RealLIST Connectors: These are the 100 influential leaders to know in Pittsburgh tech

What does it take to build a thriving tech ecosystem?

Ask a hundred people and you might get a hundred different answers. But whether they be talent, funding, community organizations, business-minded legislation or anything else, people are at the heart of the matter. It’s the people who broker venture capital deals, people who build the hardware behind robots, people at the lab bench and people negotiating behind government doors.

Given that, below is’s list of people doing that work and more in Pittsburgh. In our first RealLIST Connectors for Pittsburgh, we’ve highlighted venture capitalists, startup founders, community organizations, nonprofits, civic leaders and more. This list is by no means exhaustive (and we certainly hope to grow it in the future) but consider this first iteration a brief who’s who in Pittsburgh tech. Did we miss anyone? Connect us: [email protected].

Devin Abraham

  • Assistant director of business solutions at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Pittsburgh 
  • The URA is well known for a number of economic development projects across the city, some of which overlap with the local tech and entrepreneurship community. In the past year alone, it’s launched scholarships for tech bootcamps, provided new funding for equitable business incubation spaces and created new investment funds to support early-stage ventures from founders of underrepresented backgrounds. And Abraham’s one of the driving forces behind all of that. Always on the lookout for the organization’s next project, he’s one to know when it comes to civic engagement around tech and entrepreneurship.

Alison Alvarez

  • CEO and cofounder of BlastPoint
  • In addition to leading AI-powered customer insight platform startup BlastPoint, Alvarez is an active voice in Pittsburgh’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, frequently participating in panels and other events. An alumna of Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science program and business school, she has a wealth of experience in leveraging her own connections, and creating new ones for others.

Priya Amin

  • Head of marketing at Cleo and entrepreneur in residence at Robert Morris University
  • Serial entrepreneur Amin is best known for launching virtual childcare service startup Flexable, which shut down last summer after five years of operation. During that time, she built a reputation as a fierce local entrepreneur with good business acumen and a mission to help others. In her new role at RMU (which we spoke to her about earlier this year), Amin plans to create even more connections across Pittsburgh’s universities and other communities to foster more collaboration.

Jennifer Apicella

  • President of Build412 Tech, director of strategic partnerships and programs at the Pittsburgh Robotics Network and director of engagement at getWITit National
  • Apicella is one of the better-known tech and entrepreneurship connectors in the Pittsburgh region. Coming off a decade-long career in sales and business development, she pivoted to community building through PGH.AI and her current organizations. From hosting tech happy hours (virtually and in person) to helping launch a campaign that declared Pittsburgh the “robotics capital of the world,” Apicella works behind the scenes on a lot of the city’s big tech announcements, and advocates for women in the industry while she’s doing it, to boot.

Nehal Bhojak

  • CEO at Lumis Corp., adjunct faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, senior advisor at OneValley Pittsburgh and board of directors member at Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association
  • Bhojak worked as the first general manager of OneValley’s new innovation center at Hazelwood Green when it first opened last summer, before moving on to her current role for the organization. One of the reasons she got that position in the first place was because of her connections to so many in the startup and innovation scene, with the hope that she would draw aspiring founders into the growing activity of Hazelwood Green.

Samantha Black

  • Founder and executive director of the Greenwood Plan
  • Established last year, the Greenwood Plan is a nonprofit with a goal to support “the communal health of Black communities,” according to the organization’s website. As part of that, the group launched Emerald City, a new downtown coworking space focused on fostering and supporting Black entrepreneurship.

Melanie Marie Boyer

  • Executive director of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Before taking on her current role in July 2021, Boyer was a sales and marketing executive at La Mega Media and a social media strategist at Higher Images. Now, she has a number of responsibilities including program development, event planning, marketing and fundraising.

David Brumley

  • CEO and cofounder of ForAllSecure and professor at Carnegie Mellon University
  • A tenured professor of computer science and engineering at CMU, Brumley was also formerly the director of the CyLab Security and Privacy Institute. He and his team at ForAllSecure are now pioneering the local cybersecurity industry with their fuzz testing products.

Lynsie Campbell

  • Founder and managing director of Better Work Ventures, general partner of The Fund Midwest and author of “This Better Work
  • A serial entrepreneur and former startup czar for the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, Campbell has one of the more significant networks in the local innovation ecosystem. Her ties to public officials, fellow entrepreneurs, local investors and more make her a major person to know in the Pittsburgh startup scene.

