Chicago’s Innovation Ecosystem
That’s from Chicago?!
More often than not, when you tell someone that tech market makers like Groupon, Orbitz,CareerBulider, Grubhub or Basecamp came out of Chicago their reply is “That’s from Chicago?!” Guess what? YouTube, PayPal, and Yelp began their lives in Chicago too.
A new generation of mentorship and venture capital is pumping through the business veins of Chicago, allowing for the city’s tech startups to thrive, and bringing a new wave of talent. Startup incubators and accelerators are feeding the pipeline via 1871, TechStars Chicago, ImpactEngine, Healthbox,TechNexus, Catapult Chicago, and many more. And our early stage investment community is on a tear, with vital capital being deployed from experienced venture teams at New World Ventures, Sandbox Industries, Lightbank, Apex Venture Partners, Chicago Ventures, and many more. In addition to providing access to new sources of capital, they bring with them a stable of entrepreneurial veterans who have deep track records with multiple successful startups through the years on the Chicago scene.
Chicago’s angel investment community is hitting on all cylinders as well, with a fleet of active and organized investment pros including two of the most prominent -- Hyde Park Angels and Wildcat Angels.
In 2012 alone, 197 new Chicago startups received $391 million in funding. And if ever you wondered how big the tech scene really is in Chicago these days, you need not look much futher thanBuiltInChicago.org, a web-based watering hole for all things digital in Chicago. Founded in 2010, BuiltInChicago has fast become the “go to” destination for smart, digital professionals seeking to connect with like minds.
It's no wonder why tech titans like Google, Microsoft, HERE, and IBM employ thousands of people in Chicago. There's a robust talent-pool for them to tap, often coming out of Chicago's great universities who then have the ability to cut their teeth in the various corners of Chicago’s tech ecosystem.
And let’s not overlook that Chicago is the birthplace and home to a monster number of financial tech (fin-tech) leaders and companies. Included on the roster are Morningstar, Thinkorswim, Infinium Capital Management, GETCO, Jump Trading, and the list goes on. In fact the fin-tech industry that has grown up around Chicago-based CME Group – the world’s largest futures exchange – is likely unmatched on the global stage.
Chicago is also home to a vibrant tech-event culture. TECH Cocktail began as a periodic mixer where Chicago-area startups and tech enthusiasts would meet, and has now expanded out to host events around the country and the world. BuiltInChicago Launch, and Technori Pitch also provide platforms for developing startups. As a direct result of these events, companies have found employees, co-founders, funding, and startups have even been acquired. Initiatives including the Chicago Innovation Awards and the Illinois Technology Association’s CityLIGHTS Awards also instill a sense of community, and highlight the region’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Open-source Web framework Django is another Chicago export. Developed by SoundSlice and EveryBlock founder Adrian Holovaty, Django is the foundation of many websites around the world. And, if that weren’t enough, there’s another popular, open-source web framework developed in Chicago --Ruby on Rails was developed by BaseCamp parent company 37signals. Many high-profile sites, from Groupon to Twitter can directly credit their development to those innovative platforms.
Paving the way for similar open data apps and innovation, Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel has upended the status quo and injected a streamlined policy objective to realease as much publicly available data as possible in a digestable online format through the city's Data Portal. The developer community has been engaged to assist the city in its effort to draw new efficiencies from the data sets. The Mayor has installed a C-suite of digital stewards, led by Chief Technology Officer John Tolva, to ensure the city is in good hands as it moves forward into the next decade with technology in the forefront of Chicago's economic aspirations.