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Venture capital funding in Pittsburgh companies doubles in a year

Aaron Aupperlee
| Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, 2:12 p.m.

Startup companies in the Pittsburgh metro area took in more than twice as much venture capital funding last year as in 2016, according to the latest PwC/CB Insights MoneyTree Report.

The report stated that venture capital firms poured more than $302.1 million into Pittsburgh companies, the most since 2000.

“Pittsburgh has been showing good momentum in recent years,” said Rich Lunak, president and CEO of Innovation Works. “When I looked at the deals, a number of Pittsburgh areas of strength did very well.”

Pittsburgh startups cut 38 deals involving venture capital firms, about the same as the 35 deals in 2016, when funding totaled $145 million.

Those deals involved companies in robotics, artificial intelligence and life sciences, areas in which Lunak said Pittsburgh companies have emerged as leaders.

Lunak noted that total investment in the region's startups was much higher, as MoneyTree and other annual reports did not take appear to account for a $1 billion investment by Ford in Argo AI and other high-profile deals.

“Increasingly, Pittsburgh is getting recognized by investors all across the country as an incredible center for technological entrepreneurship,” Lunak said, adding that he'd still like to see more investment in the area.

A $93 million investment in Petuum, a Pittsburgh-based artificial intelligence startup, was the biggest publicly announced deal in 2017. Theventure, led by SoftBank Group, was the third largest among AI companies nationally in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to the report.

Artificial intelligence saw a strong increase in funding nationally in 2017. Investments in AI companies topped $1 billion in every quarter and increased 28 percent over last year for a total of $5 billion, according to the report.

Other notable investments included $62 million to Complexa, a South Side-based biopharmaceutical company working on treatment for acute and chronic kidney disease and other inflammatory and metabolic diseases; $25 million to Duolingo ; $17.5 million to the robotics company Bossa Nova, $18.8 million to RoadRunner Recycling; and $14 million to Avere Systems, which was acquired by Microsoft this month.

Pennsylvania companies took in $738.2 million, a modest increase over the $693.3 million in statewide venture capital spending in 2016.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aaupperlee@tribweb.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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