The end of summer signals the return of students to campus and the kick off of college football. But this year will be different or maybe just the last year of normal. Recent announcements by major universities and conferences have put a spotlight on the enormous financial value of college sports with the Top 5 university athletic programs each grossing over $200 million annually, and the “Power 5” conferences – the Big10, SEC, ACC, Pac-12, and Big 12 – raking in a staggering $3.3B in revenue annually. Along with success comes competition, regulation and litigation. College sports is about to enter a massive innovation cycle and tech startups are lining up.

It’s this treasure chest that has been the prime catalyst for one of the biggest changes that will impact student athletes, the NCAA’s 2021 decision allowing athletes to capitalize on their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL). Suddenly, a new industry emerges and collegiate sports stars don’t have to wait to become professional to earn compensation for their hard work and build relationships with national brands similar to their professional counterparts. The challenge? Guiding these budding stars to the brand promise land while navigating complicated rules, onfield commitments and of course, classes.

Enter Pittsburgh’s innovative entrepreneur, Jordan Rooney. He and his team developed a trusted tool for both college athletic departments and individual athletes. Jaster Athletes offers an AI-driven personal brand coach helping athletes with everything from trendspotting on social media to strategic posting advice, and even whipping up visuals reminiscent of Dall-E’s artistry.

The secret sauce for successful enterprises often blends timing, talent, tenacity, and location. Jordan, the visionary behind Jaster, seems to have nailed this recipe. The rise of NIL offered impeccable timing, Jordan’s sports marketing acumen provided the required expertise, his past experience furnished a unique perspective, and Pittsburgh? Well, it’s a goldmine. Where else would you find such a raving sports fan base, links to major collegiate conferences, and a plethora of AI engineers?

Jaster’s success story echoes another Pittsburgh marvel, Duolingo. Both tapped into the city’s deep AI reservoir and both harnessed the power of community – one for language lovers and the other for sports enthusiasts – as a source for growth. Jaster could very well be the next AI success story in Pittsburgh.

It’s been a joy to get to know Jordan and his team over the last few years as they’ve built this incredible product. Last month, when we toured a group of VC’s around the burgh, I was able to catch up with Jordan and really dive deep into his story. Not only that, but I had the pleasure of catching up with some other incredible innovators, like Sankalp Arora of Gather AI and the serial-geneticist-entrepreneur Dietrich Stephan, who counts Cyto Ventures among his ventures. Check out their stories in the newest editions of The MidPoint podcast.

2022 Year in Review

Jordan Rooney

Not traditionally a techie, Jordan’s ability to see an opportunity and be ahead of the curve by applying technology to adapt his business model created a “win”

Company: Jaster Athletes

Location: Pittsburgh



Sankulp Arora

Sankulp was constantly enamored with aerial robotics and, as he puts it, “making drones curious”. Listen in to hear how he was able to achieve this miraculous feat.

Company: Gather AI

Location: Pittsburgh


dietrich stephan

Dietrich Stephan

Through Cyto and Stephan’s network of investors, he has helped raise over $400 million for about a dozen startups – leading the charge of creating personalized medicine for all.

Company: Cyto Ventures

Location: Pittsburgh