Chicago Tech & Innovation Companies Rise to Meet the Challenges of COVID-19


Director of ChicagoNEXT, Abin Kuriakose Shares Insight on the Unique Challenges and Opportunities for Chicago’s Tech Ecosystem


Q: COVID-19 is affecting many businesses and companies worldwide. What unique challenges are startups facing right now in regards to COVID-19?

AK: Startups are primed to grow and scale fast, and they’re now navigating a very different environment than they ever thought. Large corporates and investors have slowed down their normal pace of work due to growing uncertainties. Uniquely, startups are reassessing what growth looks like now and how to further make progress on their products or business development efforts. All of this has caused many startups to discover new opportunities in this new COVID-19 world.


Q: What unique opportunity do Chicago tech companies have to rally against COVID-19, that say a fortune 500 company may not have? 

AK: Many Chicago tech companies have proven to be resilient during these challenging times because they found creative ways to be innovative, collaborative, and open to the evolution of their products and services. They’ve specifically found ways to collaborate within the local tech community, which is a foundation for future partnerships that can drive growth and opportunity for our innovation ecosystem. The unique opportunity for our tech community is that it has been and continues to be connected in new ways. We’re seeing collaboration happening in real-time across multiple tech sub-clusters, from health and wellness to food and beverage, supply chain, and beyond.


Q: How is Chicago’s tech ecosystem coming together to fight COVID-19?

AK: Innovation thrives with collaboration and what we’ve seen for the past several weeks is a testament to who we are – Chicagoans. Our local tech leaders – startup CEOs, ecosystem partners, entrepreneurs and many others – have come together to redesign their software to serve our most immediate needs (like access to personal protective equipment), accelerate production of vital medical equipment, and test new innovative products that can save lives. It’s been remarkable to watch how the tech ecosystem has adapted and is making a difference during these uncertain times. A truly positive, impactful, and pro-active response that our city desperately needs.


Q: Can you give us an example or two of a Chicago tech company stepping up to the plate during this time?

AK: Rheaply: led by CEO Gary Cooper, PhD – Rheaply is an asset management tech company that is collaborating with Northwestern Memorial, Northwestern University, and the Buffett Center at Northwestern to launch a Resource Exchange between suppliers of needed medical equipment and clinics. The technology allows healthcare stakeholders to easily connect and receive notifications when medical supplies that fit their needs become available as well as create requests that suppliers can answer. All data will be published on a public interactive map in real-time so that anyone can access the medical supply needs for Illinois at the county level. Read more here!

1871 + MATTER + mHUB: our Chicago-based leading innovation hubs have joined forces to mobilize the tech ecosystem around designing solutions that can support in the fight against COVID-19. Activity is already underway as innovators work on prototypes for fast production medical devices and parts that are in limited supply, and several startups have connected at the city, county, and state levels to support ongoing efforts.  More info here!


Q: How can we help Chicago’s tech ecosystem now and in the future?  

AK: ChicagoNEXT represents World Business Chicago’s dedicated commitment to drive growth and opportunity for our tech economy and innovation ecosystem. We’re partnering with our local universities to support college students who are navigating career and internship opportunities during COVID-19. Through our ThinkChicago Spring 2020 Resume Book, we’re now connecting top-tier university talent with local tech and innovation companies who are hiring in 2020. Students can apply today at www.ThinkChicago.net and we would love to feature more companies who are ready to accept resumes.

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