The distance between Pittsburgh and the heart of the high-tech world just got a little shorter.
OneValley, formerly GSVLabs (Global Silicon Valley Labs), is opening an innovation center this summer in Pittsburgh at Hazelwood Green. The coworking, event and accelerator space will be housed in the Roundhouse, a remnant of the site’s former LTV steel mill. OneValley’s mission is to help Pittsburgh startups connect to capital, talent networks and customers on a global scale — and give them a physical, supportive place to grow and thrive.
To introduce themselves to the Pittsburgh startup ecosystem, they’re announcing the $50,000 Pittsburgh Startup Challenge. Applications for startups are open until March 31, and companies of all stages and industries are welcome to apply.
Pittsburgh was chosen as OneValley’s third physical location outside of Silicon Valley, after one in Boston, which had to close due to Covid.
Of course, the Pittsburgh-to-Silicon Valley pipeline is already well established. There are several Pittsburgh expats working for OneValley who have talked up the city, its tech transformation and potential.
“About three years ago, we were visiting a lot of different markets and we started spending some time in Pittsburgh,” says OneValley’s Chief Innovation Officer Alec Wright. “We saw some of the raw technical talent that was certainly coming out of Carnegie Mellon and a lot of places … and in all honesty, we were excited about that.”
“We have just really developed a conviction that the Pittsburgh innovation ecosystem, five years, eight years from now, is going to look very different than it does today, and has an immense amount of opportunity,” he adds.
OneValley has also developed a locally-focused Pittsburgh Entrepreneur Platform. It’s being underwritten by the Richard King Mellon Foundation to the tune of $500,000, and East Liberty entrepreneurial hub Ascender is acting as a local partner.
It’s an extension of OneValley’s Passport initiative, an online resource hub that will connect Pittsburgh startups to a vast network of resources, mentors, investors, savings on business tools and other crucial resources. It launches in April, and all Pittsburgh Startup Challenge participants will get access to it.
“There are about 40,000 entrepreneurs around the world that are members of that community,” says Wright. “It’s a great global ecosystem.”
Pittsburgh is just one bright star in a worldwide constellation of entrepreneurial energy.
“There were six million tech startups founded around the world last year,” says Wright. “The growth in places like India, East Asia and Africa is just unbelievable. We could open 1,000 physical centers around the world, and we wouldn’t even scratch the surface of entrepreneurs and startups that we know are out there. And so we just made the decision, that in addition to physical spaces we have, to be able to digitally extend ourselves, if we really want to meet founders where they are — which, today, is everywhere.”
There will be a free version of the Pittsburgh Entrepreneurship Platform that anyone will be able to join, featuring learning content and Pittsburgh-focused events and activities. A premium membership will provide access to all of the network’s mentor and investor communities.
That premium upgrade involves verification that you’re a Pittsburgh-based company and will be available to members at a highly subsidized cost of $100-150 a year, due to support from the R.K. Mellon Foundation.
“If you’re a member of OneValley, you get access to massive savings on everything from your cloud hosting to your payment processing,” says Wright. The goal is to take all the resources that early-stage entrepreneurs need and put them in one place.
The Pittsburgh Startup Challenge isn’t limited to AI, robotics or medicine. Startups of all kinds are invited to apply.
The top 8-10 startup finalists will be offered free space at OneValley Pittsburgh for an extended period of time.
Once it’s completed, OneValley will take up about 30,000 square feet of office space within the building’s two floors.
Semi-final events for the Pittsburgh Startup Challenge will take place throughout May. A pitch challenge will be held at the grand opening of the OneValley Innovation Center this summer (depending on Covid).
Other OneValley locations are coming via partnerships in London and China, but those have been paused due to Covid.