Amanda Waltz | January 08, 2018

12 Pittsburgh tech companies to watch in 2018

Pittsburgh, recently named as one of four U.S. tech hubs to watch in 2018 by VentureBeat, has a vast array of tech companies, from startups to mature companies, poised for great things this year.

Some of our favorites are driving big developments in business software, pharmaceuticals and cybersecurity, as well as in retail and autonomous vehicle technology. We found some surprising standouts, some big names positioned for impressive growth, and one trash-sorting robot.

In compiling this list, we sought the help of local tech insiders who told us who’s on their radars and why. Our only restriction was that the tech companies could not have been included in last year’s tech companies to watch in 2017.

Based on their recommendations we present to you, in alphabetical order, 12 Pittsburgh tech companies to watch in 2018:

AdRich: Not even two years old, AdRich has made a name for itself by creating smart labels aimed at helping companies create better experiences for customers. Founded by CEO Adhithi Aji, the startup completed a stint at the AlphaLab Gear incubator last year and soon after went on to represent Pittsburgh at the Challenge Cup pitch contest in New York City. AdRich now has clients in Maggie’s Farm Run, a Pittsburgh distillery that uses the company’s smart labels on their bottles to track customer demand, and Petagogy, a local pet food store that credits AdRich’s technology for an increase in sales. For 2018, Aji says the company launched a new smart connected label and consumer engagement platform for brands and market research firms and are presently taking orders.

Argo AI: Founded by CMU graduates Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander, this Pittsburgh artificial intelligence startup gave Uber a competitive jolt when it entered the race to develop autonomous vehicle technology. They got a huge boost last February when Ford pledged to invest $1 billion in the company over the next five years. In return, Argo AI will create a virtual driver system for the automaker’s self-driving car set to release in 2021. To help achieve this goal, Argo AI continues to expand its workforce and acquired Princeton Lightwave last October. The company said Princeton Lightwave gave them access to the brains behind LiDAR, a sensor that could potentially enable driverless cars to better handle the challenges of navigating urban environments, bad weather conditions and high speeds.

BoardBookIt: Founded in 2012, BoardBookit set out to create a secure, easy-to-use online platform for companies and organizations of all sizes to better manage board communication and governance, including scheduling, approvals and document storage. Last September, the company vowed to use $1.8 million in Series A funding to ramp up sales and marketing efforts for its product, which is currently used by clients in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Africa and Australia. In the coming year, the company will look to further innovate its platform and integrate with several others, as well as expand their sales channels and grow their existing international business. A BoardBookit rep says they plan to double their staff over the next 12 months and are actively recruiting technical, sales, marketing and customer success personnel.

CleanRobotics: Robots can perform a variety of tasks, but CleanRobotics developed one that tackles the especially unpleasant chore of waste management. The fledgling company — which recently advanced to round two of the global, multimillion-dollar IBM Watson AI XPRIZE challenge — invented Trashbot, a robotic trash can (with a cool name) that automatically separates recyclables from landfill waste. CleanRobotics announced that two Trashbots will complete installation in Sydney, Australia this month, followed quickly by two more at the Pittsburgh International Airport, and others at a yet undisclosed international bank facility in March. In the coming year, the company plans to complete a new version of their technology and enable facilities to purchase Trashbots online.

Complexa: The Pittsburgh-based biopharmaceutical company Complexa focuses on developing innovative treatments for fibrosis and inflammation-associated orphan diseases. Last July, they secured $62 million in funding from a group of investors that includes Pfizer. Complexa plans to use the funding to progress the clinical development of a treatment for segmental glomerulosclerosis, a rare, life-threatening disease that reduces kidney function. The funding will also go toward advancing an oral treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension, another rare disease that leads to exercise intolerance, breathlessness, heart failure and death, as well as a yet undisclosed investigational new drug.

Duolingo: Over the past five years, Duolingo has established itself as one of Pittsburgh’s biggest success stories, and 2018 is looking like another big year for the East Liberty-based language-learning app company. Last July, Duolingo raised $25 million in a Series E round of funding, setting the company’s total value at around $700 million. In the coming year, they plan to use this latest funding to launch major new language courses, including Hindi and Arabic. The company, which now employs 101 people, also plans to increase their workforce by 40 percent this year. Over half of the new roles will be for engineers (iOS and Android in particular), in addition to key roles such as AI and machine learning engineers and scientists, product managers and designers.

JazzHR: 2017 was a busy year for JazzHR, including a big move to offices on the North Side, new money and new opportunities. Since its founding in 2009, the Pittsburgh-based tech firm has made a name for itself in the recruiting software industry by helping to streamline the hiring process for startups, growing companies, and, as their website claims, presidential campaigns. The company recently announced a new integration meant to better connect employers with potential job candidates on LinkedIn. Last October, JazzHR also raised more than $6.6 million in funding from investors, all of which will go toward operations, bringing on more sales and promotions staff, and product development.

Kaarta: Formerly known as Real Earth, Kaarta develops tech that translates the real world into highly-accurate 3D digital models, which has potential applications in a wide range of fields, including architecture, engineering, construction and surveying. Last spring, the company launched and began selling the Contour, a lightweight handheld device able to quickly scan and 3D map areas. For their efforts, Kaarta won first place at the 2016 and 2017 Microsoft Indoor Localization Competitions. They were also selected by the City of Pittsburgh to take part in the latest round of PGH Lab, an annual program that recruits local startups to help improve city operations. As part of PGH Lab, Kaarta will test out the Contour and another mapping device, the Stencil, by using them to create 3D models of municipal sites throughout the city.

Peptilogics Inc.: The leaders of Peptilogics Inc., a Pittsburgh-based biotech startup looking to commercialize ways to combat drug-resistant bacteria, have a personal stake in the company’s work — both its founder, Jonathan Steckbeck, and its new CEO, Sanjay Kakkar, lost loved ones to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. In 2017, they received $5.5 million in Series A financing with backing from PayPal founder, Peter Thiel. The funding will go toward expanding the company and advancing its innovative eCAP (engineered cationic antibiotic peptide) platform, a promising new approach they claim has demonstrated the potential to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria in multiple non-clinical models.

Petuum: In 2016, this Carnegie Mellon University spinout set out to make machine learning easier to use after securing $15 million in seed funding. Since then, the startup doubled its staff and created a machine learning platform built to be more accessible, user-friendly and applicable to a variety of industries. Last year, Petuum became one of the best-funded early-stage AI startups when it secured $93 million in Series B funding, bringing its total value to $108 million. Petuum will use its new gains to expand its technical and business teams and deploy its technology in specific industries that have high AI potential, but low adoption, such as manufacturing and healthcare.

ShowClix: For 10 years, ShowClix has provided an innovative online platform for people to buy tickets to for fandom and consumer conventions, museums, attractions and festivals — so far, the company claims it has processed more than a billion dollars in ticket sales across 37 countries. Now ShowClix has entered the next stage of its development with new funding and new partners. In 2017, it received a strategic investment by Providence Strategic Growth, an affiliate of the multibillion-dollar global private equity firm, Providence Equity. The deal made ShowClix a parent company of the global online ticketing giant, Patron Technology. The relationship with Patron is expected to help ShowClix expand into new markets, increase ticket sales and become a leader in the industry.

Wombat Security Technologies: Cybersecurity has become a huge concern as breaches at major retailers and even the credit reporting site, Equifax, have sent consumers into a panic. The incidents have made the services offered by Wombat all the more relevant. As a result, the Pittsburgh-based cybersecurity training software company, which says it serves more than 2,000 customers, saw a massive 840 percent growth over the last few years. As for 2018, the company will relocate its headquarters to a 33,000-square-foot office in the Strip District’s Crane Building and expects to hire at least 75 to 100 additional employees. They also plan to continue modifying their Security Education Platform and expand their presence in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Want to read about more exciting tech companies in Pittsburgh? Check out the 17 Pittsburgh tech companies to watch in 2017.

Read the full article on Next Pittsburgh.