Lynsie Campbell. (Courtesy photo)

Itha Cao

  • Director of digital inclusion and innovation at Neighborhood Allies
  • Prior to her current role, Cao was the senior civic innovation specialist for the City of Pittsburgh, where she led the city-run accelerator program PGH Lab. She now helps operate a corporate social responsibility program involving initiatives in workforce development, youth tech education and community innovation centers.

Andy Chan

  • Lead product manager for SWORD Health and partner at Moss Generation
  • Before taking on his current role at SWORD Health, Chan was the founder and CEO of VIT, a health tech startup focused on workplace injury prevention, which spun out of Carnegie Mellon University in 2016 as part of Project Olympus. He remains active in the local entrepreneurship community, offering guidance to founders looking to follow a company exit path similar to VIT’s acquisition by SWORD, and co-running a product-focused, entrepreneurs-only event group.

Kelly Collier

  • Program and ecosystem development at LifeX Global and entrepreneur in residence at the University of Pittsburgh’s Big Idea Center
  • Prior to working for LifeX, Collier spent several years at UPMC’s internal investment arm UPMC Enterprises, which she joined after growing her own company ActivAided Orthotics, which was acquired by Elizur Corporation in August 2016. She is an active advocate for Pittsburgh’s burgeoning life sciences commercialization community, and frequently speaks at community events.

Michel Conklin

  • Executive director of SWPA BotsIQ and board member of the Women in Manufacturing Education Foundation
  • Previously a middle school science teacher, Conklin has spent the last several years working to lead the local chapter of BotsIQ, a nonprofit focused on manufacturing workforce development. The organization regularly offers programming to local students to expose them to potential career pathways in STEM.

George Cook. (Courtesy photo)

George Cook

John Cordier

  • Cofounder and CEO of Epistemix
  • Prior to launching data analytics startup Epistemix in 2018, Cordier was the founder and executive director of Orenda Health, a nonprofit focused on youth wellness. He also participated in the Teach for America program in San Antonio. His work at Epistemix has gained recognition at a national scale, with the company’s platform being used by the CDC, NIH, WHO and more.

Diana Cugliari

  • President and CEO of Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG)
  • After 10 years being the managing director of PLSG’s accelerator fund, Cugliari has been in her current role for just over a year and a half. Now she leads one of the top organizations hoping to bring capital and business opportunity to Pittsburgh’s fast-growing life sciences sector, meaning she has connections with companies, universities, investors and other partners here and beyond.

Jeanne Cunicelli

  • Executive vice president of UPMC and president of UPMC Enterprises
  • Previously a managing director at San Francisco-based Bay City Capital, Cunicelli joined UPMC in 2017 to lead the healthcare giant’s initiatives to commercialize in translational science and digital solutions. The internal investment arm is already a leader in driving local life sciences growth and will no doubt be a key partner in continuing to do so.

David Dausey

  • Executive vice president and provost at Duquesne University
  • Pittsburgh may be best known for the robotics prowess helmed by Carnegie Mellon University, but other local universities are also contributing to the tech boom here. An active voice in the academic and business communities, Dausey has appeared at events like the RustBuilt conference, where he spoke about his university’s efforts to return to in-person operation.

Leslie Davis

  • President and CEO of UPMC
  • Davis took over as the leader of one of Pittsburgh’s biggest employers in the summer of last year, succeeding Jeffrey Romoff who was previously the president and CEO of the organization since 1992. Davis will undoubtedly be a source of connections between Pittsburgh’s healthcare industry, public officials, institutions, businesses and more.

Colin Dean. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Colin Dean

  • Managing director of Code & Supply and lead AI engineer at Target
  • Dean is the head of a local community for software engineers and technologists, bringing them together before the pandemic at the Code & Supply coworking space. He’s kept up activities virtually since then, but also started to phase community events back in, including the organization’s popular build nights, which encourage technologists to problem solve together.

Peter DeComo

  • Chairman and CEO of ALung Technologies
  • DeComo is a longtime supporter of the Pittsburgh startup ecosystem, with experience operating multiple startups here and contributing to the work of the PLSG. Most recently, he
    helped achieve a successful exit for ALung Technologies through its acquisition by LivaNova this spring, marking what could be a big early win for the medical device industry in Pittsburgh.

