Global Spotlight on Chicago Innovation
Submitted by Jake Trussell on August 3, 2011, 4:58 pm
Last week World Business Chicago hosted a delegation of visiting journalists from the United Nations Press Corps. The global contingent of reporters came from Chinese newspapers, Japanese magazines, Swedish public radio and more.
At Tribeca Flashpoint, CEO, Howard Tullman wowed the group with a sophisticated presentation of the technologies available to students and teachers at his school. The journalists asked questions about whether the technologies developed there are commercialized and what kinds of jobs the students get after graduation. Tullman explained their tech commercialization process and discussed the school’s industry connections with Hollywood, major videogame companies and more.
At 600 West Chicago we were given a tour of the former Mongomery Ward Catalog Warehouse which, when it was built over 100 years ago, was the largest concrete structure in the world.
While we were there we had an opportunity to meet with the co-founder and Executive Chairman of one of the most prominent companies at 600 West; Groupon. Eric Lefkofsky (also a co-founder of Groupon’s parent company, Lightbank and a WBC board member) sat down with us to discuss a few of his ideas about business. Our meeting came at an interesting moment as Groupon is in a “quiet period” leading up to their initial public offering of stock.
After touring through some of the Lightbank companies we headed over to Infinium Capital Management, a financial trading startup also located at 600 West. Their huge space is filled with hundreds of traders watching trades on thousands of monitors. It’s an awesome sight.
The final stop on our trip was Excelerate Labs, a Chicago-based startup incubator currently in the middle of launching their second class of companies. Each year Excelerate culls though hundreds of applications to find 10 innovative companies that they think have what it takes to succeed. The companies are given work space, $25,000 and access to an incredible list of mentors. Last year 8 of the 10 companies received outside funding after completion of the program and 9 of the 10 are still running. It’s a great track record for the new program.
Excelerate CEO, Troy Henikoff spoke to the group about what the organization does, and then asked each of the startups in the program to give us their “elevator pitch.”
Henikoff then handed the stage over to JB Pritzker who is, among other things, the founder of New World Ventures, one of Chicago’s largest technology investment funds (also a WBC board member). I’ve heard Pritzker speak on a number of occasions now, and each time I’m energized by his level of passion for helping innovative ideas to grow in Chicago. He believes strongly that in order for our region’s innovation ecosystem to thrive there needs to be a strong foundation and a connected support system. This is why he’s an ardent supporter of projects like Lightbank and Built in Chicago.
All in all, the UN press delegation saw a deep cross section of Chicago’s innovation ecosystem, from education to incubation to fast-growing startup companies. There’s a lot of energy going on in this sector right now and it was an honor to be able to share it on the global stage.