When considering the future of technology and innovation in America beyond Silicon Valley, most people think about a robust scene in New York or Boston.

Yet when I look harder at where some of the fastest growing companies and best opportunities are unfolding, many are cropping up in the area between the two coasts.

My San Francisco Bay Area-based venture capital firm, which has long-focused on investing in enterprise software startups, has explored several of these new entrepreneurial hubs, and recently decided to double-down to emphasize involvement in one such place in particular: the greater Pittsburgh area.

Why Pittsburgh? It's a good question, and the answer has surprising ramifications for entrepreneurs across the entire country.

Emerging venues can be better--for both entrepreneurs and investors

Statistics from the National Venture Capital Association show that over three million new jobs per year -- and almost all net new job creation in the last 40 years -- have come from young companies, not from the large corporations that are actually shedding employees.

Pittsburgh tops our list because what's happening there best reflects the growth and acceleration of a more supportive climate for entrepreneurs throughout our nation.

The city boasts ten universities (including two of the top 50 research universities in the US and a top-10 ranked business school). It houses the federally funded Software Engineering Institute for research and development and the Super Computer Center.

Its capabilities in robotics and entertainment technologies have led to major financing events--like Ford's recent billion-dollar commitment to a local tech startup.

With the ninth-most Fortune 500 companies in the country, the local community has shown its commitment to growth through knowledge-economy jobs, attracting companies like Google, SAP, and Autodesk to build teams there. Reflective of this ripe ecosystem is a 19 percent annual growth rate for new VC-backed start-ups in the region.

We also have personal connections that offer us a leg-up to identify potential investments and work with others in the region.

For my part: I've been a member of the Business Board of Advisors at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business for over a decade. Previously, I was an advisor to Project Olympus and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at CMU, my alma mater.

My colleague Ben Bayat is also a Pittsburgh native, with many relationships there.

Add the high level of well-educated talent available to lower costs and lesser employee attrition rates, and you have a winning combination.

What does this mean for the rest of the country?

Giving entrepreneurs in the rest of the country better access to what Silicon Valley has at its fingertips, especially capital and advice from successful founders, matters a great deal to the nation's economy.

The National Venture Capital Association shared some important hard numbers regarding the urgency of entrepreneurship in a recent letter to Donald Trump. Their data shows that in the past three years, nearly half of all startups receiving venture capital backing have been based outside of California.

Equally important: The annual growth rate of companies receiving funding in these states continues to climb, exceeding that of the top three states (California, New York, and Massachusetts).

It's very much worth turning some of our attention on places like Pittsburgh, not only to the benefit of our firm but also to reflect our commitment to the ecosystem of entrepreneurship that is burgeoning across our country.

There is a lot we can share with entrepreneurs about how to choose the right initial and later investment partners, how to establish strategic distribution channels, and many other elements of building a scalable business.

Our friend Samir Kaji of First Republic Bank, along with Ezra Galston of Chicago Ventures, wrote a recent blog post on this topic. In their words: "It is nearly indisputable that large technology companies are being built and enormous value is being created outside of the coastal venture markets."

For our part, we've started by establishing a Student in Residence (SiR) program, working with local graduate students to identify up-and-coming entrepreneurs and companies in the Pittsburgh region.

Our first SiR is a member of the MBA program at Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School, with more to come. We'll be offering virtual office hours to help encourage talented enterprise software entrepreneurs and likely investing in several over time.

We expect that more and more venture firms will follow us and consider the landscape between the coasts over time. For those already involved in high growth places--like Pittsburgh--we're eager to connect and share great co-investment opportunities.

Bring them on!

Published on: Feb 22, 2017