Fortune Brainstorm TECH 2012, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Fortune Live Media’s photostream

Pittsburgh’s startup economy has helped to build prosperity in the region and attract new jobs, new residents, and new investment. However, the growth of startup companies has slowed in recent years along with the venture capital dollars that fuel them. Pennsylvania as a whole, and the Pittsburgh region, are now lagging behind the rest of the country in new startup development. If we are to continue our growth as a city we must do better. We must find ways to jumpstart the development of new small businesses, especially those in emerging fields and new technology. Pittsburgh has the potential to be the Silicon Valley of our region. City government should be doing everything we can to nurture this development.  

1. Startup Roundtable

One of the best ways we can help startups succeed in Pittsburgh is to bring them together with policymakers and administrators from the city, the URA, and the county to talk openly about what these agencies could be doing to help. This kind of open discussion with startup companies across a broad and diverse group of industries would allow the city, it’s authorities, and the county to better devise a game plan that will address their needs. These roundtable sessions should occur with some regularity and should be designed to help us develop a blueprint for policy changes, incentive structures, and lobbying efforts that we can build together with the companies.

Often just getting a group of companies in a room with policymakers and administrators can spur new ideas and help form new partnerships. Mayor Mike McGinn of Seattle, Washington has been holding similar roundtables for the past year and has been able to begin to revive Seattle’s tech industry working directly with the companies that make up the roundtable. If the Mayor, the County Executive, and the leadership of the URA can come together with individual companies and industry partners like the Pittsburgh Tech Council and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development we can begin to make the same strides. This kind of concerted partnership between government, business, and industry groups will also help to attract more venture capital and angel investors to the region to help get fledgling startups off the ground – one of the critical components necessary to grow this sector.