Sunday, September 27, 2015


Award Will Be Bestowed At The Conclusion Of The 2015 Momentum Awards Dinner to Support 1871; Annual Award Recognizes The Best And Brightest Companies In Chicago

CHICAGO (SEPTEMBER 25, 2015) – The Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center today announced the seven finalists for the 2015 Merrick Momentum Award. The finalists include Avant, elevate DIGITAL, Raise, SMS Assist, Sprout Social, ThinkCERCA, and Vibes. The Merrick Momentum Award is sponsored by Merrick Ventures, led by Michael Ferro.

“Each year, we present the Momentum Award to recognize a top up-and-coming company that is on the cusp of being an established enterprise and significantly impacting the Chicago economy,” said Jim O’Connor, Jr., CEC Board Chair. “These companies represent the best of Chicago’s innovative tech community, and showcase the wealth of innovation and entrepreneurial success taking place throughout the city.”

The Momentum Award is bestowed annually to a company in Chicago that is showing momentum and is on track to be one of the next great companies to emerge from Chicago. Past recipients of the award include kCura, Braintree, Cleversafe, GrubHub, SitterCity, Eved, and SAVO.

“As the leading advocates for startups in Chicago, 1871 and CEC are able to create substantial improvements in the city's entrepreneurial community,” said 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. “New businesses play a critical role in fostering job growth and economic opportunity, and the Momentum Awards Dinner enables us to celebrate these businesses and continue our efforts to foster innovation and prosperity throughout Chicago.”

The Merrick Momentum Award is one of four awards that will be bestowed at the coming event, including the Chicagoness Award, the Corporate Champion Award, and the Entrepreneurial Champion Award. The event, which will take place at the Radisson Blu hotel, will draw 750 of the top supporters of business and entrepreneurship in Chicago together. It is the largest gathering of the tech community annually and the primary fundraiser for CEC, which supports the activities and operations of 1871.

Anyone interested in attending the Momentum Dinner can register at 1871 makes an effort to open up the dinner to entrepreneurs, and facilitates strong interactions between some of our best entrepreneurs and the attendees of the dinner.

About 1871
1871 is the home of more than 325 early-stage, high-growth digital 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, food and financial technology; several emerging tech talent schools (Flatiron, The Fullbridge Program, Designation 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 Venture Capital, MATH Venture Partners, Hyde Park Angels, OCA Ventures, OurCrowd and Chicago Ventures, as well as satellite offices for Northwestern University, University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Loyola University 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 Inc. Magazine, TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business among other top media. 1871 is the flagship project of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center.

About Avant
Avant is a fast-growing marketplace lending platform that is lowering the costs and barriers of borrowing for consumers. Through the use of big data and machine-learning algorithms, the company offers a unique and highly customized approach to streamlined credit options. At its core, Avant is a tech company that is dedicated to creating innovative and practical financial products for all consumers. To date, Avant has secured more than $1.4 billion in funding and another $400 million through its institutional marketplace. More than 250,000 loans have been issued through the Avant website. Avant has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, TechCrunch, Fortune, Bloomberg and Crain's Chicago Business. In 2015, Avant was named to Forbes America's Most Promising Companies list as well as Forbes list of Next Billion Dollar Startups. Find out more at

About elevate DIGITAL
elevate DIGITAL is the leading developer of street-level software technology. The elevate platform manages and controls connective messaging, digital applications, geo-targeted services and data collection within SMART display technology. elevate’s software platform dramatically changes traditional digital technology and provides clients with a new, highly interactive channel to reach the consumer and retain data. The platform has advanced general methods of communication, by enabling brands, municipalities and locations to engage with people and devices within verticals that include; city streets, IoT, hospitality, transportation, entertainment and more. For more information, visit

About Raise
Raise is the largest, most trusted gift card marketplace where members can save on gift cards for any brand and sell gift cards or store credit for cash. For every seller cashing in on old cards or credit, a happy buyer saves on a favorite store, brand or restaurant. With the Raise app for iPhone and Android, members can take the marketplace on the go and instantly redeem cards or credit right at the store counter. Every transaction is backed by a 100 percent money-back guarantee. For more information, visit

About SMS Assist
SMS Assist is a Chicago-based technology company providing multisite property management to a roster of clients with more than 90,000 service locations. Using its proprietary software platform to manage its network of more than 20,000 affiliate subcontractors, SMS Assist offers a suite of property management benefits including leveraged pricing of products and services, risk indemnification, real-time services validation, instant invoicing, automatic service audits and data analysis to ensure quality and cost efficiency. SMS Assist is revolutionizing multisite property management services for its growing list of national and Fortune 500 clients including Family Dollar (NYSE: FDO), O'Reilly Automotive, Inc. (NASDAQ: ORLY), JLL (NYSE: JLL) and Colony Capital (NYSE: CLNY). To learn more, visit

About Sprout Social
Sprout Social offers social media engagement, advocacy and analytics solutions for leading agencies and brands, including Anthropologie, GrubHub, Hyatt, Spotify and Zipcar. Available via web browser, iOS and Android apps, Sprout’s engagement platform enables brands to more effectively communicate on social channels, collaborate across teams and provide an exceptional customer experience. Headquartered in Chicago, Sprout is a Twitter Certified Product, Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer, LinkedIn Company Page Partner and Google+ Pages API Partner. Learn more at

About ThinkCERCA
ThinkCERCA is an online platform designed to empower teachers to personalize literacy instruction across disciplines. ThinkCERCA helps whole school teams differentiate for engaging learning in classrooms of diverse learners. The CERCA Framework provides a common language for students, teachers, parents, and administrators to drive sustainable growth in student achievement. For more information, visit

About Vibes

Vibes is a mobile marketing technology leader that helps some of the world’s biggest brands unlock new revenue by arming them with the technology and guidance they need to succeed in mobile marketing. Vibes' Catapult Mobile Relationship Management (MRM) platform enables marketers to manage all mobile communications including text messaging, push notifications, Apple’s Passbook, Google Wallet and mobile web campaigns — all from a single interface. Vibes has delivered more than 5 billion mobile experiences since 1998 on behalf of customers such as Sears, Home Depot, Verizon, Allstate, The Gap, Pep Boys, Tribune, Gannett, Imagitas and Excentus. Vibes is a Tier 1 aggregator with direct connections to all U.S. wireless carriers. To learn more about Vibes, visit or connect on

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