Pittsburgh company dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship receives $250k in federal grant money


JULIA FELTON | Thursday, Sept. 30

A Pittsburgh-based company dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship will receive $250,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The grant is part of a $36.5 million grant pool that benefited 50 entrepreneurship-focused organizations, nonprofits, institutions of higher learning and state government agencies nationwide. The grants were announced Thursday by Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo.

The grants are part of the “Build to Scale” program, which aims to accelerate technology entrepreneurship by increasing access to business support and startup capital. The program is administered by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).

“The ‘Build to Scale’ program strengthens entrepreneurial ecosystems across the country that are essential in the Biden Administration’s efforts to build back better,” Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo said. “This work is critical in developing the innovation and entrepreneurship our country needs to build back better and increase American competitiveness on the global stage.”

Founded in 2002, Idea Foundry is a global investor with over 250 companies and projects in their portfolio.

The company says it has generated more than $1 billion in economic impact and created more than 1,000 jobs in the region.

It works to strengthen entrepreneurship in Pittsburgh through a model that emphasizes hands-on development and a variety of investment vehicles that enable entrepreneurs to develop and scale their ideas into growing enterprises.

It not only helps to match entrepreneurs with capital, but also to help keep them “alive, growing and in Pittsburgh,” said Michael Matesic, Idea Foundry’s president and CEO.

The company was awarded the 2021 Venture Challenge Grant. It’s intended to “increase access to capital in communities where risk capital is in short supply by providing operational support for early-stage investment funds, angel capital networks or investor training programs that focus on both traditional and hybrid equity-based models,” the Department of Commerce wrote in a press release.

Idea Foundry will provide more than $400,000 in local matching funds. Part of that match is coming from Babst Calland, a Pittsburgh-based law firm that is offering their facilities, time and legal expertise to help investors feel comfortable investing and to help companies show they’re worthy of investment. The law firm has worked with Idea Foundry for about a decade, said Chris Farmakis, a shareholder and chairman of the board at Babst Calland.

“Our law firm has a very growing and robust emerging tech practice, and we’ve had a longstanding relationship with Idea Foundry,” he said, adding that the grant provided an ideal opportunity for a sustainable partnership.

“We feel that this will be a way we can really expand our programs and offer more investment into growing companies,” Farmakis said.

The grant is “significant,” Matesic said, and validates the work the company strives to do in helping entrepreneurs to build and grow their ideas.

“It’s a quilt, and every patch in the quilt makes it a complete blanket,” he said. “This is one more patch to sew into the quilt to give us full coverage for the region so that we not only are noted for the success in starting companies, but we are noted for the ability to grow them locally.”

Julia Felton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Julia at 724-226-7724, jfelton@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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