Monday, July 12, 2010

Pittsburgh coming to Detroit's rescue

Here is a pair of stories to read together.  PG pokes a bit at the local life cycle of high tech firms and this idea firms start here, but don't stay: Pittsburgh gives birth to tech firms, but can't keep them.   I don't disagree with the article, but it is a lot more complicated story than can be fit into a piece like that.... That and at this point the history is long enough that there are many stories over time.  I was mostly fascinated in that as I was reading it I thought it was not going to focus on the story of Lycos.  I thought that was good in a sense that the Lycos uber-angst here was not productive for a long time... and mostly misinterpreted.. but it does get to it in the end just a little bit.  Who remembers the big high tech "I'm leaving" story before Lycos?  Anyone recall  Don't recall even what that is??  A Model for commerce on the World Wide Web (1995). Remember when B2B was going to save us?  This whole "Pittsburgh Transformation" story has not been a straight line.

While that history may seem a bit esoteric, I would not minimize the emphasis the local business and policy folks keyed on at the time. It was for a moment the high tech buzz in town. The story does not mention some more recent high tech firms that have grown here and then 'evolved' in some form or another.  How about Fore Systems or Freemarkets (which had the largest capitalization of any firms in town the day it IPO'd)...  or in a meta investment way does anyone remember the buzz when Launchcyte set up shop in town?  Wait, Launchcyte is still in town.  I can't find a reference quickly, but does anyone remember all the media buzz when 3 guys who had literally just graduated as undergrads from CMU set up up shop as a high tech incubator of their own. Back in the days when the boom eventually made it to Pittsburgh just a bit.

Anyway... interesting to contrast that story with a bit of business news from Crain's Detroit:
A Pittsburgh-based investment firm, iNetworks Advisors Inc., has launched what it hopes will be at least a $20 million fund to invest in startup and early-stage health and life science companies in Southeast Michigan and Windsor."


Anonymous BrianTH said...

While I think we could do a bit better in this area as the recession recedes and labor mobility comes back up, I think we need to be realistic about the ability of Pittsburgh to compete with the collective draw of San Francisco, Boston, etc. when it comes to venture capital past the startup stage (meaning I suspect for the conceivable future there will be an ongoing net loss of successful Pittsburgh startups to such places).

Not that we shouldn't try to muster venture capital for this stage of development--indeed, my point is more that we shouldn't be discouraged by the fact that we lose more companies than we keep.

Monday, July 12, 2010 9:44:00 AM  
Blogger JRoth said...

As an architect I actually did a little bit of work for those CMU grads. They had an office on Melwood near Filmmakers (complete with Foosball), and were looking at that big blue building set back from Liberty Ave, between FedEx and Iron City. One of them built a pretty awesome loft at 2901 Smallman. Of course I no longer recall names (Wayne?) or whatever happened to them.

Thursday, July 15, 2010 3:59:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...


Friday, July 16, 2010 9:39:00 AM  

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