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Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen.
Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen. | Show Photo

Innovation

Birchmere Labs poised to fund two new Pittsburgh digital media startups

 
Birchmere Labs, the $10 million studio seed fund created by Birchmere Ventures to support digital media startups, plans to fund two Pittsburgh-based companies in the near future.
 
While the announcement is not yet official, Birchmere Partner Sean Sebastian confirmed that two local startups will be among the first to receive studio funding. 
 
One of the companies is a digital media technology developed by a professor at Carnegie Mellon. Sebastian declined to provide details on the second, but said both companies would be developed in house initially through Birchmere Lab.
 
“A CMU professor came to us with an interesting idea that has never been done, but he didn’t want to run the company,” says Sebastian. “We struck an agreement and plan to build a company from scratch around the idea.”
 
Birchmere Labs operates as a seed studio fund, a novel approach that allows Birchmere to fund established startups through seed monies and support and build new companies through the studio funding. 
 
“We saw all the internet, media and web 2.0 activity coming, which really didn’t fit into Birchmere IV,” says Sebastian. “It was like putting a square peg into a round hole.”
 
Birchmere Lab was formed with the help of Sean Ammirati, who joined as a principal partner last August. Ammirati has a national reputation in digital media and mobile technologies. He was formerly the COO of tech blog ReadWriteWeb (now ReadWrite) and CEO of mSpoke, which sold to LinkedIn in 2010.
 
Last August Birchmere announced a $40 million venture capital fund, Birchmere IV. The fund has invested in eight companies so far, two local companies among them. Uptown-based NoWait received $2 million and Ross Township-based The Resumator received $2.1 million. Both were Innovation Works’ Alpha Lab companies.
 
While Birchmere continues to invest in the best companies it can find, regardless of geographic location, the recent activity does suggest that local startups might have an advantage.
 
“While there’s no official edict, the closer we are to an earlier stage company, the less heavy lifting is required,” says Sebastian.
 
Writer: Debra Smit
Source: Sean Sebastian, Birchmere Ventures 
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