In October 2017, Rivers Agile sponsored and attended the 11th annual 3 Rivers Venture Fair. This event was first held in 2002 and has run every 18-months since as an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch to potential investors in either a “shark tank” or “speed dating” format. Companies who have pitched at past fairs have collectively raised over $740 million to date.

Our team was inspired by the groundbreaking ideas being discussed at the event. Reflecting back on the multi-day fair, the Rivers Agile team recognized a handful of common themes in the pitches we heard and conversations we took part in.

Here are the five we identified as the most impactful:

1. Entrepreneurs are passionate. Entrepreneurs are typically hard-wired for developing solutions to the problems they are faced with. It is because of this trait that they tend to also be natural leaders. People working closely with entrepreneurs can quickly notice that they truly believe in what they are building or launching with their new business venture. As calculated risk takers, they are often faced with obstacles, however it’s the perseverance that follows the obstacles which is most impressive. Our team witnessed countless discussions about how entrepreneurship is a journey; and when there is failure or missteps, the key is to determine how to avoid the mistake in the future.

2. Investors have chemistry with their investments. Similar to a relationship, investors and the startups they are supporting need to have constant and open communication. It takes a true partnership; with both sides fully supporting and believing in the end goal. Because there is a lot more to an idea than the money that supports it, the foundation of the partnership needs to be based on something the investor can connect with.

3. Innovative technology is the future. As we move into 2018, can you think of many organizations that are successful and operating smoothly with little-to-no technology? At some level tech is involved in most, if not all, companies. That being said, there is criteria for what makes technology successful. What our team observed was that the boldest and most cutting-edge ideas were agile and flexible; allowing them to pivot to market demands.

4. Pittsburgh is being recognized as a tech hub. The list of well-known technology organizations taking roots in Pittsburgh continues to grow – Google, Uber, Duolingo, and Industrial Scientific all have office locations here, to name a few. In recent news, Pittsburgh is being mentioned regularly on the list of notable cities in the running for the Amazon HQ2 bid. Cutting-edge innovators from around the country are making Pittsburgh their home base, and as a result leaders in business, investors, and venture capitalists are following suit.

5. Startups are looking to disrupt their industries. These entrepreneurs are re-thinking products or methods that were typically known to be done through common approaches. It’s inspiring to remember that some of the largest and most well-known companies in the marketplace today began as startups with an idea to shake up their industry using unconventional methods. Additionally, entrepreneurs are extremely passionate about making their vision a reality. They are magnetic in that they attract others to help them drive innovation.

We’re thankful to live in this city and to witness firsthand the innovation, specifically in the tech space, every day. A special thank you goes out to the Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association for hosting events such as the 3 Rivers Venture Fair to allow these entrepreneurs and investors to come together. If you are an entrepreneur or an investor and find yourself looking for a partner to roadmap your MVP, or if you’re further along and ready to engineer your idea into software – contact us!