I think a lot of it is a byproduct of their location: Pittsburgh is many years behind the valley on investor terms and incubator programs. As a result there are few startups there. Valley startups can't really afford to head out to Pittsburgh to recruit or promote entrepreneurship, especially when Stanford & Berkeley are a car ride away (ditto with Boston/MIT).
There are many great people working on this problem inside CMU, but it's an uphill battle. I'm curious what the terms of this investment will be. The worst thing CMU can do is try to force entrepreneurs to stay in Pittsburgh. Fix the attitude, then the location will fix itself.
Over the past three years, I've served on the University's Board of Trustees as its first ever Young Alumni Trustee. I spoke to Jonathan Kaplan and Rick McCullough (vp of research for cmu). I will personally be very involved in making sure it's maximizing it's potential. Everybody has a clear vision on this initiative.
I was born in nyc and grew up in sf and never left Pittsburgh since attending CMU as a freshman in 1998. I started running my company, College Prowler, full-time, the day after graduating with my bachelors in 2002.
Pittsburgh is HOT right now. And, I can assure you that Carnegie Mellon has more momentum than ever before.
Feel free to reach out to me with ideas, thoughts, questions - Luke @ collegeprowler.com.
I'm confident that Pittsburgh can become a good place for startups, but first you need to change the student mentality. Once students are more willing and likely to go work at/start startups, Pittsburgh will implicitly become a better place to found one. Until then CMU is a great source of talent, but it will be an uphill battle to convince recent grads to work for a startup and stay in Pittsburgh, especially when the valley beasts are making very enticing 6-figure offers.
Local companies like The Resumator, ShoeFitr, ShowClix and others are making national headlines. As these companies bring in or continue to bring in revenue and investment dollars to town, and become a cool or interesting place to work, it'll be easier for students to stick around and put down roots. Some of them might even think about starting their own project after awhile.
Eventually, I could see it as a sort of robotics hub, as there is existing manufacturing infrastructure and affordable land for the production of physical goods.
That said, lots of startups have been coming out of CMU recently. Just off the top of my head with people I know, there is Homerun, Everlane, CardMunch (acquired by LinkedIn), LeanBop (currently in DreamIt/Startl), ShoeFitr, NumberFire, Artsicle, and others.
I'm helping organize a Startup Weekend in September there. Hopefully this will help a bit, but we also need to get startups to get visibility on campus through talks and job fairs.
Also, you left GazeHawk off your list ;-)
Let me know if there's any way I can help with the Startup weekend...I've been pushing for something similar for a while to YC, 500startups, and CMU.
Definitely could use help/speakers/sponsors. Will ping you about it.
It doesn't seem like this fund forces people to stay in Pittsburgh. I do think it is important that the school continue to encourage people to stay though; SF and Boston shouldn't have a monopoly on entrepreneurship.
It will be a lot easier for you to convince Sophomores and Juniors to come on as interns than getting a graduating Senior at first. On the student's part it is much less of a risk, and besides, staying around for a summer in Pittsburgh isn't too bad. Once you get some people to intern for you then you can get some name recognition on campus and start recruiting more seriously.
Well that's what I think anyways.
I'd say skip the job fairs: In four years, I never considered attending one because they are mostly perceived as boring among your likely target demographic.
Some companies come and give talks about their infrastructure or technology -- these were always what got me excited and interested. I also really enjoyed a few of the competitions and challenges (like Facebook's and Yahoo's).
Just being on campus and doing events which give students a taste of the excitement of creating something would probably generate much more interest than you're seeing now.
I already knew I wanted to work at a startup a year ago, so I had to actively ignore the constant recruiting from the big names while putting effort into chasing down leads with startups. Had I not already known what I wanted (from past internships), it would have been much easier to just sit back and take the pitches which came my way.
Bottom line: come woo us with talks about the cool stuff you do. Send your engineers along too to talk shop with us. Run hack sessions and showcase the winning apps. Show us how much more fun we'd have doing things your way, as opposed to Microsoft's, and you'll have the students you want lining up to apply.
In other words, the cost of living is low because rent is low because there's no demand because no one wants to live here.
On top of all that, SV already exists, so if you were going to start a startup, there would be no reason not to start it there. And, once you exited there, you would have no reason to leave, and especially not in favor of Pittsburgh, of all places.
Thus, good investors, also known as angels, will never cluster here.
More on-topic, it seems like the CMU fund is going to have a committee of bureaucrats decide who to fund. Why would that ever be a good idea? I graduated from CMU and work there now, and if I started a startup and were offered money by said fund, I would reject it. They'd want me to go to an 'OFEF business workshop.'
Pittsburgh knows how it has and continues to benefit from the legacy of the enormously rich people it has produced over the years. I have never personally felt that the city is morally opposed to the concept of rich people.
the food in Pittsburgh really isn't that bad. I feel like you are judging all of Pittsburgh's food based on the popularity of certain grease laden places. But, Pittsburgh's food is really actually above average for a city of its size. It's above average in basically all aspects, except the weather. It's still not San Francisco, but, seriously, have you been to Cleveland or Buffalo? Exactly.
