The Strip District as viewed behind the Produce Terminal. Photo by TH Carlisle.

Aspinity, the tech company now based in Pittsburgh that moved from Morgantown, W.Va., announced this week that they have raised $2.9 million in financing and will use the funds to expand their headquarters along the 2000 block of Smallman Street.

The company, formerly tied to West Virginia University, has pioneered a technology that allows smart appliances, such as an Alexa or Google Home, to listen for commands while expending a fraction of their current battery needs. Naturally, Amazon was an early investor via the company’s Amazon Alexa Fund.

Aspinity CEO Tom Doyle says they plan to use this round of funding to build out their engineering team and round out other critical functions to accelerate the design, development and delivery of their first products for customers. Currently, the company has five full-time staffers, and hopes to hire 10 more in the coming year.

The company received support from local venture capital firms Birchmere Ventures, Riverfront Ventures and Mountain State Capital.

“We are excited about the Pittsburgh startup ecosystem, especially when we meet local companies like Aspinity with a strong team and a unique, market-driven technology,” says Ned Renzi, a partner at Birchmere.

“Aspinity’s technology is essential for the implementation of next generation, hands-free monitoring for a wide range of markets, from the Internet of Things to consumer electronics to industrial and health monitoring.

“Aspinity is first to market with a revolutionary technology, putting them right in our sweet spot for investment – an early stage technology company with high-growth potential.”

District 15 will be the first office building in the Riverfront Landing development. Rendering by DLA+ Architecture.

The growing roster of technology start-ups and venture capital firms lining the Strip District and Lower Lawrenceville have, in some circles, earned the neighborhood the nickname Robotics Row.

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Jonathan Kersting, vp of communications and media at the Pittsburgh Technology Council, says that the Strip District is becoming a local hub for advanced robotics as a result of several key factors.

“First there’s a bit of a snowball effect. As the density of companies grows, it naturally attracts more companies to be in proximity,” he says, “With the Strip being part of Robotics Row, it becomes a no-brainer for a robotics start-up or AI company to be part of that branded community.”

Beyond recent trends, Kersting says the buildings left over from the neighborhood’s industrial past have ended up being a valuable asset.

“The Strip offers the type of spaces that these companies are looking for: flexible, rustic floor plans; proximity to restaurants, music and bars; access to the rivers; and connections that are walkable and bikeable.”

Early-stage venture capital firms along the row include Birchmere and SteelBridge Labs, and their neighbors include a variety of local start-ups, such as SnapRetail and JazzHR.

Argo AI is also in the Strip, along with Uber and Bosch. The District 15 development, pictured above and slated to open in December, will house a fitness center along with several floors dedicated to advanced research and development companies. Facebook has already signed up as a tenant.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.