Max Dennison

  • Digital inclusion specialist for the City of Pittsburgh
  • In his role for the city, Dennison coordinates the Rec2Tech program, which brings together local students to learn tech skills like coding in an effort to close the digital divide. He helped take the program virtual in 2020 during the pandemic in an effort to ensure it was available to as many people as possible.

Mark DeSantis

  • CEO of Bloomfield Robotics
  • When he’s not busy helping to grow one of Pittsburgh’s most promising agricultural tech startups, DeSantis can be found teaching graduate courses in tech innovation and entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University. He’s also an advisor to several other companies including a couple of venture capital firms, and is the former cofounder and CEO of another local startup, RoadBotics.

Ilana Diamond

  • Managing partner at 412 Venture Fund
  • Before taking on a leadership role at one of many burgeoning early stage VC firms in Pittsburgh, Diamond held positions at Innovation Works, where she helped manage the AlphaLab Gear accelerator, and later, the Riverfront Ventures VC firm. Prior to that, she held executive positions at two companies, which she led through successful acquisition deals.

John Dick

  • Founder and CEO of CivicScience
  • Dick has led Pittsburgh market research firm CivicScience since 2007, and recently helped it break into the advertising tech space with the launch of a new company last year. He also connects to the community through his weekly “What we’re seeing” emails, which detail many of the trends CivicScience is able to understand with the data it collects.

Christopher R. Evans

  • Director of business development, creative production, live action video & animation at PMI Digital and member of the board of advisors for Health IT Pittsburgh
  • Evans has extensive experience in the Pittsburgh design and multimedia space, working with local tech companies like Aurora, Near Earth Autonomy and 412 Food Rescue, according to his LinkedIn. He also has held several marketing leadership positions, including one at Mastech Digital.

Josh Fabian

  • Cofounder and CEO of Metafy
  • Serial entrepreneur Fabian is best known for launching video game coaching startup Metafy, which has been one of the most successful early stage companies in Pittsburgh in recent memory. He is also the founder and former CEO of social media discovery platform Kitsu, and a former designer for Groupon.

Josh Fabian. (Courtesy photo)

Kathryn Fantauzzi

  • Cofounder and CEO of Apollo Neuro
  • After working as a business development consultant for the University of Pittsburgh-based neuroscience team that first developed Apollo Neuro’s tech, Fantauzzi helped launch the medical device company, which has joined a rising tide of early stage life sciences success in the last year.

Max Fedor

  • Director of LifeX Labs
  • Fedor joined Pittsburgh’s leading life science accelerator after leading the Pittsburgh CREATES innovation center at the University of Pittsburgh. He has also held executive roles in several locally based life sciences companies, at least two of which saw successful exits via acquisition.

Mike Formica

  • Managing director of hardware and AlphaLab Gear at Innovation Works
  • Prior to joining Innovation Works earlier this year, Formica was the president of local robotics firm Neya Systems. He also worked as an entrepreneur in residence at the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute and was the CEO and founder of threeRivers 3D.

Ed Gainey

  • Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh
  • Gainey is the first Black mayor of the city of Pittsburgh after beating his Republican competitor Tony Moreno last fall and winning over incumbent Bill Peduto in the Democratic primaries last spring. He’s told several times that equitable tech workforce development is a priority of his tenure in the role.

Juan Garrett

  • Executive director of Riverside Center for Innovation
  • As leader of economic development nonprofit Riverside Center for Innovation, Garrett works to bring together a diverse range of founders for the organization’s incubator program and other growth resources. He’s been at the organization for nearly 15 years now, helping connect local entrepreneurs to the people and materials they need to grow.

Jim Gibbs

  • Cofounder and CEO of Meter Feeder
  • Though Gibbs is best known for his tech skills as a longtime software engineer and now founder of parking payment startup Meter Feeder, he is also an extremely active voice in the local entrepreneurship community. Often posting on social media about the struggles and benefits of being a founder in Pittsburgh, he’s someone many look to as an authority on what’s hot and what’s not in local tech.

Bob Gradeck

  • Project manager at the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center (WPRDC)
  • Prior to starting his work in managing projects at WPRDC in 2009, Gradeck was part of the Carnegie Mellon University Center for Economic Development, where he launched the Pittsburgh Neighborhood and Community Information System. Recently, he’s helped local residents better understand WPRDC’s datasets through publishing explanatory blog posts on the organization’s website.
WPRDC's Bob Gradeck speaks at the Open Data PGH wrap event on Oct. 3.

