Startups

Pittsburgh’s biggest VC deals of 2021: Autonomy and life sciences top the list

From Idelic's $20 million raise to Rimsys' $16 million Series A, here are the top eight local tech deals in the last year.

Idelic founders (left to right) Nick Bartel, Hayden Cardiff and Andrew Russell.

(Courtesy photo)

Though final fourth quarter and year-end data on venture capital raises and other funding won’t be fully announced until the new year, Technical.ly has kept track of the money moves in Pittsburgh.

With a paltry first two quarters, 2021 is lagging far behind the amount of VC the city raked in last year, and likely won’t come close to catching up with fourth quarter deals. But that’s not to say some companies haven’t managed to attract new funds. From autonomy support companies to life science firms looking to start clinical trials, these eight deals are some of the biggest the city saw this year.

Technical.ly will have more to say on Pittsburgh’s VC data for the year once the Pitchbook-NVCA Venture Monitor publishes its overall findings. But one thing to keep in mind for this short list of deals this year is that Pittsburgh tech found success in other financial moves, such as IPOs and SPAC deals. Plus, a new crop of local early-stage funds will start making even more investments in the new year, while aiming to drive growth for the young companies on this list and more in 2022.

Idelic — $20 million

In the biggest VC deal of the first quarter this year, trucking safety and operations management software company Idelic raised $20 million for its Series B. Its signature product, Safety Suite, collects comprehensive data from drivers in a trucking fleet and uses machine learning to assess and manage factors that could affect driver safety.

The $20 million raise was led by Highland Capital Partners, which has offices in Cambridge, Palo Alto and New York. The only Pittsburgh-based investor in the round was Birchmere Ventures, which had previously funded Idelic in an earlier round. In a dismal first quarter of venture capital investments for Pittsburgh, Idelic’s raise signaled an early win for the tech industry this year, and particularly in transportation applications.

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Novasenta — $20 million

At the end of August, immunotherapy drug development startup Novasenta announced a $20 million seed round investment led by UPMC’s entrepreneurial support division, UPMC Enterprises.

Novasenta — which was growing in UPMC’s incubator for the last few years — launches with an eight figure investment at a time of growing life sciences innovation in Pittsburgh. With new offices, lab space and other resources, Novasenta said that it hopes to launch its first clinical trial for T-cell targets for immunotherapy in tumor microenvironments by the end of 2023.

Rimsys — $16 million

Rimsys CEO James Gianoutsos. (Courtesy photo)

Though the total number investments for the fourth quarter of this year won’t be announced until January, the $16 million Series A that medtech-adjacent software solutions company Rimsys attracted at the start of December will undoubtedly be near the top of deals closed in the past few months.

Led by early stage VC heavyweight Bessemer Venture Partners, the new funding will enable Rimsys to pursue new customer acquisition and product expansion. Already, its impressive portfolio includes top healthcare companies like Johnson & Johnson, Thermo Fisher, Siemens Healthineers and more. And, in good news for Pittsburgh, Rimsys is hiring for local roles, with plans to double its team by the end of next year.

CivicScience — $15 million

CivicScience CEO John Dick. (Courtesy photo)

In August, marketing intelligence and data company CivicScience announced a $15 million raise to support the launch of a new advertising tech business called Rulo, which CivicScience said will leverage “privacy-compliant, responsibly-sourced audience data.”  Leading the raise were high profile investors like the former CEO of Amazon’s worldwide consumer business, Jeff Wilke, and Legendary Entertainment founder Thomas Tull.

All of the top investors, CivicScience CEO John Dick told Technical.ly, have ties or significant interests in Pittsburgh.

“We always sort of viewed adtech as a bad word and a dirty place,” Dick said at the time, adding that CivicScience had “never really played in that space before, because of all the concerns we had about privacy and surveillance of consumers.” But with the privacy-compliant data the company already collected for its clients, he’s hoping it’ll have an advantage in the advertising world with Rulo.

Edge Case Research — $12 million

Included in the Pitchbook-NVCA Venture Monitor for Q2 but announced by the company in Q3 of this year, autonomy safety company Edge Case Research raised $12 million in its Series A round. Leading the round was Munich-based Yabeo Capital, which Edge Case shared will also take a board seat at the company. Local investors on the deal included simulation software firm Ansys, Blue Tree Allied Angels, Reinforced Ventures and 412 Venture Fund.

In a blog post from Edge Case’s CEO, Michael Wagner, the company shared that the new funding would be used towards product development, customer acquisition and team expansion, including a new headquarters in the Strip District near Pittsburgh’s autonomous vehicle companies.

Diamond Kinetics — $12 million

According to the Pitchbook-NVCA Venture Monitor for Q3 of this year, softball and baseball motion tech and data company Diamond Kinetics raised $12 million, though the company didn’t publish an official press release on the news.

It remains unclear what series the investment was and who backed the company in this latest round, but regardless, new funds often include support for customer acquisition, product development and team expansion. That’s likely the case here, which could be an early indicator of an untapped market for Pittsburgh: the potential for data and artificial intelligence applications in sports.

Carmell Therapeutics — $11 million

Though not announced by the company in a news post on its website, the Pitchbook-NVCA Venture Monitor of the third quarter of 2021 listed biotech company Carmell Therapeutics as one of five companies with eight figure deals, raising $11 million.

The small company specializes in the development and commercialization of plasma-based bioactive materials to accelerate post-surgical healing. The funding will likely support further product development and customer acquisition. Without an announcement from the company, it remains unclear whether or not the funding will involve more hiring at the company’s South Side offices.

Agot.AI — $10 million

In September, AI-powered food service software startup Agot.AI raised $10 million of rolling close SAFE notes — the financial instrument for seed rounds introduced by the prominent Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator in 2013.

The young company was founded by two Carnegie Mellon University alums, and involves the use of computer vision through cameras to identify and reduce food preparation errors in the quick service restaurant industry. Leading the round was Continental Grain Company with additional support from the Kitchen Fund and Grit Ventures. Technical.ly spoke to the company’s head of business development, Mike Regan, about the company’s plans to grow its customer base and improve its tech with the new funding.


Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-
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