Alessandra is filling her cubicle walls with past and current IW visual materials including a few of her own designs.

Have You Met…Alessandra Hartkopf, Communications Coordinator

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I grew up right here in Pittsburgh — in Highland Park, which was a joy to explore as a kid.

Q: How did you hear about Innovation Works?

A: When I returned to Pittsburgh as a double-boomeranger in 2018, I was looking for new job opportunities at mission-aligned small to midsize organizations and companies. In my search, I came across an exciting opportunity at Innovation Works. Little did I realize the incredible impact IW had made on the region over the past few decades and the robust accelerators they were running in East Liberty.

Q: What drew you to work here?

A: Innovation Works has made a real commitment to diversity and inclusion, which they reinforce throughout their website and in developing new programs and initiatives. I was heartened by their insistence on the value of diversity and inclusion as a crucial business tenet as well as their real desire to positively impact our region.

Q: Let’s say I’m an entrepreneur in Southwestern Pennsylvania, what can I ask for your help on?

A: I work with our portfolio companies and accelerator cohorts on their marketing and communications strategies — from refining websites, providing feedback on logos and other visual collateral, to developing plans for authentic promotional opportunities. I can also help you to identify strategic partnerships in the region and connect you to my colleagues to address your other business needs.

Q: What are some marketing trends you’ve noticed gaining traction in tech that you would recommend?

A: I’ve noticed a big push for “authenticity” in branding, voice, and marketing campaigns. Industry leaders are seeing customer and user desire to connect with brands and companies on a personal level. Typically, this translates into brand ambassadors (people who represent companies as individuals), publicly acknowledging company mistakes and failures, and genuine marketing campaigns that showcase corporate values and aim to connect with people rather than sell to customers. Marketing has also progressed from leaning on quantity of content to emphasizing the quality of content. Communication teams now share easy, digestible content across platforms that speak to a common theme and meet their customers on the social media sites they use most — rather than inundating their customers with constant messages that artificially inflate SEO and get clicks.

Q: What technology/industry are you most excited about and why?

A: I’m most excited by technology that has the potential for social good. Organizations like Hack the Hood, IDEO, and Kiva are developing tools that can improve the livelihoods of some of the world’s most marginalized people. I am encouraged by tech that considers who is being excluded from this constantly changing industry and builds systems to include them. For every new tool built, I think we need to take a look at its social value and how it can be used to improve the planet or people’s quality of life. If we find that it doesn’t have a positive application, we need to start having conversations about whether it should be invented at all.

Q: Step back to Alessandra at age 18, what line of work had you envisioned for yourself? How closely aligned is your current work to that vision?

A: When entering university, I had my sights set on a career as a photographer for National Geographic. I combined my love of people, photography, and travel in a dual-degree in Cultural Anthropology and Photojournalism. While I did not pursue a career in documentary photography, my education fostered my passion for the potential of visual media and my goal to proliferate positive storytelling in every aspect of my work. I furthered this commitment in graduate school where I wrote my Masters thesis on the potential of non-profit visual communications to influence public perception and counter stereotypes.

Q: What issues that face our region are you most passionate or fired-up about?

A: I like to tell people that I have seen the future. While living in San Francisco, I witnessed how egregiously the push for ‘innovation’ and ‘progress’ can foster a city ethos that is unlivable for most. Tech is the largest motivator for the city’s changes. I returned to Pittsburgh determined to ensure that this ‘most livable’ city not only maintains its unique character, but also has plans in place that guarantee the well-being of all residents.

Pittsburgh has the potential to be a model for how other mid-size cities can rebuild economies and embrace the tech industry while ensuring the success and well-being of our black, brown, trans, and queer residents and maintaining a vibrant, grassroots, and authentic arts culture. We need to amplify the work and needs of people of color and women in this city to ensure that they are included in Pittsburgh’s tech “renaissance.”

Q: Tell us about your volunteer work.

A: One of the many things I love about Pittsburgh is the sense of community and belonging fostered here. As I am regaining my footing as a Pittsburgher, I’ve been asked to lend my voice and time to a few groups, including the New Hazlett’s External Relations Committee, a local Puppet Theater Advisory Committee (read about my fandom below), and the board of the Pittsburgh’s Entrepreneurs Forum. I’m looking forward to learning from my fellow committee and board members and working together to continue to build a thriving arts scene here as well as a robust tech infrastructure for all.

Q: What does an average Saturday look like for you?

A: I have a long list of activities, restaurants, shops, bars, and state parks that I’d like to experience or re-explore in the area, so you can likely find me at one of those places with some friends and my partner, Will. You may also find me at a local puppet show (think more Lovelace than Muppets). I’ve become a bit of a puppet groupie — it’s such a unique form of storytelling and it has a rich history here in Pittsburgh.

Q: When asked for a ‘fun fact’ about yourself, what’s your go-to?

A: I borrow my fun fact from my dad because it’s too good to pass up. He was the number one armadillo catcher in Texas in 1970 and 1971. This was an annual competition won by the individual who caught the most armadillos. His reign ended when a fellow competitor convinced him that he had lost his arm to a snake lurking in an armadillo burrow. He later found out that was a ruse to scare him off the sport, which, to the man’s credit, worked — my dad never competed again. The story is only improved by the fact that, at the time, my dad had just emigrated from Germany. Imagine a young, mustached, German man sporting a bolo tie and a cowboy hat with an armadillo in each hand.

PS. No armadillos were harmed in the making of this fun fact.



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Innovation Works

Innovation Works


Innovation Works is one of the nation’s most active seed funds. AlphaLab (AL), ALGear, and ALHealth are nationally ranked startup accelerator programs of IW.