WPRDC’s Bob Gradeck speaks at an Open Data PGH event in 2018. ( file photo)

Geoff Greco

  • VP of JLL Pittsburgh
  • As one of the local representatives for global commercial real estate firm JLL, Greco helps fulfill the property needs for local corporate and technology firms. He’s also been a voice in the community, speaking on panels discussing real estate trends amid return to office and remote work policies.

Jason Griess

  • Ecosystem director for InnovatePGH
  • In his role for InnovatePGH, Griess helps foster new connections across research institutions, public officials, entrepreneurs, growing startups and established corporations both within Pittsburgh and beyond. Most recently, he spearheaded the launch of ASTRI, a new database tool to understand the scope of the region’s startup ecosystem.

Bethany Hallam

  • Community manager at Community Forge
  • As community manager of Wilkinsburg-based economic development organization Community Forge, Hallam brings together new potential members of the coworking space and business resource hub, with a focus on maintaining a diverse range of founders, ideas, backgrounds and skill levels. She is also a council member of the Allegheny County Council At-Large.

Matt Harbaugh

  • Managing director of Mountain State Capital
  • Harbaugh leads one of the many growing early stage venture capital funds looking to support Pittsburgh companies. So far, its portfolio includes notable local tech firms such as Locomation, Gecko Robotics, Gridwise, CytoAgents, Meter Feeder and more.

Alicia Harvey-Smith

  • President and CEO of Pittsburgh Technical College
  • As the leader of the Pittsburgh Technical College, Harvey-Smith spearheads one of the leading technical degree institutions in the city. The career-focused school offers entry pathways to Pittsburgh’s tech industry for a wide range of students.

Herman Herman. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Herman Herman

  • Director of the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) and principal systems scientist at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute
  • In addition to leading NREC for the past seven years, Herman is also the cofounder and CTO of robotics and AI studio Carnegie Foundry. His leadership has helped lead to the launch and growth of nearly 50 companies in Pittsburgh.

David Hickton

  • Founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security (Pitt Cyber)
  • Prior to launching Pitt Cyber, Hickton was the US attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, where he initiated litigation on milestone cases in cybersecurity. Hickton is considered one of several leaders of the cybersecurity industry in Pittsburgh, which itself is a national hub for research in the field.

Colby Hollabaugh

  • Executive director of Meta Mesh Wireless Communities
  • Hollabaugh took over the leadership role of this digital equity nonprofit from Sam Garfinkel this month. Previously, he was the operations manager, leading Meta Mesh’s rollout of wireless internet service provider technology to bring connectivity to more Pittsburgh residents.

Tarelle Irwin

  • Assistant director of development and apprenticeships at Fortyx80
  • As a leader for Fortyx80, the nonprofit arm of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, Irwin helps increase community programming to build opportunities in the tech ecosystem for everyone. Most recently, Irwin helped launch the ApprentiPGH initiative, which aims to create new pathways into tech via apprenticeships with local companies.

Farnam Jahanian

  • President of Carnegie Mellon University
  • As president of one of the leading robotics and computer science institutions in the country, Jahanian leads efforts to improve the university’s programming and entrepreneurial output, in addition to the typical responsibilities of a university president. Under his tenure, the school has launched a new advanced manufacturing center, cloud-based science lab and more to help student entrepreneurs commercialize their ideas.

Kelauni Jasmyn

  • Founder of Black Tech Nation and general partner of Black Tech Nation Ventures
  • Since launching Black Tech Nation in 2017, Jasmyn has led the growth of a community of Black technologists in Pittsburgh and beyond, looking to increase racial equity in an industry that’s notoriously white. To help do that, she launched an investment arm of the organization last year, with the hope of increasing funding for Black founders.

Kelauni Jasmyn. (Courtesy photo)

Matthew Johnson-Roberson

  • Director and professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute
  • Prior to taking the reins at the Robotics Institute at the start of this year, Johnson-Roberson was an associate professor at the University of Michigan, where he co-directed the
    Ford Center for Autonomous Vehicles. A CMU alumnus himself, he has returned to Pittsburgh to increase industry-university partnerships in all sectors of robotics.

Jane Joseph

  • Digital and community engagement manager at Innovation Works
  • In her role at early stage investment and accelerator firm Innovation Works, Joseph is best known for her ability to connect founders to resources and people across all of the tech community, from universities to public officials to media outlets and more. As such, she plays a pivotal role in helping local entrepreneurs achieve their next stage of growth with local help.

