Pittsburgh’s (and Pennsylvania’s) leadership have taken a keen interest in getting the entrepreneurial part of the local tech sector rolling. They deserve a lot of credit for some of the new companies that have sprung up around the city. We’re not alone in this though, many other cities have become focused on kick starting their local startup scenes. Notably, over the last couple days, NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg has been asking some of NYC’s tech elite to let him know what they think is key to moving the NYC tech scene forward. Burghers, this is something worth watching. I have commented before that NYC is a great city for Pittsburgh to learn from in this respect. We are both hundreds of miles from Silicon Valley, we both have some historical industries that lend themselves well to the scene (medicine and banking) and we both have several universities that can turn out talented developers and designers.
With all this in mind, let’s see what this latest round of advice has consisted of. First, Chris Dixon weighed in with 5 things NYC needed and 4 things they didn’t. The five needed things were; (1) Startups that have turned in to big companies to provide funding, talent and a “culture of equity… the idea that owning options in a startup is the best path to financial and career success”, (2) web design talent, (3) more engineers, not necessarily more schools, but the ability to attract more engineers, (4) high-speed internet in startup areas, (5) more marquee tech companies. The four things he says NYC doesn’t need are; (1) Government or University organized events for entrepreneurs to meet one another, (2) expensive projects like new engineering universities, (3) lower rents, (4) even more early-stage capital.
I like Chris’ list for NYC but I would make a few changes for Pittsburgh. Number one on his wishlist would be great, but might not be in range for us just yet, we need to make sure we pump up the companies in number 5 to help fill that void in the short term. I agree with numbers 2 and 3, for Pittsburgh this means not only finding ways to keep people from CMU or Point Park or Pitt, but also finding a way to increase our exposure to the talented individuals across the country. Pittsburgh’s reputation is far better than it once was, but it is still difficult (at times) to recruit people to come here instead of NYC or SF. I’m not aware of a high-speed internet problem in Pittsburgh’s startup areas (Oakland, Southside), maybe I’m wrong but this might be one thing we actually have on NYC. On the “don’t need” list, the only difference I have is with number 4. We could use more active investment at every level, but it seems to me in particular at the high-end of the seed/angel rounds ($200k – $1M).
While Chris’ post was the most interesting, Fred Wilson was one of a panel of people that the NYT persuaded to provide op-eds on the subject of the new university that Bloomberg wants to fund. He, like Dixon, sounds more encouraged about the existing programs in NYC then the planned new university. David Tisch of TechStars is also focused, like Dixon, on attracting top talent from existing universities.