ChicagoNEXT Brings 200 of the Nation’s Top Tech & Business Students to Chicago


Students get a backstage view of Lollapalooza while after three packed days of meeting with tech and business leaders.

This August, ChicagoNEXT, an initiative of World Business Chicago, joined the Mayor’s Office, the University of Illinois, and C3 Presents to host the three-day ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza 2018 program. ThinkChicago invites 200 of the nation’s top tech and business students to experience the city’s fast-growing technology industry and one of the country’s most popular musical festivals. The one-of-a-kind program immerses future tech leaders within Chicago’s innovation ecosystem, giving them an opportunity to meet Chicago icons and even pitch their own ideas.  “ThinkChicago inspires students to unleash their career potential by exploring opportunities with Chicago startups and innovative companies,” Mark Tebbe, chairman of ChicagoNEXT said. “By connecting this top talent to Chicago and its leading businesses, it’s a win-win-win for our city, companies and students who are ready to start their careers.”

Chicago on the Rise

Students at 1871 on Day 1 of ThinkChicago

ThinkChicago comes at a time when Chicago is attracting more bright young talent than any other city of its size across the country, and has recently surpassed New York to become the nation’s best educated big city. As a top 10 global tech innovation hub, according to KPMG, many companies have been moving to and expanding within Chicago over the last few years.

Thomas K.R. Stovall, President of Candid and serial entrepreneur at ThinkChicago

“These students reflect the growing nationwide interest in being a part of Chicago’s global tech hub, and we welcome them to explore our city’s limitless opportunities to innovate,” Mayor Emanuel said. “Chicago’s booming tech sector is fueled by emerging talent, and we look forward to these students exploring our unmatched technological and cultural landscape as they consider their future opportunities.”

An Inclusive Future

Civic Tech Panel: How Chicago Solves Big Challenges

  ThinkChicago works to connect Chicago tech companies with the highest achieving, most diverse student talent nationwide. The 2018 class  was our most diverse to date, including more underrepresented minorities than ever before. “ThinkChicago is committed to creating inclusive access to Chicago’s innovation and tech community,” Andrea Zopp, President and CEO of World Business Chicago said. “The students who participate will have unrivaled exposure to our burgeoning technology ecosystem, while Chicago companies will have the opportunity to engage top talent from across the country.”

Students attend 1st day of ThinkChicago at start-up incubator 1871

Students from 27 states and 79 schools were selected to participate, including homegrown talent from the University of Illinois System, City Colleges of Chicago, and other major universities in the Chicago area, as well as nationally ranked institutions such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Princeton University and Harvard University. This year’s class also included more students than ever before from historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic serving institutions, including top-rated Spelman College and Howard University.

Today, ThinkChicago touts an alumni base of more than 1400 talented students and professionals, many of whom now work for startups, leading tech companies, innovation spaces, and venture capital firms in Chicago.

Participants in this summer’s program experienced: 

  • Visits to more than 20 companies and innovation hubs, including title sponsor Relativity, 1871, BLUE1647, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Capgemini, CCC Information Services, JPMorgan Chase & Co., McKinsey & Company, Microsoft, tastytrade, and Uptake
  • Welcome and Q&A with Mayor Rahm Emanuel
  • Tech talks, company tours, and a career fair featuring 20 startups, tech companies and innovative corporations
  • Panels on Civic Tech and Diversity in Tech and Entrepreneurship and an IDEO-led design thinking training
  • An opportunity to work on a Civic Tech pitch, presented to the City of Chicago’s Department of Innovation and Technology
  • Access to all four days of Lollapalooza, including Q&A with C3 leadership and an opportunity to pitch ideas onstage

Next Up:

World Business Chicago looks forward to welcoming the next group of talented students to the city for ThinkChicago: Chicago Ideas Week this October 18-20.

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