Emily Keebler

  • Kiva Pittsburgh program director at the Riverside Center for Innovation
  • Keebler has been involved with rolling out Kiva in Pittsburgh since 2014, working with local organizations to create opportunities for the company’s microloan crowdfunding platform. In working with the Riverside Center for Innovation, she now does this with a focus on a diverse range of founders.

Brian Kennedy

  • Senior vice president for operations and government affairs at the Pittsburgh Technology Council and board member of the Technology Councils of North America
  • A longtime employee of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, Kennedy works as the liaison between local government and any organizations or companies associated with the council. Most recently, he has coordinated community support of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Majestic Lane

  • Chief equity officer at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development
  • Prior to his current role at the Allegheny Conference, Lane served as the deputy chief of staff and chief equity officer for the City of Pittsburgh under former mayor Bill Peduto. In both roles, he helps ensure that the benefits of Pittsburgh’s growing economy reach everyone in the city and surrounding region.

John Lange

  • Director and founder of Academy Pittsburgh
  • Lange is behind local coding bootcamp Academy Pittsburgh, which focuses on getting people with limited tech education into software engineering positions at some of the city’s top employers. Previously an organization under Work Hard Pittsburgh, the coding bootcamp now operates on its own, offering both a developer and a digital marketing bootcamp.

Lance Lindauer

  • Executive director of the Partnership to Advance Responsible Technology (PART)
  • Lindauer helped lead the launch of new programming from PART earlier this year with the publication of a new comprehensive report on Pittsburgh’s responsible tech industry growth. He’s also spearheaded efforts to launch the first-ever PART conference, coming up in June.

Lance Lindauer. (Courtesy photo)

Leah Lizarondo

  • CEO and founder of Food Rescue Hero and CEO and cofounder of 412 Food Rescue
  • Lizarondo is one of the first crop of successful founders in the recent waves of Pittsburgh entrepreneurship activity. She works with several local organizations through the work of her food recovery nonprofit, and increases its volunteer network with the tech-enabled platforms behind Food Rescue Hero.

Christine Lomago

  • Business and development manager for Faros Properties
  • In her current role, Christine manages all activities and business related to coworking space Alloy 26, Union Fitness and Nova Place overall. With a growing number of tech and startup organizations and companies setting up shop in the North Side complex, she’s in charge of bringing them all together.

Josh Lucas

  • Founder and former executive director of Work Hard Pittsburgh and cofounder of Academy Pittsburgh
  • Lucas led innovation resource hub and coworking space Work Hard Pittsburgh for nearly 10 years before pandemic-related financial strains forced it to shut down at the end of last year. His leadership of the organization and of Academy Pittsburgh put him in touch with several technologists, entrepreneurs and freelance workers interested in creating a more diverse tech and startup ecosystem here.

Rich Lunak

  • President and CEO of Innovation Works
  • Though Lunak will retire from his position at the end of this year, he no doubt has been responsible for building the network of one of the most active early stage investors in the country. He’s also helped launch new accelerator programs and community events for Pittsburgh-based entrepreneurs.

Innovation Works President and CEO Rich Lunak gives a talk at Nova Place. (Courtesy photo)

Sean Luther

  • Executive director of InnovatePGH
  • As leader of InnovatePGH, Luther is responsible for building a hub of entrepreneurship around Pittsburgh’s leading universities in Oakland. The goal of the organization is to not only bring together existing partners for new innovation, but to attract outside companies and investors to the region as well, leveraging the research expertise here for commercial opportunity.

Zach Malone

  • Partner at Magarac Venture Partners and principal at Draper Triangle Ventures
  • Malone is one of the more active voices in local venture capital, and is one of the cofounders of the new early stage VC firm Magarac Venture Partners, which plans to start investing in startups across Pittsburgh and the Midwest in the very near future. His connections from his work at the larger Draper Triangle Ventures will no doubt help him and his team bring more funding to local founders.

Chris Martin

  • President of the Carnegie Bosch Institute, director of research and development at the Bosch Center for Artificial Intelligence, and director of research and development in intelligent and secure IoT at Bosch
  • Martin has long been active in the local tech economy as a leader of Bosch’s Pittsburgh offices, which are a grounding presence that have brought other co
    mpanies to set up shop along what’s now dubbed Robotics Row. A CMU alumnus, he also stays actively involved in bridging the gap between academic expertise and commercial opportunity.

