2016 Chicago Venture Summit Draws Record Attendance


Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently welcomed the region’s tech leaders, startup founders and nearly 150 investment firms to build relationships and attract capital at the second Chicago Venture Summit. Hosted by World Business Chicago’s ChicagoNEXT, this year’s Chicago Venture Summit showcased 90 promising Midwest startups across technology, health, retail and digital industries, three times more than the first Venture Summit in 2014.

Nearly 150 investment firms and 230 venture capitalists – representing more than $20B in investment capital – gathered at Google’s Chicago headquarters for the Summit. Major themes included: what makes Chicago’s entrepreneurial successes unique; how the city’s world class universities are promoting entrepreneurship; the importance of regional Fortune 500 companies supporting the startup ecosystem; and the role of family offices. Speakers discussed how startups and corporations can collaborate for optimal progress and insights, how universities encourage entrepreneurial spirit in students, and best practices for utilizing private capital.

“I’m proud that the city of Chicago is being recognized, not just around the country but around the globe, as a digital center,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in opening remarks.“Today’s Summit is about building bridges of opportunity for our startup community to produce and launch the next great idea. Linking entrepreneurs and investors has a multiplier effect on our economy and our neighborhoods. Making these important connections creates jobs, develops talent and furthers Chicago’s reputation as a true hub for innovation and industry, where big concepts can become big companies.”

Program speakers included Steve LaValle, principal scientist for Oculus VR (before its purchase by Facebook) and professor of computer science at the University of Illinois, and Steve Jurvetson, a partner at Silicon Valley venture firm DFJ, who is credited with the firm’s investments in Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors and SpaceX. In addition to panel discussions, ten startup spotlights provided founders a platform to share their vision and goals directly with potential investors.

“We are focused on driving growth in Chicago’s tech community and one of our primary goals is increasing access to capital for early-stage startups,” World Business Chicago’s technology council, ChicagoNEXT, Chairman Mark Tebbe said. “By bringing startup founders, established companies, university heads and Chicago’s tech community leaders together with venture capitalists from across the globe, we are making deals happen, and building a community that will prosper.”

Social media continued brought the conversation online; more than 1,100 tweets featured #ChiVentureSummit from influencers including 1871’s Howard Tullman, Hyde Park Angels’ Peter Wilkins and Techstars’ Troy Henikoff.

The Venture Summit has had a significant impact on the city and its tech community. The 2014 Summit raised more than $220 million of investment into Chicago area tech companies. Of the 30 participating startups in 2014, 23 have since received funding and two were acquired by larger companies.

Chicago’s tech sector employs more than 54,000 people, according to Built In Chicago, an 11 percent increase over 2014. The city’s digital technology hub, 1871, recently unveiled its latest expansion to more than 115,000 square feet in the Merchandise Mart. In addition, the city’s more than 90 co-working spaces and incubators including MATTER (healthcare IT), University of Chicago’s Chicago Innovation Exchange and Blue1647 continue to thrive and create jobs.

According to a recent DJX VentureSource report, $177.5 million in venture capital was invested in Chicago in the first quarter of 2016, a significant increase from the $97.6 million raised in the first quarter of 2015. Investment rounds were also up, with 20 rounds in the first quarter of 2016 compared to 13 in 2015.

JP Morgan, Google, William Blair and Goldman Sachs were the lead sponsors of the 2016 Chicago Venture Summit. Additional sponsors included: PrivateBank, Silicon Valley Bank, Origin Ventures, GE Ventures, Microsoft, Pritzker Group, Foley & Lardner LLP, Chicago Ventures, Hyde Park Venture Partners and Lightbank.