Wednesday, February 04, 2015



1871 and J. Walter Thompson showcase five travel and tourism-focused startups from Illinois as a part of this week’s Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel and Tourism

CHICAGO, IL (February 4, 2015) — Digital startup incubator 1871 and J. Walter Thompson, the world’s best-known marketing communications brand, will host a Shark Tank-style competition tomorrow for five travel and tourism-focused startups based at 1871. As a part of the Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel and Tourism, the competition will allow the participating companies to showcase new technologies in the travel and tourism industries and compete for the chance to win a $5,000 cash prize, as well as presentation coaching courtesy of J. Walter Thompson.
"1871’s primary goal is to support the new businesses that are crucial creators of job and economic growth across Illinois,” said 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. “We are excited to highlight some of the state’s most innovative companies in the travel and tourism space, and look forward to watching the ongoing growth and success of these startups.”

Much like the hit ABC reality series, a group of three judges will grill the contestants about their business models and avenues for growth. The panel of judges includes 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman, TimeZoneOne President and CEO Daniel Thomas, and J. Walter Thompson Senior Partner and Group Management Director Erin Clark. Following the company presentations and questions from the judges, conference attendees will vote to decide which startup gave the best business pitch and is deserving of the grand prize.

 “J. Walter Thompson is thrilled to partner with 1871 and the state of Illinois to support the startups helping to shape the travel and tourism industry,” said Erin Clark, Senior Partner and Group Management Director at J. Walter Thompson Chicago. “This event reinforces our commitment to pioneering and innovative thinking, and we are so excited at the prospect of propelling the winner of this event to the next level.” 

The 1871 companies participating in the Shark Tank include:

·         Breakwater – a floating luxury entertainment venue
·         Georama – an interactive travel discovery platform
·       Options Away – a company that provides airfare price locking and travel management services
·         SiMple – a company that facilitates effortless international cell service activation
·         Trytn – an event booking gateway and online marketing presence for excursion providers

To learn more about the Illinois Governor's Conference on Travel and Tourism, please visit:

About J. Walter Thompson Worldwide

J. Walter Thompson Worldwide, the world’s best-known marketing communications brand, has been making pioneering solutions that build enduring brands and business for more than 150 years. Headquartered in New York, J. Walter Thompson is a true global network with more than 200 offices in over 90 countries, employing nearly 10,000 marketing professionals. The agency consistently ranks among the top networks in the world and continues a dominant presence in the industry by staying on the leading edge—from hiring the industry's first female copywriter to developing award-winning branded content today. For more information, please visit and follow us @JWT_Worldwide.

About 1871

1871 is the home of more than 325 early-stage, high-growth startups. Located in The Merchandise Mart, this 75,000 square foot facility is also the headquarters of nationally recognized accelerators, Techstars Chicago and Impact Engine; half a dozen industry-specific incubators in key areas such as real estate, education technology and the Internet of Everything; several emerging tech talent schools (The Starter League and the Startup Institute), and the state's leading technology advocate, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition. It is the second home to Chicago-based VCs, Pritzker Group, MATH Ventures, Hyde Park Angels, OurCrowd and Chicago Ventures, as well as satellite offices for Northwestern University, University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, and DeVry. 1871 has fast become recognized as the hub for the city’s entrepreneurial/technology ecosystem and has been featured in TechCrunch, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business among other top media.

Georama wins $5,000 in tourism-focused pitch competition

Cheryl Jackson
Chicago Blue Sky
5 Feb 2015

Virtual travel company Georama took off with tourism professionals Wednesday.

The Chicago-based startup, which licenses wearable camera and backpack technology that allows for real-time interaction in live streaming tours, took first place among five startups pitching to a state tourism-industry audience at the Palmer House Hilton.

“It provides the ability to give your prospective travelers a preview of the experience,” Georama founder and CEO Nihal Advani told attendees of the Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel and Tourism.

Columbia College Chicago has started using the technology for campus tours, Advani told Blue Sky before the competition.

Georama won $5,000 and coaching from the J. Walter Thompson marketing firm.

Audience members voted, and Georama nabbed 35 percent of the vote.

Options Away, a service that lets users hold flights while they finalize travel plans, took second place with 28 percent of the vote.

Other contestants were:

• Trytn, an online booking and reservation platform for small and mid-sized activities and excursion businesses.

• SiMple, a service that delivers smartphone SIM cards to be used abroad to avoid roaming charges.

• Breakwater Chicago, which hopes to build a $23 million floating recreational venue on Lake Michigan to include restaurants, swimming pools, spas, a nightclub and a private club.

All are members of the 1871 tech incubator at the Merchandise Mart.

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