Austin vs Pittsburgh: How the two cities stack up on tech

As hundreds of tech companies move to Austin, an unlikely competitor moves from the city of steel to the tech capital.

Pittsburgh, Pa., Is poised to grow its tech scene to competitive heights, apparently like Austin decades ago, when startups started to heat up with Dell. And with the era of telecommuting, Insider Notes that Pittsburgh has become a surprising technology leader.

Audrey Russo, CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, said Austonia Pittsburgh has the potential to catch up with Austin. “Austin is definitely a few years ahead of us and they’ve been successful in attracting companies that have gone public,” Russo said.

Ahead of Pittsburgh’s expected continued growth, here’s where the two cities stack up in comparison.

Best players

The main inflection points for Pittsburgh came with the arrival of Google about 15 years ago; it now employs 760 people and more to come as part of its $ 7 billion expansion in 19 states. Likewise, Austin’s first Google Office opened in 2007; she now employs more than 1,500 people and will occupy the entire new Second Street tower when completed.

While Google and Uber and the notable big tech companies in Pittsburgh, Russo mentioned a handful of other tech companies, especially in life sciences, biotech, robotics, and manufacturing. Roland Peña, senior vice president of global technology and innovation at the Austin Chamber of Commerce, highlighted Austin’s major players: Dell, Apple, Tesla.

And Austin isn’t the only one with a thriving startup culture. While Austin placed 20th on the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2021, Pittsburgh followed closely at No. 23.

“I think finally we have a nice variety of real non-research marketed products,” Russo said.

Pittsburgh has also had four major IPOs this year, including Duolingo and Dawn. Austin has had success this year with Bumble’s $ 2.15 billion IPO—The largest in the city’s history — followed by a legal technology company DISCO.

Technological culture

As Pittsburgh seeks to make gains in its tech scene, Austin serves as an example of the impact of the advent of technology not only on the local economy, but also on the city’s culture.

Young talents are a major asset for the companies that revolve around these two similar but very different sites. In Austin’s nearly 1 million people, the average age is 33. Among the 300,000 residents of Pittsburgh, the average age is also 33.

Tech giant Google said a local Pittsburgh newspaper she was drawn to this city because Carnegie Melon University nurtured “some of the brightest computer scientists and software engineers in the world.” Meanwhile, the University of Texas at Austin has long served as an incubator for technological talent; Michael Dell of Dell Technologies is a UT alumnus.

And to keep young talent there, both have similar offerings when it comes to leisure time. While Austin has its trails and lakes, Pittsburgh has its own number of parks and rivers. In WalletHub’s Active Lifestyle Rankings, Austin ranked # 7 and Pittsburgh # 25.


PNC HQ in Pittsburgh. (Wikimedia Commons)

On fintech, Russo says Pittsburgh has a diverse portfolio that includes multinationals, with PNC Bank being a major player. She said they were in the lead in trying to solve the banking problems.

“But now that everyone’s kind of caught up, what’s the next iteration of fintech?” Russo said. Pittsburgh residents envision it with a fintech meeting group And one increasing number of startups.

Austin also has deep fintech roots, and Peña says it’s only getting more important. “In the short term, I think we have the opportunity to see more of it,” he said. Instead, Austin is at the forefront of the cryptocurrency boom with groups like the ATX DAO and is a leader in the crypto job market in Texas.

Crypto is where Pittsburgh fails, seeing little pull on cloud-based currency.

Growing pains

Carnegie Mellon University, which Russo describes as a growth driver for local tech talent. (Carnegie Mellon University / Twitter)

Austin has long been known as a place for low-budget tech entrepreneurs – house prices were cheap compared to Silicon Valley. But as technology takes hold, longtime residents are being billed full price.

Newcomers to the city are intrigued by Austin’s culture, and for those emigrating from California, it’s a paradise where backyard homes in a bustling city are affordable. Affordability is center stage in Austin, where month after month, the city saw record median prices and sales during the pandemic.

The median home price rose 21.1% year-over-year, from $ 441,250 to $ 536,000, according to the latest report from the Austin Board of Realtors; housing costs near Tesla’s Gigafactory are up to 45% since last year. Plus, Austin is expected to be the most expensive city outside of California by next year.

Pittsburgh, which has one of the most affordable real estate markets in the Northeast, is starting to see the same disruption as it becomes a tech city. The median price of homes in Allegheny County in November was $ 215,000 compared to $ 179,000 in November 2020, according to BrokerMetrics Data.

There is some commotion with some local leaders describing a affordable housing crisis, but Russo believes it’s possible to grow at a comfortable pace and less akin to Austin’s rapid growth.

“When I went to Austin, you can see this transformation that happens every few months,” Russo said. “I’ve talked to some friends over there and I know there’s a lot of tension around it: housing, people moving, Californians coming in to set different rules.”

On the other hand, Peña looks on the bright side.

“I look at it from a different point of view. I consider it “hey, we have initiatives that create highly skilled talent so that they can improve their quality of life,” said Peña. “It’s a positive impact because these are tough opportunities to grab when you don’t have the kind of robust economic activity. We have almost every industry sector that is hot right now.

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