Lay it down for us: What are Chicago's biggest startup challenges?
TechWeek Chairman Iain Shovlin asked a high-profile panel touting Chicago's tech scene what area “needs to be attacked."
Brenna Berman, Chicago’s chief information officer and commissioner of the Department of Innovation and Technology, emphasized attracting and keeping talent.
Howard Tullman said 1871, where he is CEO, is working hard to recruit college students from top area schools and is considering a program that would offer a free year of membership at 1871 for college-run businesses.
The idea, he said, “is to have them come to Chicago and stay here.”
And Craig Ulliott, chief technology officer and head of product at Belly, said Chicago needs to embrace startup failure the way it is embraced in California, where he said “failure is a rite of passage.”
Tullman offered that most startup failures are the result of poor sales skills.
“It’s the hardest hire, and it’s the shittiest job,” he said.
At the end of the work day, “when everyone else is at the bar, (the sales manager) is back in the office figuring out who needs to be fired,” Tullman said. “And if they aren’t doing that, then they aren’t doing their job.”
Ulliott noted that Chicago, in this regard, has a leg up on the Silicon Valley, where he said the startup community “doesn’t value sales people at all.”
Tullman said the growth trajectory for startups in Chicago is pointing steadily upward compared with a “kind of lumpy” past, and he said the growth “is very highly distributed.” Tullman also said angel and Series A investors are becoming more active in Chicago “because that’s where the money is needed.”