Lisa Masciantonio

  • Chief workforce officer at the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute
  • Prior to joining the ARM Institute a few years ago, Masciantonio was heavily involved in business development at CMU’s Software Engineering Institute. Now, she focuses on leveraging the ARM Institute’s educational programming to create more job opportunities in advanced manufacturing for people looking to join the tech workforce and its adjacent industries.

Mike Matesic

  • President and CEO of Idea Foundry
  • Matesic is the leader of the 2002-founded startup accelerator Idea Foundry, which provides business growth resources and investment opportunities to the startups it works with. The organization’s website notes that it has over 250 companies and projects in its portfolio that have generated over $1 billion in direct economic impact.

Sherri McCleary

  • Executive director of the Digital Foundry at New Kensington
  • Following her work in leadership roles at several hardware and manufacturing companies, McCleary helped launch the Digital Foundry at New Kensington, which will serve as a hub of workforce development and tech-focused collaboration. As part of Penn State University’s New Kensington campus, the hope is that it will bring employees both new and old together to modernize the manufacturing centers in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Michele Migliuolo. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Michele Migliuolo

  • Commercialization expert at LifeX Labs and managing director of Angel Bridge Partners
  • In addition to his work for LifeX Labs and Angel Bridge Partners, Migliuolo was also the executive director for the Center for Excellence in Entrepreneurship at Duquesne University until February 2022. A cofounder of five startups himself, he’s a local expert on building businesses from the ground up.

Patrick Mondi

  • CEO of
  • Mondi is in charge of the Carnegie Robotics spinoff, which focuses on the development of autonomous cleaning robots. He is also a board member of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation and previously worked in business development for Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, which was acquired by Aurora at the end of 2020.

Catherine Mott

  • Founder and CEO of BlueTree Allied Angels
  • A longtime local investor, Mott launched BlueTree Allied Angels in 2003 to focus on micro-seed investments in technology companies. At the end of last year, she shared that a new fund under the firm has raised $12.5 million and was ready to start investing in new startups.

Kit Mueller

  • VP of corporate development at Stronghold Digital Mining and head of network at RustBuilt Pittsburgh
  • Before taking on his role at Stronghold last fall, Mueller was known for his persistent work in organizing the Pittsburgh tech and entrepreneurship community through RustBuilt Pittsburgh. He still does much of that work, which included the launch of an inaugural conference from the organization last year that has plans to come back this fall.

Kit Needham

  • Director of Project Olympus at Carnegie Mellon University
  •  As the director of Project Olympus, a program through CMU’s Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, Needham helps student founders grow their ventures beyond the classroom and connect them with resources and networks needed to become successful startups. One of the most noteworthy alumni of the program is Duolingo, which remains a leader in Pittsburgh tech today.

Kit Needham. (Photo taken by Foo Conner | Jekko)

Ellie Newman

  • Section manager of service development for Port Authority of Allegheny County and co-leader of Code for Pittsburgh
  • Beyond working in data collection and analytics for Port Authority, Newman runs the local Pittsburgh chapter of Code for America, an organization focused on bridging the gap between public and private uses of tech. Some of the group’s work so far includes its annual fish fry map for Lent and other new visualizations for open data.

Heidi Norman

  • Director of Innovation and Performance for the City of Pittsburgh
  • Norman has been part of the Innovation and Performance department for the past five years, and as she’s moved up the ladder, she’s taken on more responsibility in managing the department’s many tech-focused programs supported by a $20 million annual budget. She also leads strategic development initiatives across nearly all of the city’s tech-focused work.

Nadyli Nuñez. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Nadyli Nuñez

  • Executive director of AscenderPGH
  • As the leader of AscenderPGH, Nuñez is responsible for bringing together a community of early stage entrepreneurs through the organization’s incubator and coworking space. She is often vocal in support of local founders and their needs to grow more efficiently in Pittsburgh.

Stefani Pashman

  • CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development
  • As CEO of the Allegheny Conference, Pashman leads one of the top economic and community development organizations in the country, which encompasses the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh, the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance.

Bill Peduto

  • Former mayor of the City of Pittsburgh
  • As Pittsburgh mayor from 2014 to 2022, Peduto played a pivotal role in bringing big tech companies to Pittsburgh and helping new ones grow here too. He’s now working at CMU as a distinguished faculty in residence in addition to operating his own consulting firm, Sabean Innovation.

