If you’re looking for the most comprehensive data on Pittsburgh’s startup ecosystem, a new online tool promises to give you all the information you could want.
This week, InnovatePGH launched ASTRI, a new online portal meant to provide access to startups, tech, research and investment (hence the acronym) in the Pittsburgh area. Accessible through a free public website, the portal brings together data across startups and research institutions in the region to make it easier for outside parties to assess the local tech and innovation economy for potential investment, business growth and the like.
“The whole purpose of ASTRI is to bring a really streamlined portal of the Pittsburgh region’s tech ecosystem to out-of-market investors, corporate partners — basically anyone who’s just asking themselves, ‘What’s going on in Pittsburgh? How do I get a really quick answer to that question?'” InnovatePGH Ecosystem Director Jason Griess told Technical.ly.
Right now, that process is pretty inefficient, he said: Outside parties interested in what’s going on in Pittsburgh have to start with a Google search, and then they might reach out to ecosystem builders like Innovation Works or Carnegie Mellon University, who may then do research for them and compile information based on what they’re looking for in the local economy. Or, those outside parties may simply not find the info they need, period.
The tool aims to bypass that confusion. And startups themselves can use it, too.
“In the startup world, fundraising can be difficult and time-consuming. That is especially true in a smaller market. This tool provides investors with valuable information on the startups in our region, and provides startups with a way to find investors in their company’s sector,” said Kit Needham, the director of Project Olympus and the assistant dean for entrepreneurship initiatives at CMU, in a statement. “Startups can also use this tool to see what other companies have been funded in similar domains. Overall, the primary benefit of this tool is improving the access to quality information on our region’s startup and investment landscape, which is extremely valuable for accelerating our ecosystem.”
That’s done through a partnership with Amsterdam-based market intelligence firm Dealroom.co, which provided the platform for the startup database in ASTRI. There, users can see the number of startups, funding rounds, corporations, investors and more for the Pittsburgh region. For each startup, Griess and the InnovatePGH team input the market, type of company, growth signal, launch date, valuation, funding, revenue and jobs available where they can. Companies that share new information or want to correct any errors in the database can simply do so by reaching out to Griess or InnovatePGH.
That database encompasses much of what Griess called “phase one” of ASTRI. Right now, the website has tabs for startups, research and ecosystem overview for Pittsburgh’s innovation economy. But there will be more to come for the research page in an eventual phase two, he said, though the timing of when those updates will happen has yet to be determined.
“I wouldn’t call this a placeholder,” Griess said in describing the current status of the research page. “I think it’s still useful. But it is going to be replaced by the database that we prop up in this page.” That database will be embedded similarly to the one on the startups page.
For now, the ecosystem page does its best to encapsulate the broad picture of both company and research activity contributing to the innovation economy here. That tab highlights recent reports from Startup Genome, Innovation Works and more that provide concrete data on just how much the city has grown in supporting tech and entrepreneurship. It also provides a map of the ecosystem, highlighting where all of the most prominent companies are located.
“Importantly, this doesn’t mean that [for example] Zoom‘s headquarters is here, but it’s more that these are the R&D facilities or the one office that this company acquired way back when,” Griess said of the map.
Not all of the benefits of the new startup database are accessible to people who don’t work for those startups, and that’s a function of Dealroom’s platform. Only those who have accounts tied to local startups have access to more in-depth information like job postings, a company’s tech stack and more. It’s a feature Dealroom implemented to ensure that only people who actually work at certain companies have the ability to edit their pages.
Still, there’s a lot that the free version of Dealroom offers to those who don’t work for one of Pittsburgh’s hundreds of startups.
“You could see the company information. You can see their investment history, which I think is really interesting. You can see who they’ve invested in as well,” Griess said. And that information will be updated as the city’s economy continues to evolve. “The power of Dealroom’s proprietary algorithms is that they can scrape the web for news articles and update these profiles automatically. So we don’t necessarily have to input this information, but we’re constantly validating the information.”
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.