Startups

Power Moves: A Pittsburgh startup got $100K from Google and a civic tech pro has a new gig

Plus, Pittsburgh Robotics Network adds an events team, CMU picked 12 startups for VentureBridge 2022 and more local tech leadership news.

Max Mergenthaler Canseco.

(Courtesy photo)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, gig or promotion? Email us: pittsburgh@technical.ly.


The cofounder of a Pittsburgh tech company has been named a recipient of the first Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, an honor that comes with a $100,000 non-equity cash award.

The winner, Max Mergenthaler Canseco of Nixtla, told Technical.ly the funding will help the software company grow its reach in the open source community.

“We will use the [$100,000] to keep pushing the boundaries of the time series field,” he said via email. “We really want to keep contributing to the open source community and adding value to different developers and machine learning practitioners. In the next months we expect to explore transfer learning applied to time series and gain [first] users in our low latency forecasting API.”

Per Mergenthaler Canseco, Nixtla is based in Pittsburgh, but is a remote-first company; he is based in New York City.

The Latino Founders Fund aims to shrink the funding gap to a group that receives disproportionately less capital than others. The program also offers recipients access to Google programming, mentorship and free mental health resources.

Tara Matthews left government for consulting

Tara Matthews has left her role as an application specialist at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services to become a consultant on the digital transformation team at North Side-based consultancy Aspirant.

The civic technologist first moved to Pittsburgh from Columbia, Maryland to attend the University of Pittsburgh for an undergraduate degree in economics and political science, followed by a master’s of public administration in policy research and analysis. She went on to work for the City of Pittsburgh focusing on digital service analysis for Innovation and Performance. In that role, she worked to make data more accessible and understandable to all members of the public, helping to lead the City’s then-nascent open data program, which now operates through the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center.

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As she told Technical.ly in September 2021 (just before she was named to Technical.ly’s inaugural RealLIST Engineers in Pittsburgh), Matthews didn’t expect to end up in the tech. Her advice to those who aren’t sure they belong in the field: “Jump in. You are worthy.”

Tara Matthews. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Pittsburgh Robotics Network adds events teammates

Pittsburgh Robotics Network (PRN) recently welcomed two new team members: Amy Caligiuri and Lexi Miller will be joining the industry booster’s staff to plan and host events.

Together, they will plan virtual and in-person events including PRN’s speaker series and member happy hours, as well as bigger events such as Pittsburgh Robotics Discovery Day and a 2023 global robotics leadership conference. Both Caligiuri and Miller are new to the world of robotics, but said they are drawn to it because of its potential to impact the world. They’re also excited to facilitate connections, engagement and growth.

“I love bringing people together and building community,” Miller said in a statement. “Pittsburgh has a number of emerging companies and new startups, and I’m particularly excited to help them get more involved, grow their networks, and find their place.”

CMU picked 12 startups for VentureBridge 2022

The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University announced the 12 startups participating in its summer 2022 VentureBridge program.

The chosen companies work in sectors ranging from medical device technology to legal tech and cleantech. Several are based in Pittsburgh, but some are located in San Francisco and New York, and each has a cofounder who attended CMU.

Startups receive $25,000 in seed funding from the university, plus office space, mentorship, investor connections and in-kind business-building resources. Here’s the full list of the chosen companies:

Pittsburgh Technical College celebrated its new president

Pittsburgh Technical College officially installed Alicia B. Harvey-Smith as its fourth president and CEO on June 17 at its campus in Oakdale. Harvey-Smith is PTC’s first Black president.

“I am honored and humbled to lead Pittsburgh Technical College forward as we begin to write the college’s next chapter,” Harvey-Smith said in a statement. “To be able to celebrate our achievements with so many distinguished guests in government and higher education, friends and family and the entire PTC community means so much to me, and I’m proud to lead the college forward.”

Harvey-Smith was appointed to be president and CEO in 2019, but her installation ceremony was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to this position, she served as executive vice chancellor of Lone Star College in Houston and served as president and CEO of River Valley Community College in Claremont, New Hampshire.

Under Harvey-Smith’s leadership so far, the college has earned a National Science Foundation grant and developed a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative.

AV director Jen DeBrincat talks community trust

Jen DeBrincat became Argo AI’s director of corporate responsibility in April after working as finance lead for the autonomous vehicle company. Since taking on the new job, DeBrincat has spoken about Argo’s work in making sure its driverless cars are safe, and perceived to be.

“We’re out in the communities listening, learning, teaching and also educating on both ends and trying to understand what are the concerns of the communities, what are the challenges with transportation today in the communities that we want to serve,” the Leadership Pittsburgh 2021-2022 member said in a recent interview with Pittsburgh Inno.

Argo has worked with or spoken to organizations such as the League of America Bicyclists and the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind to build trust and understand the needs of different communities, DeBrincat said, and the company also started community advisory boards.

Pittsburgh gets the Time mag treatment

We hope you’ve seen by now: Pittsburgh’s Astrobotic was recognized in Time for plans to launch its Peregrine spacecraft from the Kennedy Space Center at the end of this year. The spacecraft will land in the moon’s Lake of Death (!!!) and will mark the first time the United States has put a spacecraft on the moon since Apollo 17, almost 50 years ago.

The landing is the first through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which enlists private sector companies to do work on the moon, such as look for water ice deposits that can be used for drinking water. Other contracted companies include Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and Blue Origin — “but it is little Astrobotic that is set to be first out of the gate,” says the article.

Recall, too, that CMU’s Iris rover will travel with Astrobotic’s spacecraft, making it the first American student-developed rover to land on the moon.

More Pittsburgh leadership changes and kudos

  • Neighborhood Allies has brought on Karen Lue as senior program manager of digital inclusion and innovation. (Read Technical.ly’s recent profile on the nonprofit’s director of digital inclusion and innovation, Itha Cao.)
  • Biotech company NeuBase Therapeutics promoted COO William Mann to president.
  • CMU associate professor Aaditya Ramdas has won a $60,000 award from Google’s Research Scholar Program to study structured uncertainty quantification.
  • University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine professor Carla Chugani was named VP of clinical content and affairs for New York City-based Mantra Health.
  • Downtown Pittsburgh-based applied AI company Cognistx brought on Jill Yahnite as its new VP of sales:

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