Wall-scaling robots will soon be crawling around Pittsburgh’s North Side.
On the tails of a $73 million Series C in March, Gecko Robotics announced the opening of its new office in Pittsburgh. The company, which specializes in the development of robots and software for industrial inspections, initially signed the lease on the 70,000-square-foot space at the North Side’s Nova Place in January 2021, with plans to double the size of its previous East Liberty offices. Nova Place is also home to Innovation Works, the Pittsburgh Technology Council, Alloy26 and a number of startups and growth companies. At the time of the expansion announcement, Gecko’s founder and CEO, Jake Loosararian, announced that the company would also expand its Austin and Houston offices.
The new Pittsburgh offices, which were slated to open in November 2021, were finally on display for the public this week. In addition to a big increase in the total workspace for the company, the Nova Place office also features a two-story testing area with the ceiling stripped away for robot testing on indoor infrastructure. The testing area is also equipped with a number of other installations to assist in training the robots in their wall-climbing and inspection abilities.
We officially opened the new Gecko HQ! Staying true to our roots, HQ will remain in Pittsburgh, housed in a cutting edge space in @NovaPlace.
— Gecko Robotics (@geckorobotics) May 11, 2022
“Our vision for Nova Place is to build a world-class R&D environment that inspires innovation and customer service to the world’s most critical industries,” Loosararian said in a statement at the time. “We need the world’s best engineers to do this, and we think Pittsburgh has access to this type of person.”
It joins a number of companies working in the robotics and autonomous systems space that have not only grown in Pittsburgh, but established long-term commitments to the city as well. Most recently, autonomous vehicle company Aurora opened refurbished headquarters in the Strip District while transplants like Neuraville, Smith+Nephew and more have set up shop in the Steel City over the last year.
Gecko’s new offices will accommodate its big growth plans. Right now, the company employs around 200 people, with half of the team based in Pittsburgh. But at the opening event on Monday evening, Loosararian estimated that total number of employees across all of its offices could double to 400 in the next year. And according to reporting from the Pittsburgh Business Journal, Gecko already has an agreement with Nova Place landlord Faros Properties to take on an additional 80,000 square feet of space if and when the company needs it.
Thank you @GeckoRobotics for inviting me to your new & expanded HQ. Your work to bring high-tech manufacturing to @Pittsburgh is incredible. This is how we build a safe, thriving city for all — with investments in life sciences & robotics that are paying off in new economy jobs. pic.twitter.com/35fYxTJSRI
— Mayor Ed Gainey (@MayorEdGainey) May 10, 2022
Gecko’s mission to use robotics for infrastructure improvements is an issue near and dear to Pittsburgh these days, and that was reflected by the several public officials at the office’s opening event, including Mayor Ed Gainey and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. After the collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge on the morning of President Joe Biden‘s visit to Pittsburgh to discuss the need for infrastructure funding, citizens and officials across the city have been clamoring for improvements on all bridges, roads and public infrastructure.
Given that, there’s an argument to be made that Gecko’s success could be even more integral to the city’s near-term future than big wins for the better-known autonomous vehicle industry. After all, before you can put driverless cars on the roads, you need to make sure the roads can support them.
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.