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RustBuilt Pittsburgh will visit Buffalo this June, continuing its decade-long tradition of getting outside the Steel City

Through one-on-one meetings between founders and investors from both communities, the idea is that Pittsburgh can build both awareness of its startup ecosystem and launch new innovation with those outside of the region.

Pittsburgh. (Photo by Guido Coppa on Unsplash)
It takes a village to raise a child, and it may take a few to raise a startup. At least, that’s the motivation behind startup community visits led by a Pittsburgh entrepreneurship group.

RustBuilt Pittsburgh will host the latest of its startup community visits in a trip to Buffalo at the end of the month. A group of local investors and founders will travel to there to make connections and learn more about the startup ecosystem there through one-on-one meetings with Buffalo founders, investors and regional stakeholders. There will also be an opportunity for those on the trip to attend Launch NY’s 10th Anniversary Founders and Investors Celebration on Thursday, June 23.

So far, participating Pittsburgh investors for the trip include representatives from Magarac Venture Partners, Better Work Ventures, Blue Tree Venture Fund and 3 Points Rising Ventures, while those from Buffalo include Far Out Ventures and Launch NY. The event page notes that both lists will be updated weekly as more investors and founders join.

Why leave Pittsburgh?

The RustBuilt startup community visits started over eight years ago with a trip to Detroit after startup ecosystem stakeholders there invited members of the Pittsburgh community. Since that first visit, RustBuilt has hosted a total of 15 such trips to Buffalo, Detroit and other cities across the Midwest. Those visits are either initiated through invites like the one to Detroit on the first trip, or from a number of Pittsburgh founders and other stakeholders expressing an interest in learning more about a certain ecosystem.

“While our efforts originated and will always be centered in Pittsburgh, our mission is to highlight and bolster innovation and entrepreneurship through the region,” RustBuilt Pittsburgh Head of Network Kit Mueller told in an email. “As a part of our annual RustBuilt programming, we regularly host these community visits to help provide more context, connections, and resources to founders in our cities and those we have the chance to visit.”

He added that the hope of doing these visits is to not only learn more about other people building startup communities across the region, but to give broader visibility to Pittsburgh founders. That, Mueller said, will hopefully open the door to regularly sharing news, resources, connections and more across different startup hubs.

There are no hard and fast rules on who can attend the visits, with Mueller noting there’s an open invitation to any local startup founder or investor that would find benefit in meeting key stakeholders in these other communities. Often, the host city will reach out to RustBuilt and ask if it can bring along founders or investors from certain companies or sectors for specific networking and collaboration opportunities.

The trip itself usually has a flexible agenda with a focus on trying to maximize the amount of direct one-on-one interactions between founders and relevant investors. Outside of that, Mueller said the trips usually feature group tours of key venues and organizations, a jointly hosted pitching or networking event or simply having Pittsburgh visitors join in on existing programming.

Collaboration leads to innovation

At the heart of these trips over the past decade is the notion that collaboration breeds innovation. Several local founders, including serial entrepreneur and investor Lynsie Campbell, have pointed to a need for Pittsburghers to get out of their comfort zone and test the viability of their products and companies beyond the Steel City. And these RustBuilt trips are certainly one way to do that.

From his perspective in helping orchestrate the trips over the last several years, Mueller said, “we’ve learned that it helps founders to meet other people building similar stage companies in different communities, meet outside investors and potential partners, hear about different sectors, share the good news of all that’s currently going on in Pittsburgh, and further connect the great startup hubs across our region.”

Want to join in? Learn more about this June’s trip here.

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.
Companies: RustBuilt
People: Kit Mueller

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