Conor Platt

  • President of Confluence Analytics
  • Platt is a local expert on ESG investing and decentralized finance. He’s been working in the space since 2014 when he founded Etho Capital, and has now moved into modern applications of the field by leveraging the world of DeFi to discover new sustainable investment solutions.

Olga Pogoda

  • Principal and cofounder of KRNLS, business operations analyst at Donnelly-Boland and Associates and entrepreneur in residence at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science
  • As head of KRNLS, Pogoda has worked with several local startups and organizations to perform research in tech and economic development. Most recently, KRNLS partnered with RustBuilt Pittsburgh to launch Mimetic, a new agricultural tech initiative.

Ven Raju

  • Chief information officer at Innovation Works and managing director of Riverfront Ventures
  •  Raju spearheads all of the investment initiatives of Innovation Works and its for-profit venture capital firm, Riverfront Ventures. He oversees and performs financial analysis across all new and existing investments through the entire organization.

Peter Rander

  • President of Argo AI
  •  An alumnus of Carnegie Mellon University, Rander cofounded Argo AI with Bryan Salesky in 2016 in a race to be the top autonomous vehicle company. It’s now one of several in Pittsburgh, and is rumored to have a public offering come later this year.

Joel Reed

  • Executive director of the Pittsburgh Robotics Network (PRN)
  • As leader of the PRN, Reed is in charge of bringing together Pittsburgh’s robotics community in an effort to help the city live up to its self-dubbed title of “robotics capital of the world.” So far, that’s consisted of some major community events, networking opportunities and more, with membership and funding only growing.

Joel Reed. (Courtesy photo)

Mike Regan

  • Partner at Chalet Capital
  • Regan is an investor in several local tech startups, including Agot.AI, where he is also the chief business officer, and Fifth Season, where he is a board member. Specifically focused on robotics, food tech and property tech, he and the rest of his venture team are likely to back more local companies in the future.

Rachel Reid

  • Founder and CEO of Subtl Beauty
  • A graduate of Duquesne University, Reid is the founder of direct-to-consumer online beauty brand Subtl Beauty. Though the company is still in its early stages, Reid is often called upon to share her insights as a founder at community events, like the RustBuilt Pittsburgh conference last fall.

Sam Reiman

  • Director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation
  • Reiman is in charge of one of the largest philanthropic organizations in Pittsburgh, which often supports initiatives related to tech and entrepreneurship. The foundation is behind several big projects, including the Hazelwood Green buildings for both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

Theresa Richards

  • Mentor for Girls of Steel Robotics and outreach program manager for Carnegie Mellon University
  • Richards has long been involved with Girls of Steel Robotics — an after-school program for students interested in pursuing STEM as it pertains to robotics, which includes building and training for national FIRST Robotics competitions. She also coordinates the program with her work at CMU, with the university supporting several of Girls of Steel’s initiatives.

Kendra Ross

  • Head of Social Impact at Duolingo
  • After a long career in music and nonprofit consulting, Ross landed at Duolingo last fall to help advance the company’s social impact missions. She’s founded internal employee organizations to support that and has spearheaded initiatives like the repainting of an East Liberty mural near Duolingo’s offices.

Audrey Russo. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Audrey Russo

  • President and CEO of Pittsburgh Technology Council
  • Russo has led the Pittsburgh Tech Council for nearly 15 years, and in doing so, has helped foster connections across the industry as it’s grown in Pittsburgh. She’s become a go-to person for connecting to well-established corporations in particular.

Tyler Samstag

  • Director of Remake Learning
  • As the head of Remake Learning, Samstag is responsible for the organization’s mission of bringing together key partners across the city to use tech to advance and improve youth education. The organization has represented Pittsburgh at conferences like SXSW and through community events like its recent Remake Learning Days.

Andre Samuel

  • Founder, president and CEO of the Citizen Science Lab
  • Samuel is behind a community organization that seeks to make science more accessible to students, parents, teachers or simply anyone interested in furthering their education with hands-on experience. Open to all ages, the lab is a chance for Pittsburghers to get excited about projects in STEAM.

Rhonda Schuldt

  • Director of the Big Idea Center at the University of Pittsburgh
  • Schuldt is in charge of the University of Pittsburgh’s internal accelerator for students, the Big Idea Center. Programming involves access to resources, mentorship and more in addition to several opportunities for funding through pitch competitions.

