We keep hearing how artificial intelligence is going to change everything–but as with everything, there’s a big difference between the haves and the have-nots. The AI revolution won’t come cheap. Petuum aims to make AI more accessible to all companies by creating modular, low-cost AI building blocks that can be assembled to give industrial, healthcare and other fields significant AI capabilities without having to build from scratch. With $108 million in funding from SoftBank, this rapidly-growing and innovative startup makes its home in the Strip District.

NeuBase Therapeutics

Life sciences is another growing segment of Pittsburgh’s economy, underpinned by the massive resources of Pittsburgh’s research hospitals and universities. NeuBase Therapeutics takes on severe and rare genetic diseases by developing next-generation “gene silencing therapies.” One of their technologies, Janus Base, was recognized by “The Scientist” publication as a Top 10 Innovation of 2019, an award showcasing the most useful advances in life science techniques and products. The expectation is that the drugs Neubase is developing with this technology will be used to address a range of rare genetic diseases starting with neurological disorders.

Close-up of Peregrine lander. Courtesy of Astrobotic.


There’s nowhere to go but up for Astrobotic. Specifically, the moon where they are planning to send robots. The company was recently awarded a $79.5 million contract by NASA to deliver payloads to the moon via their robotic Peregrine lunar lander. Hey, at “$1.2 million per kilo,” you too can send things to the moon. Their first mission contains 28 payloads from eight different nations, so far. They’re planning to launch their first mission to the moon in June 2021. They’re also moving to a bigger, 47,000-square-foot facility on the North Side, which is considerably easier to get to.


Gridwise helps rideshare drivers find more rides in less time. For example, airports are one of the busiest places for rideshare drivers. Gridwise can help drivers with information about arrival and departures, delays and cancellations, even the number of passengers on a flight. It also helps drivers find the big events going on in town, where they are, and most importantly when they end. Currently, their app is available for more than 40 cities, and they are partnering with Carnegie Mellon University’s Mobility Data Analytics Center to find new ways to use the rideshare data that they’ve collected–like underserved areas and traffic congestion–to benefit the public.

Bossa Nova Robotics

Bossa Nova’s robots are getting skinnier. That’s a big deal because the Bossa Nova 2020 robot can navigate the slim aisles of smaller-format retailers, in addition to big box stores like Walmart, where hundreds of their inventory-tracking robots are already in operation. They can also see deeper into shelves, capturing more information. It’s the culmination of six years of retail experience and more than one million aisles scanned.

Steve Welles and Patrick Paul of Ikos. Photo by Lauren Kushner.


This fast-growing, Oakland-based property-leasing real estate startup has expanded by more than 40 employees in the past year.

Their platform simplifies the residential leasing process, helping smaller landlords rent and show their properties–posting listings, screening applicants, and giving renters a sense of the local neighborhood–across seven cities (so far) including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and D.C.

Ikos recently closed a $4 million fundraising round led by Pittsburgh-based Draper Triangle Ventures.

Rapid Flow Technologies

Rapid Flow Technologies is behind Surtrac, an intelligent traffic signal control system that optimizes every second based on real-time traffic flow. A Carnegie Mellon spinoff, their system was piloted here in Pittsburgh. Not only does their AI detect traffic conditions but it also creates predictive models that communicate with other intersections. It’s about time. Truly. As in 25% reduced travel time, 40% less idling, 30% less braking and 20% less pollution and safety incidents. Plans are for 150 more Surtrac intersections locally in 2020. We can’t wait. Which is the whole point.

Diamond Kinetics

In the post-”Moneyball” era in baseball, the teams and players with the best data tend to win. Diamond Kinetics makes sensors like SwingTracker that analyze your game down to the tiniest detail, giving batters “a visual 3-D heat map of a hitter’s hot & cold zones.” They’ve developed a product called PitchTracker that analyzes pitching motions, as well as smart baseballs, smart softballs and smart bats. It’s now available in 400 Dick’s Sporting Goods stores. And Phillies slugger Ryan Howard is a new investor.