United States

Pittsburgh

MEMBERS:
InnovatePGH Partnership Pittsburgh Regional Alliance Innovation Works

Duolingo was founded in Pittsburgh due to talent, technology, and lifestyle. It’s a great place to start a business, and a great place to live once the workday is done.

Luis von Ahn
CEO and co-founder, Duolingo
Top 20 Global Emerging Ecosystem in Funding
Top 25 Global Emerging Ecosystem in Talent & Experience
Top 20 Global Emerging Ecosystem in Performance

Highlights

Pittsburgh’s growing ecosystem saw significant exits and funding rounds in 2021, including Aurora Innovation, a $11 billion autonomous vehicle startup that went public in November. Startups Argo AI, Motional, Waymo, and a dozen other mobility companies have further solidified Pittsburgh’s standing as a global hub for self-driving technology. A funding boom in Life Sciences, Robotics, and Cleantech is also helping to diversify the city’s startup ecosystem, with one example of success being Cognition Therapeutics raising $45 million in its October 2021 IPO. This Life Sciences company is developing a pipeline of cutting-edge Alzheimer’s treatments. Pittsburgh is home to two world-class research universities - Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the University of Pittsburgh — as well as two other major research institutions and dozens of other post-secondary institutions. The ecosystem continues to be home to one of the greatest concentrations of research and tech talent in the U.S., and a community of purpose-driven builders, makers, and innovators has grown up around this nucleus. Pittsburgh’s tech startup community also has a focus on ensuring diversity in the sector. Black Tech Nation offers education and funding for Black technologists, and its new $50 million fund will focus on early-stage startups with Black founders. Other VCs are also doing their part — Innovation Works and Magarac Venture Partners are prioritizing investment in diverse founders, and Next Act Fund backs early-stage, women-owned or -led companies. Local success stories inspiring and anchoring the ecosystem include language-learning app Duolingo, which IPO’d in August 2021 at $6.5 billion, and corporate bases including Facebook Reality Labs, Amazon Alexa, Bosch, Philips, Apple, and Google.

Ecosystem by the numbers

TOTAL EARLY STAGE FUNDING
(2019H2-2021)
$196 m
GLOBAL AVG.
$687 m
ECOSYSTEM VALUE
(2019H2-2021)
$11.6 bn
GLOBAL AVG.
$28.6 bn
MEDIAN SEED ROUND (2019H2-2021)
$50 k
GLOBAL AVG.
$671 k
MEDIAN SERIES A ROUND (2019H2-2021)
$4.7 m
GLOBAL AVG.
$4.7 m
SOFT. ENGINEER SALARY (2021)
$80 k
GLOBAL AVG.
$46 k
9
GLOBAL AVG.
11.3
111
GLOBAL AVG.
101
Amount ($B)
Count (#)

Exits

(2017-2021)
EARLY-STAGE FUNDING GROWTH TIER (2018/19 VS. 2020/21)
4
Calculated on a scale of
1 (lowest) to 10 (highest)
TOTAL VC FUNDING (2017-2021)
$1.5 bn
GLOBAL AVG.
$4.5 bn
TIME TO EXIT (2017-2021)
10.4 years
GLOBAL AVG.
9.4 years

Sub-Sector Strengths

Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics

Anchored by research and deployment hubs like the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute, CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center, and the airport’s Neighborhood91 Innovation Campus, this sub-sector will see significant growth thanks in part to CMU’s planned robotics innovation and advanced manufacturing centers. Recent rounds of funding are accelerating the sector’s growth - autonomous trucking company Locomation raised $34 million in July 2021, and Gecko Robotics raised a $73 million Series C in March 2022.

Life Sciences

Pittsburgh’s 1,000+ Life Sciences researchers have received $714 million in NIH funding to date, and the University of Pittsburgh is driving growth by developing Pitt BioForge, a biomanufacturing facility for gene therapies and other novel treatments LifeX, AlphaLabHealth, and Optum Studio are amongst a growing group of accelerators and incubator programs providing investment, mentoring, workshops, and space to support life science startups.

Cleantech

Pittsburgh is home to a robust energy ecosystem, including a UN Center of Excellence on High Performance Buildings, the Energy Innovation Center, and the National Energy Technology Laboratory. The Department of Energy has invested over $103 million in Cleantech R&D in the region since 2017, and Pittsburgh will host the 2022 Clean Energy Ministerial. Watt Fuel Cell Corp raised $67 in December 2021, by far the largest deal in Pittsburgh that year, and RoadRunner raised a $70 million Series D in January 2022.

Reasons to move your startup to Pittsburgh

High-Quality Tech Talent

A robust talent pool of 142,000 people work in Tech, Advanced Manufacturing, and Life Sciences companies, and a pipeline of graduates flows from the 79 universities and post-secondary institutions in the region, which include two R-1 research universities. Pittsburgh is among the top 10 markets in North America for quality and cost of tech talent pool, with 59% of tech talent educated at a top 25 university.

The Pittsburgh Innovation District

Centered around the campuses of Pittsburgh's three top research engines, the Innovation District is among the top 10 concentrations of R&D spending in the U.S. Carnegie Mellon (CMU) and the Richard King Mellon Foundation are investing $150 million in the area, which will fund a new science building on CMU’s campus and a new robotics center and Advanced Manufacturing institute.

Affordability

Pittsburgh is one of the most affordable tech hubs in the country. With a median home price of $170,000, buying a house here is vastly cheaper than in many other top ecosystems. Pittsburgh’s commercial real estate market offers companies similar value. Rent is at least half the price of larger coastal hubs such as Boston and San Francisco.

Startup Community

Startup Genome Members

Key Ecosystem Players

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