Celebrate Pittsburgh’s soul, city native, tech leader tells summit attendees | TribLIVE.com
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Tom Davidson

Pittsburgh has the soul of a small town and that’s one of its biggest assets, one of its expatriates said Thursday.

Caterina Fake left the area when she was 7, but she said her Western Pennsylvania roots have helped shape her into the Silicon Valley success story she’s become.

Fake, a co-founder of Flickr, former chair at Etsy and the founder of Findery, a geotagging app, is a venture capitalist who travels the world helping to craft what’s next in this ever-changing world. But at heart, she’s still a Pittsburgh girl: Born at the former St. Mary’s Hospital and raised for part of her childhood in the North Hills.

Pittsburgh’s the type of city where Fake has felt most at home, she said. It’s small enough that people know each other and know how to get along.

“You can’t really afford to have enemies,” Fake said. “This leads to the sense of community and collaboration.”

The makes Pittsburgh a place where people can cultivate an identity, she said.

“You don’t get that in a lot of bigger cities,” Fake said.

She credits the region with teaching her lessons she’s learned as an entrepreneur and the sense of place here is something the city needs to retain and cultivate, she said before taking part as a keynote speaker at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development’s “Our Next 75 Summit” at Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown. The summit was a gathering of more than 1,000 players in the regional community to brainstorm a roadmap for the region’s future, according to Phil Cynar, a spokesman for the group.

Pittsburgh’s the type of city where Fake has felt most at home, she said. It’s small enough that people know each other and know how to get along.

“You can’t really afford to have enemies,” Fake said. “This leads to the sense of community and collaboration.”

That makes Pittsburgh a place where people can cultivate an identity, she said.

“You don’t get that in a lot of bigger cities,” Fake said.

Although she’s based in the Bay Area and once used to love it there, Fake said it’s an area that has broken her heart. The wealth that she as a technology venture capitalist helped build also made San Francisco a place where gentrification has driven out people who can’t afford to live there.

People in Pittsburgh face those same issues, but here there is more “possibility and potential,” Fake said.

“How do you build a city and how do you build prosperity and how do you build opportunity without losing the soul?” Fake said.

The summit aims to chart Pittsburgh’s next 75 years, and the leaders gathered will be tasked with coming up with a plan that the Allegheny Conference will further develop over the course of the rest of this year, according to Eat ‘n Park President and CEO Jeffrey S. Broadhurst, who’s leading the endeavor with Comcast Vice President Toni Murphy.

Although the summit was the reason she was in the city, while here Fake said she’s was “soaking in” as much of her hometown as she could.

She noticed the “Kindness Zone” signs the city put up to celebrate one of Fred Rogers’ enduring legacies.

“How awesome,” she said. “I love being in the kindness region.”

She also saw some cicadas Wednesday morning, and was hoping to drop by the Andy Warhol Museum, The Mattress Factory and Randyland, all on the North Side, during her visit.

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