• Pittsburgh Inno

VIT's acquisition further 'validation' of Pgh's growing entrepreneurial community, fmr investors say

This article was originally published by PittsburghInno.

Andy Chan, CEO & Co-Founder at VIT in downtown Pittsburgh.
Andy Chan, CEO & Co-Founder at VIT in downtown Pittsburgh. 📷: Jim Harris/ PBT

By Nate Doughty - Reporter

October 06, 2021, 03:35pm EDT


Validation.

That's the word shared by two now-former investors of Vigilant Technologies (VIT) — a Pittsburgh-based tech company that makes wearable products aimed at teaching users how to avoid workplace injuries — following Portugal- and New York-based musculoskeletal therapy company SWORD Health's acquisition of the firm on Tuesday for an undisclosed sum.

According to Ilana Diamond, managing partner for 412 Venture Fund which marked its first exit as a fund after VIT's acquisition, the deal serves as validation for Pittsburgh's place as a home for startup growth but also for the fund's mission of investing in startups that will in-turn benefit the region. Diamond also shared that 412 Ventures closed on its second round of fundraising within the past two weeks, bringing the firm's fund to $15 million out of its $20 million goal. To date, it has made 12 investments across 10 companies, with VIT being one of its firsts.

"(SWORD has) been convinced of the value of building their company here in Pittsburgh, and I think that's a great thing, it really leverages two of the areas that we're known for — IoT and health technology," Diamond said. "It's great validation of that and the fact that a Portuguese- and New York-based company wants to build a regional group here, it's a great thing for everybody … for 412 Venture Fund, it validates one of our main theses, which is that when you help fund early-stage companies, it does great things for the region beyond just building that company. It attracts attention, it attracts additional capital, it attracts jobs, all sorts of things happen."

Diamond also took the opportunity to mention that VIT's acquisition further builds on the recent and prominent startup forces coming out of Pittsburgh and called attention to the Startup Genome report that ranked Pittsburgh as No. 23 on its lists of global emerging startup ecosystems, Aurora Innovation Inc.'s decision to make Pittsburgh its sole headquarters as it gears up to go public by the end of the year and the listing of Pittsburgh-based learning app platform Duolingo Inc. (NYSE:DUOL) on the New York Stock Exchange this past summer.

"There's just this momentum out of the region and we're getting more and more attention," Diamond said. "I think all these wonderful things that are happening are getting attention for our region, and that is resulting in good things for the companies, additional opportunities for them as well. And so we're thrilled to see that."

Rich Lunak, president and CEO of seed-stage investing group Innovation Works, shared the same sentiment. Pittsburgh-based hardware accelerator AlphaLab Gear, a platform offered through Innovation Works, served as an early investor in VIT.

"It's nice validation of the momentum and great entrepreneurs we have here locally," Lunak said. "When these things happen, it makes it all the easier to attract investors, entrepreneurs, talent and other key resources, and then to grow the entrepreneurial community here locally. It's just a good sign that we're able to build a successful and interesting technology companies here locally that have good outcomes."

Lunak also took note of the fact that Pittsburgh-based Highmark Ventures participated in SWORD's most recent $85 million in Series C funding, which Lunak believes will further cement SWORD's presence in Pittsburgh.

"It speaks to the strength of our region, both within the software and innovative health care space," Lunak said. "I think that that adds yet another strong link to the local community that'll probably help ensure that there's a growing Pittsburgh presence here locally."

VIT's co-founders Andy Chan and Connor Young, and its two other full-time workers, plan to stay in Pittsburgh following the acquisition. Chan said SWORD is looking forward to growing in Pittsburgh as the company aims to build out its portfolio across North America and eventually become a public company.

"It makes all the tough times in the beginning just worth it quite frankly," Chan said. "We took our startup from the beginning stages to the seed stage and now to go to a company to try to take them to IPO and become a unicorn, I've never been a part of that journey, but it's kinds of fulfilling from the founder perspective."