In the article Pittsburgh, The Playbook For Building A Great City, author Harry Alford—blogging on Hacker Noon—cites Pittsburgh as a great example of a Day 1 city, a concept that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos applied to businesses in his 1997 shareholder letter. Writes Alford:
Bezos compares “Day 1” companies — companies that are at the beginning of their potential — with “Day 2” companies. “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”
Bezos’ approach should not just be a lesson to all companies, but also cities, says Alford. “Cities, much like internet companies such as Amazon, can be susceptible to a state in which things do not change, move or progress. This can often occur unknowingly by simply being dictated by the process instead of the outcomes. Customer obsession, a skeptical view of proxies, the eager adoption of external trends, and high-velocity decision making are essential to staying in Day 1.”
Then Alford hones in on Pittsburgh as an example.
“A city that we, humble ventures, recently visited (and were blown away by) that encompasses all of these characteristics is Pittsburgh. Below are some eye-opening insights into how Pittsburgh has come to be a high collision environment and Day 1 city . . . “
Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. — Bezos
“The customer in Pittsburgh’s perspective are the high-growth tech startups and employees that live in the cultural districts across the city,” writes Alford. “Pittsburgh has an incredible pool of talent coming out of Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and other academic institutions that are attracting startups to launch and scale their businesses.
“Startups are also being conceptualized on campus, too. Companies like reCAPTCHA and Duolingo were birthed out of Carnegie Mellon University by professors in the nation’s top ranked computer science program. But there are also young startups outside the university system that have decided to build in Pittsburgh like Ikos and SQWAD.
Beyond that, Alford says, Pittsburgh has gained attention as one of the top cities for techies to relocate due to the food scene, our livability and Pennsylvania’s tax incentives. He points out that the average rent in Pittsburgh is $899 per month and that “Pittsburgh is creating a welcoming atmosphere for entrepreneurs without negatively impacting them with the high cost of living like we’re seeing in coastal cities.”
As companies get larger and more complex, there’s a tendency to manage to proxies. This comes in many shapes and sizes, and it’s dangerous, subtle, and very Day 2. — Bezos
“Pittsburgh isn’t focused on if it’s following the right process, Pittsburgh is dedicated to outcomes and continuous reinvention. With more than 300 steel-related businesses, Pittsburgh has led in the manufacturing of aluminum, glass, shipbuilding, petroleum, foods, sports, transportation, computing, autos, and electronics.
And while other cities have yet to recover from shifts in fortune in the 1980s, Pittsburgh has landed Google, Apple, Bosch, Facebook, Uber, Nokia, Autodesk, and IBM among 1,600 technology firms that are generating $20.7 billion in annual Pittsburgh payrolls.
The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind. — Bezos
Alford writes that Pittsburgh is an open and embracing community when it comes to adopting new technology. Proof? Facebook’s Oculus research office and Uber’s division for researching self-driving cars. He ends by quoting Steve Case, CEO of Revolution Team, who said, “Leveraging its strengths in engineering and robotics, Steel town is fast becoming startup town and we’re enthusiastic about its future.”