The Indian food in particular is about as good as any, especially at India Garden when it is half-off from 4PM-6PM (or 4:30PM - 6:30PM?) and so absurdly cheap that it is worth dealing with the surly servers. Taste of India is even better and doesn't have the mean servers.
Udipi Cafe in Monroeville is as good as any South Indian restaurant. http://www.yelp.com/biz/udipi-cafe-monroeville-2
Point Brugge in Point Breeze is great, and way cheaper than what you would pay for the same quality food in SF. Same with Legume. The Sharp Edge Beer Emporium has a beer list as good as any bar in the USA. Spice Island Tea House in Oakland is wonderful. Rose Tea Cafe in Squirrel Hill has really good authentic Taiwanese food (make sure to order the right things, Taiwanese Chunk Chicken and Beef with Hot Peppers is probably where to start).
Pittsburgh also has this absurdly good and cheap red sauce Italian place in Verona. Reservations are basically required as they are always full. http://veronavillageinn.myupsite.com/ I mean... Eggplant Parmigiana as good as any for $9.49 and it comes with soup and salad! It is absolutely my favourite restaurant in Pittsburgh but totally unknown to the college/young professional market.
Smart young successful people actually do live there, more so than it's comparison cities... It also has some of the most educated folks in that bunch-
You'll see it's in very good company among the top educated cities. Personally, a lot of my friends stayed in Pittsburgh and/or moved back after a few years. I personally was itching to leave many years ago, have lived in many places along the way and now miss the place dearly/will at some point move back.
There are a number of startups in Pittsburgh now, but not as many as there were during the .com bubble... there are many more than any other cities of its size, primarily because there is great talent coming out of CMU and Pitt. Your argument suggests that there is no reason for anyone to not locate to SV (which is totally fine, but I think many would disagree)
Here are some of the recent startups: http://www.quora.com/What-are-the-hot-software-or-recent-sta...
and some others: http://www.quora.com/What-are-some-good-startups-out-of-Pitt...
Re: food, you must be joking... Murray Ave right by CMU has more fantastic ethnic restaurants than anywhere I can think of (http://www.urbanspoon.com/n/23/2226/Pittsburgh/Squirrel-Hill...), and Nine on Nine, Eleven, Paris 66, Salt of the Earth, and Bona Terra would be worthy of Michelin stars in another city, yet they are reasonably priced in Pittsburgh.
Re: weather you're spot-on... there are less sunny days in Pittsburgh than nearly anywhere... but it seems to work out OK for Seattle.
If this fund is indeed run by a bunch of bureaucrats it might end up being crap, as you suggest. Project Olympus at CMU has done some good stuff though, so I have hope.
Yes, it compares well to other cities of its size startup-wise, but we're comparing it to SV, which is not of its size, so nevermind.
Yes, there do exist nice restaurants, but we're comparing it to the Bay Area, and the mean, median, and top 10% quality of Bay Area restaurants is ridiculously high, so nevermind.
Pittsburgh's weather is worse than Seattle's. Yes, it is #2 to Seattle's #1 on the country's least-sunny list, but in Seattle, it just rains a lot, and whether or not it's raining, the air is palatable. In Pittsburgh, it's either freezing your nose off or making your eyes water with humidity.
The thing about being morally opposed to rich people is an instance of an observation I've heard from multiple people other than myself: Pittsburgh's message seems to be, stay here and be one of us, and don't think you can be any better than us, because we don't think that's possible, and in fact find the idea offensive.
Which is not exactly a startup-ish sentiment.
And your sentiments about the culture here are a bit off. It's definitely much more blue-collar than SV, which may be why you get that impression. But it's a far cry from being anti-ambitious.
CMU has helped Pittsburgh rebrand itself from a coal-mining, steel-working town to a technological hub. I'm glad to hear that they want to continue the trend.
Just curious, as the internet access was plenty fast at CMU 15 years ago when I was there, so I can't imagine it is worse now. And of course these days you host virtually (hah) everything in EC2 or the like, so local bandwidth should never be a limiting factor.
Perhaps I'm just sensitive on this topic since I've been using an (at best of times) 100k connection in Rwanda starting a software company here.
How about creating a foundation that gives grants to students to support them while they get a Masters or PhD in two branches of science?
My assumption is that encouraging people to get high degrees in two or three branches of science will help bridge the 'specialization gap' that now exists between the branches. People on this program will be able to apply one area of science to another, which may create amazing applications.
How many people are there who have a PhD in biology _and_ a PhD in computer science? What about PhD's in mathematics and robotics?
I would apply immediately to anything resembling this.
2 of the 3 colleges I attended have exactly this program: