OK – don’t say I didn’t warn you about getting your dander up…
Pittsburgh is fortunate to have a couple resident journalists from Big Media who cover the local scene, and often get us “above the fold” – witness today’s front page article (below the fold) in the Wall Street Journal entitled, Pittsburgh Puts Robots to Work, And Some Can Even Be Eaten.
In a nutshell, this is a feel-good article about something Pittsburgh does well: ROBOTS. From the article:
Today, there are more than 30 robotic companies in Pittsburgh. They make drowsy-driver warning systems, and robots that help with surgery, unload crates and search for life on distant planets. Alcoa Inc. has a 6-foot-tall robot spokesperson, Al, who hosted a recent Robot Block Party at the Carnegie Science Center.
What is my issue? My hypothesis (which I am collecting data to verify) is that Western PA is fundamentally a RESEARCH-oriented region, not a DEVELOPMENT and COMMERCIALIZATION-oriented region. Or, to put it another way, if you build a hammer, then you reflexively start looking for nails – our region, and its research institutions, build neato, gee-whiz technology, and our entrepreneurs think their job is to take those “hammer” technologies and find “nail” problems. We build complex technology companies, like any number of robotics companies mentioned above (at Meakem Becker we have seen most of them) and expect the customers to line up and buy our products, even though we haven’t assessed and solved any of their problems. They don’t have any problems that look like nails – their problems have nail-like bodies with hex-heads on top, and a fishhook tail… and our hammers don’t fit the problem.
Our region needs a strong research function (which we have), but we also need to balance it with developmental founders/entrepreneurs who think about assembling technologies into solutions that make companies. Currently, I see us taking technologies as-is, straight “from the lab”, trying to build companies around a whiz-bang feature – ahh… but a feature does not a company make.
Edible robots? A six-foot tall robot spokesperson? Gimme a break.
Am I on the right track? Lost on a tangent in Turtle Creek? Fire some comments back and let me know…