Startups

Money Moves: Astrobotic, Gecko Robotics, LifeX and more Pittsburgh orgs score millions

Plus, Honeycomb Credit expands its platform to equity investments, and more funding news from across Western Pennsylvania.

Mayor Ed Gainey (right) at the May 2022 ribbon cutting ceremony at Gecko Robotics' offices in Nova Place.

(Courtesy photo)

Money Moves is a column where we chart the funding raises of tech companies across the region. Have a tip? Email us at pittsburgh@technical.ly.


Here at Technical.ly we know that sometimes the world moves so fast that some headlines don’t make it onto your radar. Never fear, because from life science grants to robotics contracts, we’re here to help you catch up on Pittsburgh entities that received a vote of confidence to the tune of millions.

Gecko Robotics picked up Air Force funding

Gecko Robotics, a North Side-based advanced robotics and enterprise software startup, has been awarded an 18-month long, $1.5 million contract from the US Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center. The funding comes through the Small Business Innovation Research program a few months after the company entered into a three-year agreement with Siemens Energy’s European Field Service organization. Prior to that, it announced one of the largest raises of 2022 in the form of $73 million.

During the next year and half, Gecko will use its technology — specifically its crawling robots — to assess concrete and steel liners in international ballistic launch facilities by integrating concrete evolution into them. Cofounder and CEO Jake Loosararian said in a statement that he’s proud the company will be doing its part to safeguard the nation’s most critical assets and looks forward to similar partnerships in the future.

“I’m also proud of how our team and our product have risen to the challenge during this competitive process as we continue to increase our partnerships across the federal space,” Loosararian said.

(P.S. Gecko is a finalist in the 2022 Technical.ly Awards. Voting closes Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 5 p.m.)

Conservation Labs is accelerating

Conservation Labs, a Pittsburgh-based sustainable water use company, announced that it’s been chosen to participate in the Amazon Web Services Sustainable Cities Accelerator for Infrastructure. During a four-week program, Conservation Labs will receive technical training, mentorship, coaching, $100,000 in computing credits, and connections to cleantech venture investors.

According to a release, participating in this accelerator will support Conservation Labs’ mission to monitor water systems and give it the opportunity to accelerate the scaling of the platform for H2know, the labs’ water monitor product that delivers water insights and leak alerts through an app.

Conservation Labs’ H2know is a smart water meter accessible through an app. (Courtesy photo)

Honeycomb Credit expands to equity investing

Following an investment trend taken up by startups across the US, Honeycomb Credit, the East Liberty-based fintech company, is launching an equity-based offering on its platform.

On its existing platform, Honeycomb allows small businesses to crowdsource loans and offer investors debt financing. Now, with the new offering, users can buy shares in companies. So far, according to the Pittsburgh Biz Times’ reporting, the platform is offering equity for two campaigns. The first is a South Side brewery by the name of Velum Fermentation and the second is a DC-based prepared food maker called 8Myles.

The homegrown Honeycomb Credit cofounded by CEO George Cook has gained attention previously with milestones such as raising $1.75 million of its own in a 2021 seed round, and its status as a finalist in the MoneyPitch competition that same year.

Energy Innovation Center, Astrobotic and BioForge are getting grants

The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, a state grant program designed to support regional cultural, economic, civic and historical projects, is awarding $12.85 million to eight Pittsburgh projects. Among them are the Energy Innovation Center, space robotics company Astrobotic, and the Pitt BioForge Biomanufacturing Center at the Hazelwood Green innovation hub, which focuses on biomedical research.

Astrobotic is getting $3 million to be used on the construction of a new facility near their current HQ on the North Side. With its $2.1 million, the Pittsburgh Gateways Corp. will be converting a now-vacant school building into the Energy Innovation Center where companies focused on workforce training can set up shop. Lastly the University of Pittsburgh gets $1 million to build a structure for a manufacturing facility and institute that BioForge can use to advance manufacturing processes and train students for jobs related to the biomanufacturing workforce.

State Rep. Aerion Abney said in a release that all the projects awarded funding will improve Western Pennsylvania in one way or another.

“These projects will not only support existing businesses or cultural programs but also will create opportunities for businesses to invest and grow in our community,” Abney said.

LifeX picks up another mill

LifeX, a SouthSide Works-based life sciences founder of life sciences companies, is receiving a $1 million grant from the Angel Investment Venture Capital Program, a state program geared toward supporting businesses in the earliest stages of financing. LifeX was picked because of its history providing early-stage funding for life science companies in Western PA, and by proxy the University of Pittsburgh where it was founded.

“I [am] pleased to provide state funding to help them in their mission, which aligns perfectly with the goals of the Angel Investment Venture Capital Program and the efforts to grow businesses in and attract businesses to Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania Senate Majority Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne said in a statement.

Back in September, LifeX also secured $14.7 million from the state via the Direct Venture Investment program, which funds orgs that will provide seed and later-stage capital for “existing and emerging companies involved in the development and commercialization of technologically advanced products and processes.”


Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supportedby the Heinz Endowments. -30-
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