With 20 years’ experience in funding Pittsburgh-based startups, I feel compelled to respond to your recent article on our region’s relatively poor performance in national startup rankings (“Region's Low Startup Rank Startles,” June 4). Since founding Birchmere Ventures in 1996 to seek technology startup opportunities in the Pittsburgh metro area, we’ve expanded nationally, but we’re still based here, and we view this market as our most promising.
The Kauffman Foundation’s statistics indicating that Pittsburgh has the lowest rate of startup activity among the country’s 40 largest metro areas is disheartening on its face. But these numbers obscure rather than reveal what’s really happening. Kauffman’s overly broad definition of entrepreneurial activity conflates dry cleaners and landscapers with the comparatively small number of companies raising significant venture capital — those with the potential to transform a region’s economy.
The vast majority of Kauffman’s startups are small proprietorships that will never have more than nine employees. Lumping them in with companies striving to go public or to be acquired for hundreds of millions of dollars yields misleading results.
Looking backward 20 years and forward a few more, I see our region’s venture sector booming with world-class investment opportunities coming out of Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, Innovation Works and Alphalab. NoWait, Resumator, 4Moms, and Indentified Technologies are national leaders in their markets. These are the companies we should be tracking and celebrating – our region’s star companies aiming to change Pittsburgh, and change the world.