Friday, December 14, 2007

Rust Belt 2.0: Cleveburgh

What is good for Pittsburgh is good for Cleveland. What is good for Pittsburgh is good for the Rust Belt region. You might think both claims are dubious and stand against any proposed collaboration. The Cleveburgh project is beginning to produce enough data points to allow us to scrutinize the above two claims:

[Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association President Michael Stubler] pointed out that large venture capitalists in California often don't distinguish between Pittsburgh and Cleveland anyway.

"I think that when you talk to people on the coast, we're in the fly-over zone," Stubler said. "The regions are so similar. If we can work together to raise the bar, that will raise the activity and it's in the best interest of all of us."

Pre-VC, or angel network investing, is also a possibility for enhancement, said BlueTree Capital Group Managing Director Catherine Mott.

"We're trying to bring in our Ohio colleagues," said Mott, who has invited two angel networks, Cleveland-based Northcoast Tech Fund and Columbus-based Ohio Tech Fund, to various Pittsburgh events. Her aim is to foster ties and create opportunities to co-invest on deals.

Previously, I contended that Pittsburgh should ignore its neighbors to the north and focus on Burgh Diaspora hotspots such as the DC region. Now, I'm considering that other regions such as NE Ohio not only could plug into the Burgh Diaspora network, but they possess networks of their own that are remarkably similar to Pittsburgh's. We need not look at our respective economic development projects as a zero sum game (once again considering Peter Panepento's important question).

The worst approach we could take is to set up parallel initiatives in our respective cities. I think Pittsburgh can and should assume leadership in the various collaboration projects we've begun to discuss. But I'm still concerned about the geographic scope of "Rust Belt 2.0." How far does the regional similarity reach? Does including Syracuse make sense? Detroit? St. Louis?

When we consider club membership, I figure we need to take into account the reach of any Pittsburgh economic spillover. I'm sure it would extend to Cleveland, but could it reach Buffalo? That would be an interesting discussion.

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