Chicago used to be referred to as a “flyover city” during the late 1990s, since big venture capital funding in Boston and Silicon Valley would fly to each other looking at deals while ignoring Chicago startups entirely.
They would even insist that any startup that wanted their funding needed to relocate to their city in order to get a closer look a financing, leverage their expertise, and tap into the local ecosystem.
That was then. Now Chicago startups have an ecosystem all their own. Angel investors have organized into a number of networks, including Hyde Park Angels, Cornerstone Angels, and Wildcat Angels.
A number of incubators, accelerators, and startup office spaces have come to the city, as well, including Lightbank, Tech Nexus, TechStars Chicago, Sandbox, Catapult, and 1871.
Local universities have also done a lot to formalize their entrepreneurship programs, including U-Chicago, Northwestern, DePaul, Loyola, IIT, and UIC. Built-In Chicago, the Illinois Technology Association, and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center have done a lot to help to make business networking more accessible for digital tech startups in Chicago.
This list Chicago startup documents some of the ones you should keep an eye on. These new startups are taking advantage of the unique and vibrant startup economy that has taken root in Chicago. Their new ideas, business models, and hard work are almost certain to pay off.
This surgery workflow tool helps to create better communications in operating rooms, a place where that is very important.
The startup has created a “surgical playbook” that can be used by medical professionals in the operating room, helping everyone from surgeons to assisting staff to be sure they are on the same page. They have raised $3 million last year, $500,000 of which came from the UChicago Startup Investment Program.
This Chicago startup makes it easier to buy home insurance by making use of data from sources that better assess risk. They also put the whole process online.
Data from satellite images, public records, building permits, and MLS information is used to build policies. Kin makes home insurance much easier and much smarter.
This startup company is a voter information company that provides people with info about all the candidates on the ballot. Their goal is to help voters be more informed on who they are voting for, especially in local elections.
RXBAR is a $600 million company. They have a savvy digital marketing campaign and an undeniably delicious line of nutrition bars that uses egg whites, almonds, cashews, and dates to create healthy and filling meals for people on the go.
The company has gone from its cofounder’s basement to the Kellogg Company boardroom in under four years. They are likely to become an even bigger presence after their acquisition by the food giant and plan to grow their team a lot in the coming year.
This company wants to help local governments make their websites more accessible using cloud-based technology.
They hired a new COO in 2017, former DialogTech SVP Josh Mallamud. It was recently honored by the city of Chicago by adding 50 new hires to its busy team.
This company makes use of advanced machine learning and proprietary technology to streamline the online lending process and help improve access to credit. They have nearly tripled the size of their team since they opened their doors in 2016 and plan to keep growing.
Amper’s goal is to help factories improve both machine and labor productivity by monitoring machine metrics in real-time. Their app helps companies react to issues and make plans using real-time data now hat is going on their assembly lines.
This commercial real estate platform helps small companies make use of tech to help find office space. Its brokerage technology helps companies to more easily manage the whole office search in one platform.
A company can search for spaces, virtually tour the inside, negotiate price, and sign lease documents, all on Truss’ site.
Xaptum is the telecom for the internet of things, providing the infrastructure behind real-time, smart-thing communication.
TapGenes is a private family health network building healthy relationships between families, healthcare providers, and favorite consumer wellness brands.
Stridekick is a social fitness platform that integrates with the leading fitness trackers and smartwatches to allow individuals to participate in fun fitness challenges with friends, family and coworkers.
Rheaply aims to drive scientific breakthrough by making science more efficient and connected. To that end, Rheaply has built a novel web application which allows academic researchers to connect with their colleagues in order to easily ask for help with experiments, find a collaborator, or search for surplus scientific supplies.
Rentgrata is an apartment listing service-meets-resident referral platform that connects prospective renters with current residents of apartment communities. Users can browse apartments and chat with current residents who have also signed up with Rentgrata. Both parties can earn a split of a referral reward if the prospect signs a lease.
Phenix provides global real-time IP video solutions and is the only company that can deliver synchronous streams with less than 1/2 second of latency/delay at broadcast scale. They offer an end-to-end solution by capturing signals at the source and handle encoding, ingest, transcoding, composition and content delivery to any endpoint.
Packyge is an open Ecommerce ship-to-store network. It’s free for retailers to participate, and consumers get cash for picking up their shipments. As usage grows they create propensity models based on online purchasing and location data to build local audiences for advertisers. The platform is also available to retail chains on a white label basis…
Omega Grid’s platform enables utility companies to create and manage a peer-to-peer energy market.
OjaExpress is an ethnic grocery delivery platform, which allows US consumers to shop for their hard to find ethnic groceries in a convenient and efficient manner.
They work with mortgage lenders to devise and implement their digital mortgage strategies on their consumer-centric SaaS platform. Their platform guides consumers through every step of the mortgage process and facilitates the transaction between a borrower, the loan officer and other important parties (e.g. real estate agent).
They are a real-time aggregator of big data sources, bringing the most comprehensive & relevant data sets available for commercial real estate owners and asset managers.
