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Pop Star: Nathan Martin

“We’re entering Phase II of computer life,” Nathan Martin says. “Technology will become more adaptive to people.

“How will computers make things simpler for me?” he asks. “How will they impact my real life – not just on-line. How will they connect me, information, and other people?”

Tall, booted and blue-jeaned, Martin has set his company DeepLocal high atop the East Liberty Bank Building, a cavernous white space with gauzy curtains sectioning off areas for quasi-privacy. The name comes from an Amsterdam term used to describe technology as local, personal and more valuable, kind of an all technology is personal theme.

A Greensburg native, Carnegie Mellon and RPI grad, Martin specializes in electronic media art, software, websites -- you know, interactive stuff.  Living in Morningside, he boats ‘n’ backpacks for boffs. “I like to be outdoors,” he says. “I like a lot of activity.”

Maybe so, but his common denominator is a prodigious talent for running things. For instance, his international art group, Carbon Defense League, was a decade’s worth of posting political satire all over the web, waging guerilla war on Wal-Marts and gameboys. A kind of electronic agit-prop theater, Martin created mock-secret cults, proposed public brothels (for the dissipation of fascism), offered to trade sex for votes, snuck lefty messages into unsuspecting Game Boys.

Then there was the decade Martin ran a punk-metal band, Creation Is Crucifiction, that toured the Lower 46 (48 minus, inexplicably, the Dakotas) and Europe. Booking the tours, marketing the product, even designing the vinyl and CD covers, on stage “I screamed and made electronics,” Martin says. “I was a pretty good motivator.”

Still retaining love for bands, Martin’s currently in Antennacle, what he calls an “ambient electronic experimental noise group. I don’t have time for that, either,” he sighs. “I’m all over the place.”

By August, 2006, he, along with two partners now gone from daily operations, had spun off DeepLocal, a software design, development and strategy firm, from Carnegie Mellon University. Their slogan? "We make maps speak." Their main product: Maphub, which uses Web-based maps to organize information.

DeepLocal, he says, "assists clients in developing innovative trans-media solutions to the problems associated with the collection, management, analysis, and publication of information.” Any day now, the group is relaunching its website and platform of products.

Working the gamut, Hill House to Highmark to the Warhol, DeepLocal produces such cutting edge stuff as the collaborative mapping system Maphub, and Gumband, a working-name title for a product which synchronizes people and information, transforming targeted news into text messages. “We did well right away,” Martin says, winning awards and, more important, clients. “We’re always asking the question, ‘how do you share information in a real-time way?’”

Working closely with Sprout and other community-based organizations, Martin unabashedly says, “I love this area. There’s opportunity here. What I needed was a place to start and grow this company. In San Francisco or Boston or New York it would have cost three to four times as much as it did here. Pittsburgh is the place I can build DeepLocal into a big media company. I have really high hopes.

“Starting a company is the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he adds. “I want to have lasting impact on the world.”
Abby Mendelson’s latest book, End of the Road, a collection of short stories, was just published and is available at amazon and bn.com.

Photographs of Nathan Martin copyright Brian Cohen

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