Science of Growth

As I write this, the city is still basking in the glow of another Penguins Stanley Cup championship.

As you read this (yes, we submit these early), you’ll be turning your attention to the Steelers, and we’ll be back to opposite sides of our sporting interest. I grew up in Cleveland, and even after almost 20 years away, I can’t stop the self-inflicted purgatory of being a Browns fan. Hey, this could be the year the Browns are competitive (humor me).

Anyway, as I reflected on this issue of TEQ’s main topic – our region’s growing strength in the megatrend of autonomous vehicle development – and thinking about the recent local sports success, I was reminded of an exchange with one of my portfolio CEOs recently.

We were talking about her startup’s rapid growth and the momentum it was experiencing. Projections that had felt so aggressive and were dangerously close to unimaginable even two quarters ago now felt like worst-case scenarios (all investments don’t work out like this, obviously, but when they do, it’s so fun).

As we were talking, she commented to me “winning is contagious” when marveling at the cultural change within her organization. You can feel the same type of cultural change within the Pittsburgh tech community over the last year.

A few years ago, my partner Ned Renzi wrote a post on Medium titled “It’s Morning in Pittsburgh” and commented:

“Pay attention, America, because Pittsburgh is back. After starting my own software company, I moved to Pittsburgh in 1998 to invest in early-stage technology companies, and I have never been more excited and optimistic about the region’s future than I am now. As an entrepreneurial ecosystem, we are trending unmistakably up and to the right.”

This is certainly even more true today than it was in January 2014. While I still maintain my argument from last issue’s column, that Pittsburgh will be more known for automation of enterprise workflows than autonomous vehicles in the future, certainly the early momentum from our expertise and development in autonomous vehicles is creating some wins for us. What’s even more exciting to me is that this momentum is bringing entrepreneurs, investors and attention from literally around the world to come see what is happening. The wins are absolutely contagious.

I’ve never been more optimistic about the Pittsburgh region’s ability to capitalize on this momentum. We certainly need significantly more entrepreneurs and more growth capital, but winning is contagious, and thanks to work started decades ago at Carnegie Mellon University, we have some wins. Let’s capitalize on it – just like those Pens.

By Sean Ammirati