Keyo let’s you pay with just your palm at stores, no phone, nor wallet needed. They also save stores money by reducing their payment processing fees to a flat 1% per transaction. If you have entrepreneurial spirit and would like to join a motivated and energetic team, Keyo is the place for you. Payments are evolving and Keyo is ahead of the curve…
Kannatopia is a social network for Cannabis enthusiasts and patients 21+ Kannatopia is a community to connect, socialize, experience, share, learn and explore with people who have similar interests. Their vision is to “Connect the Cannabis World & Elevate Experiences”.
Heretik is a Relativity (leading eDiscovery platform) application that marries effective text analysis machine learning models and flexible document review capabilities. Their solution structures contract data for smarter, faster, and more favorable decisions.
Health iPASS is like Square for Healthcare Patient Payments. They are the FIRST exchange to connect Consumers with their Healthcare Providers – and bring Transparency (into Cost of Care), Convenience and Trust to Healthcare Billing. Health iPASS is an innovative patient check-in and payment technology company that secures payment.
FanFood enhances the fan experience at live events. They are a mobile ordering technology platform that delivers food and drinks to fans’ seats or picked-up via express line. FanFood is available on the iOS and Android app stores.
EazyScripts makes it easier for telemedicine doctors to submit prescriptions. Its cloud-based software allows doctors to submit prescriptions using their smartphone or tablet.
Cooler Screens is transforming retail cooler surfaces into IoT-enabled screens. Their media platform reimagines the brick-and-mortar shopping experience for consumers in the cooler and freezer aisle while delivering new marketing opportunities and smart merchandising for brands and retailers.
Codeverse® is the world’s first fully interactive coding school and educational technology platform for kids aged 6-12, founded on the mission to teach a billion kids to code. To book weekly coding classes and 2018 Spring/Summer camps, visit www.codeverse.com.
They make it easy to manage your backup policies, disaster recovery and server control for AWS.
CivicScape combines data and community input to effectively deploy law enforcement.
ChangEd uses spare change to help students pay off their loans!
Binfer is a direct device to device data transfer platform that includes File Sharing, Sync, Web Drop, Communication and Private Cloud products. User data is never stored on any third-party servers.
ApartmentJet is a short term rental solution for the multifamily apartment industry that provides owners and property management companies the portfolio-level visibility, control, revenue opportunity, and ability to maintain a sense of community too easily sacrificed in today’s sharing economy.
Ending thoughts on these Chicago startups
Chicago startups have come a long way.
A number of venture capital firms have started to get more aggressive in investing in the area, including Pritzker Group, MK Capital, Origin Ventures, OCA Ventures, Apex Ventures, and Chicago Ventures.
The state government of Illinois and the city of Chicago have also helped Chicago startups, embracing them as a salvation for the city and state’s economic issues. This includes the launch of the Illinois Invest Venture Fund.
Groupon’s incredible rise, based in Chicago, also had a large halo effect on the local startup ecosystem. It put the city on the map and offered lots of inspiration to hundreds of other startups.
According to Built In Chicago, 367 digital startups launched in 2012, a 187% increase from 2011 and a 15 times increase from the 25 startups per year average that existed between 2004 to 2008, which was before Groupon. 59 of these companies successfully raised more than $1MM each, aggregating over $391MM in venture capital raised in 2012.
This was a 4 times increase from the $109MM average per year between 2004 to 2008. Things do not look to be slowing down.
Chicago has also drawn the attention of some major coastal venture capital firms. There have been multi-million dollar raises from Activ, Analyte Health, Avant Credit, Belly, Big Machines, Braintree, BrightTag, Cleversafe, Fruition Partners, Future Simple, Groupon, GrubHub, inXpo, Mu Sigma, Narrative Science, Networked Merchants, Retrofit, SilkRoad, Singlehop, Sprout Social, 37 signals, Total Attorneys, Trunk Club and Valence Health, invested by major coastal VC’s like Accel, Alsop Louie, Andreessen Horowitz, Bain, Battery, Benchmark, Bessemer, Digital Sky, Draper Fisher, General Atlantic, Greycroft, Greylock, Highland, Kleiner Perkins, Lightspeed, Maveron, NEA, Sequoia, Trinity, and USV. Chicago is no longer a “flyover city” and has become a major destination for big venture funds. Chicago startups no longer need to relocate.
What’s more, these Chicago startup investments are leading to some very good returns. Groupon and Textura are IPOs, and it looks Grub Hub is looking for an IPO after its merger with Seamless. Braintree was sold to PayPal/eBay for $800MM.
Oracle acquired Big Machines for $400MM. Accenture bought Acquity got $316MM. ValueClick was bought by Dotomi for $259MM. This list goes and on and on, all of it very impressive.
If you enjoyed reading this article about Chicago startups, you should read these as well:
- Awesome Boston startups to watch in the upcoming years
- Amazing Australian startups that you can apply for a job at
- Innovative virtual reality companies and their neat presentation websites
- Startups in Amsterdam that you should keep an eye on (and their cool websites)
- Cool startups in Los Angeles that you should check out
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Source: Household Tech