I have always been interested and involved in the intersection of music and technology. In the 90s, I helped build RollingStone.com, TheSource.com, and DownbeatJazz.com as well as a little site called Tunes.com. These days I’m still involved with music businesses like Music Dealers in Chicago that seek to combine the world's obsession with technology with its never-ending love of all things musical.
In my new role as the CEO of 1871, Chicago’s startup hub for digital entrepreneurs, my focus is mainly around supporting and promoting our city’s next generation of technology leaders and helping to position Chicago as one of the primary technology economies in the world. To do so, we need not only to support our growing entrepreneurial community, but also to attract more people who want to make Chicago their home and the home of their new business ideas.
The city’s rich and deep musical history across so many genres is an asset that few other places in the world can rival and, as every business migrates its materials, marketing and assets from the old analog world to the exciting new world of digital and video everything, music will be an increasingly crucial part of telling every company’s story because, as the whole world knows, silent movies and videos suck. If this isn’t already beyond obvious, just take a walk thru any tech venue anywhere (especially at 1871) and look around. Those white ear buds growing out of every set of ears in the place tell the whole story of just how connected music and technology are today.
So this week, the city and 1871 are announcing two major initiatives that focus on the powerful and magnetic attraction of music, which we believe, will help us attract large numbers of new, bright and talented young people to the city's technology economy.
The first is the expansion of ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza, Mayor Emanuel's annual technology-driven recruiting event for young people from around the nation. This year, 125 of the greatest computer science and engineering students will come to Chicago, visit 1871, meet and get inspired by some of our brightest new startups, and spend three days experiencing Lollapalooza. While they visit, they’ll also hear from some of the City’s most successful entrepreneurs who will participate in a series of presentations. Last year’s lineup included Obama for America 2012 CTO Harper Reed, Siri founder Dag Kittlaus, and GrubHub co-founder and CEO Matt Maloney. Suffice it to say, Lollapalooza has for years been a wonderful advertisement for our city, and ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza allows it to be extended into an advertisement that will drive these talented individuals to become the next generation of leaders for our incredible tech industry.
At 1871, we’re doubling down on this effort. In conjunction with ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza, we’ll be announcing the first class of collegiate businesses to win the 1871 Chicago College Startup Competition (CCSC). There will be up to ten winners – all expanding businesses that were founded in colleges across the country – who will be awarded a free year membership at 1871. The catch? They just have to move here for a year. The hook? We think once you’ve seen what Chicago has to offer, there’s no going back. It’s the Hotel “Chicago” to paraphrase The Eagles. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!”
To me, this is an important part of the next phase of the development of the Chicago technology economy. Mayor Emanuel has called for us to create an additional 40,000 tech jobs in Chicago by the end of the decade. Many of these new jobs and positions will come from our already thriving companies. But many others will come from young business founders and technologists who move here with an idea and a growing business and try and make it big by accessing our amazing resources, investor community and talent pool.
This is the first time that either 1871 or the city of Chicago will be proactively recruiting technology startups from outside of the Chicagoland area to join our city's tech community. We hope to identify unique businesses across an array of industries and disciplines that can benefit from the unique support of the 1871 community as well as the thriving tech sector in the city. There’s no reason to believe we won’t uncover the next Facebook or Dell, both of which, like many great startups, were started in dorm rooms.
As I said, music and technology have forever been mixed. Lollapalooza is a great reason to come to Chicago -- one of many reasons people should come and visit Chicago, especially in the summer. Here's hoping we can continue to use this outstanding summer event as a springboard for a generation of opportunity and (hopefully) the attraction of many new Chicagoans.