what is Thrival?

The Thrival Innovation + Music Festival is an annual event featuring multiple days of immersive, innovation-focused programming capped by a two-day outdoor live music experience.

Thrival is an initiative of Ascender — an independent Pittsburgh-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to serving early stage entrepreneurs. Proceeds from the event go to support Ascender's mission to support starters and builders of all forms.


Our Story

What do you get when you combine week of innovation-focused programs — featuring thought leaders, cutting edge technology, new ideas, and forward thinking approaches to 21st century challenges...punctuated by a weekend concert featuring some of the best emerging national music acts and top-tier headliners?

Well - you get Thrival. The festival celebrated its “proof of concept” in 2013, welcoming 2,000 attendees for a day of innovation talks, entrepreneur pitches, and an evening concert featuring RJD2, De La Soul, Frightened Rabbit, and Formula 412. The goal: to shine a light on the new ideas and entrepreneurs that are fueling Pittsburgh’s 21st century economic resurgence.

In 2014, we grew. The concert welcomed 15 national and local recording artists, headlined by Moby and Portugal. The Man. Some 15 innovation events — including thought talks, a $25,000 pitch competition, workshops, panel discussions, and technology symposiums — galvanized over 7,000 people under the Thrival banner, and showcased the top thought leaders in the region who are ushering an era of new ideas and renewed energy.

In 2015, we grew even larger: 40 musical performances. 36 innovation events in six different neighborhoods, and a city-wide innovation “campus” welcoming the world to Pittsburgh. We also move concert locations to Pittsburgh's Hazelwood neighborhood — converting 10 acres of former industrial brownfield into a live music experience for 10,000 people.

In 2016, Thrival hit a massive growth year, growing the festival to over 16,000 attendees. The Grammy Award-winning duo, The Chainsmokers, headlined Thrival Music, along with CHVRCHES, Thievery Corporation, and Metric. And we found a new concert site, the Carrie Furnaces, a national historic site that was once the heart of the famed Homestead Works.

Thrival Innovation welcomed thought leaders from across America, featuring programs with a dynamic group of participants, including a New York Times bestselling author, rogue doctors, a Pulitzer Prize winner, pioneering musicians, startup founders, and even the inventor of the hashtag.

We took even more growth steps in 2017, by establishing partnerships with Live Nation (Thrival Music) and NewCo (Thrival Innovation) to create an even better, high quality, and unique experience for festival attendees. 14,000 people attended last year, making 2017 the second largest Thrival to date. Both the music experience and innovation vertical of the festival scaled and improved, with more partners, new locations, and a attendees from over 30 states and multiple countries.

Thrival 2018 will once again be coming back in September. We look forward to making the festival even better this year! 

Why Pittsburgh? The Comeback City

As an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Ascender created the Thrival Innovation + Music Festival with two goals in mind. First, Thrival serves as a revenue driver as a means for the organization to support local entrepreneurs with a portfolio of resources to grow their ideas — free of charge. All proceeds from the festival go to support Ascender and its mission. The second (and equally important) feature of Thrival is the movement to introduce Pittsburgh as the world leader in post-industrial economic development and innovation.

The energy in Pittsburgh is magnetic. Our city is back. The city is now driven by a knowledge economy — a premier destination for young leaders, professionals, artists, makers, and entrepreneurs looking toward the next frontier. They’ve found it in Western Pennsylvania.

It has been a long time coming. In the 1980’s, the steel and heavy manufacturing industry — an economic pillar that has long-defined our region — collapsed. Thousands were left jobless. Many left the region. Pittsburgh became synonymous with decline. Yet, a group of leaders from both the public and private sectors set into a motion a multi-generational plan to help the region eventually recover from the shock of massive industrial decline. Over the course of decades, Pittsburgh evolved from a city of iron and steel to a city of medicine, education, banking, energy, technology, and now — entrepreneurs. The transition is barely recognizable to those who left years ago. Pittsburgh is no longer a 20th century cautionary tale. It’s a 21st century American success story.

Critical to this resurgence is the startup ecosystem — led by the city’s incubators and accelerators, as well as the the world-class universities. Within old warehouses and storage facilities have emerged new companies charting new courses, finding solutions in an increasingly competitive economy, and restoring the urban core of a city many thought would never recover.

Times have changed. The blueprint is drafted. Come listen and learn. Share your stories. Engage with others. Build the next best idea. Lead. Disrupt. Move forward. Thrival is the platform to create, innovate, and grow.

See you in September.