Beth Schwanke

  • Executive director of Pitt Cyber
  • As executive director for Pitt Cyber, Schwanke leads the institute’s research and programming efforts, choosing what to focus on in its reports and which experts to host in its regular webinars. She is helping to make the institute a voice for cyber policy everywhere.

Sean Sebastian

  • Partner at Birchmere Ventures and partner at Black Tech Nation Ventures
  • Sebastian is a longtime investor based in Pittsburgh, working at seed stage investor Birchmere Ventures since 1996. While there, he has backed nearly 100 companies to create $14 billion in market value, according to his LinkedIn profile. He’ll look to follow similar success at Black Tech Nation Ventures, where he and his cofounders are focused on supporting a diverse range of entrepreneurs.

Megan Shaw

  • Managing director of life sciences at Innovation Works
  • In her role as managing director of life sciences for the region’s most active early stage investor, Shaw helped launch Innovation Works’ AlphaLab Health accelerator, which focuses on growing startups working in the life sciences. She will no doubt help angle the organization to increase its investments into promising life sciences firms as well.

Megan Shaw. (Courtesy photo)

Reid Simmons

  • Head of Carnegie Mellon University’s undergraduate program in artificial intelligence and director of the JPMorgan Chase & Co. AI Maker Space
  • A longtime AI expert at CMU, Simmons took over as the director of a newly launched AI Maker Space within the building that houses both the Tepper School of Business and the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship. He will help foster student innovation and experimentation in AI through technology provided by the new space.

Luke Skurman

  • Founder CEO of
  • Skurman is one of the big success stories for Pittsburgh entrepreneurship, launching Niche in 2002 to help high school students better review colleges before committing to them. Since then, the business has expanded to cover real estate, work and more, and Skurman often shares his lessons in entrepreneurship with the Pittsburgh community.

Donald Smith

  • President of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC)
  • As head of RIDC, Smith orchestrates economic development opportunities related to industrial and office real estate development. His LinkedIn page notes that it’s one of the largest industrial development corporations in Pennsylvania, with over 8 million square feet of office space for lease.

Kyle Spangler

  • Program director of Computer Reach
  • An employee of Computer Reach for just over four years now, Spangler helps bring refurbished tech devices and computers to Pittsburghers at a discounted price. He helped launch the organization’s online store earlier this year, and has helped find new ways of closing the digital divide through it.

Bill Spence

  • Co-chairman of the board of directors at Stronghold Digital Mining
  • Spence has a long and storied career in energy tech all across the country, but he’s now in what may prove to be his most exciting venture yet. His roots in the Pittsburgh region helped him find a way of using energy created by coal remediation to power Bitcoin mining computers. Time will tell if the company will be the first of many blockchain-focused firms to succeed here.

Robert Szczerba

  • Founder and CEO of Carnegie Foundry
  • In launching Carnegie Foundry in partnership with CMU and NREC, Szczerba created a place for early entrepreneurs in robotics and AI to work together with seasoned executives to launch a new business. It’s one of few startup studios in the Pittsburgh region right now.

Mark Anthony Thomas

  • President of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA)
  • As the leader of the PRA, Thomas is responsible for the organization’s business investment strategy and partnerships with the goal of attracting more talent to the region. He’s often present at community events focused on tech workforce development.

Mark Anthony Thomas. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Chris Urmson

  • CEO and cofounder of Aurora
  • Urmson has a storied history in the world of autonomous vehicles, previously launching the tech with the inaugural self-driving car project from Google before moving on to found his own company right here in Pittsburgh. A CMU graduate himself, he’s a great symbol of how the university has churned out significant talent to the benefit of the local economy in recent years.

Stan Waddell

  • VP for information technology and CIO at Carnegie Mellon University
  • As the top tech executive for CMU, Waddell advises the university’s computing enterprise and IT policy development and implementation. He also serves on the board of Meta Mesh Wireless Communities.

Doris Carson Williams

  • President and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania
  • Outside of her regional role, Williams is also a certified chamber of commerce executive with the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. She also serves on the board of directors for Highmark, and has served on the boards of the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics, the Riverlife Task Force and more in the past.

Scott Wolovich

  • Executive director at New Sun Rising
  • As the leader of New Sun Rising, Wolovich orchestrates the organization’s efforts to bring together Pittsburghers of all skills and backgrounds to creatively solve social problems. This includes, but of course is not limited to, those interested in using tech skills to promote digital equity and other related causes.

Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-

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