsburgh stole his heart when he came here to attend CMU, and it’s proven itself a fertile ground for “living the dream” – professionally and personally.

Free food, drink, tech types and geeks. What’s not to like? Be there: Future Perfect Pittsburgh, Nov. 12, San Francisco! RSVP here.

Bonnie Pfister
Nevena Staresinic, founder of Moderna Relocations
Nevena Staresinic, founder of Moderna Relocations

Nevena Staresinic is an expert when it comes to navigating new cultures and finding a way to make a new place one’s own — for herself, and for others, too.

A native of Belgrade, Serbia in the former Yugoslavia, she has lived and worked across Europe, the U.K., southern Africa and now the United States assisting individuals, corporate clients and non-governmental organizations with international relocations through her company, Moderna Relocations. For her own part, Nevena and her family love the Pittsburgh region for its abundant outdoor recreation, solid educational choices and overall vibrancy as a place of innovation and new ideas. Watch Nevena’s video and learn more from her Neighbor profile.