Mayor Lightfoot & World Business Chicago Announce Chicago Venture Summit 2021


More than 500 VCs, local founders, corporate executives, and startup ecosystem leaders are attending Chicago’s flagship venture capital & startup conference

CHICAGO — Mayor Lightfoot today welcomes more than 500 venture capitalists, tech investors, local founders, corporate executives, and startup ecosystem leaders for a sold-out 2021 Chicago Venture Summit, the city’s flagship VC & startup conference. The three-day conference concludes today at 167 N Green St in Chicago’s Fulton Market District neighborhood. Chicago Venture Summit 2021 is hosted by World Business Chicago, with the support and partnership of sponsors. 

“Today is dedicated to our city’s brilliant founders and home-grown startups,” said Mayor Lighfoot. “Our local businesses paved the way for 2021 to be the absolute best year for Chicago’s VC and startup ecosystem, putting us on track to hit an all-time VC funding record of more than $5 billion. I’m proud to have welcomed both investors and founders to our best summit yet.”

According to Pitchbook data, Chicago startups have raised more than $5 billion in total VC funding – overtaking Seattle in Q1 2021 as one of the top five largest VC ecosystems in the United States. In 2020, Chicago startups raised a record-breaking $2.8 billion in venture capital funding. 

“We’ve come a long way from the first half-day event in 2014 to a three-day format in 2021,” said Mark Tebbe, Chair of World Business Chicago’s Innovation & Venture Council. “The Chicago Venture Summit connects our most promising founders with local, regional, and national investors – who recognize Chicago as a national, top-tier destination for startup investment.”

Chicago Venture Summit 2021 (the “Summit”) kicked off on September 27 with a series of industry showcases led by Chicago’s leading innovation hubs: 1871, Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI) of Argonne National Laboratory, Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), EY Wavespace, MATTER, mHUB, TechNexus, Techstars, and The University of Chicago Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. The Summit also includes an opening reception presented by All Raise and GET Cities, and a closing reception presented by BLCK VC, Latinx VC, M25, and LongJump. Of the 500+ registered for the sold-out Summit, this year’s event includes representation from 170+ VC/investment firms and 150+ Chicago founders in attendance. The majority of startups in the official Summit 2021 portfolio are led by either a female and/or a founder of color.

“With 12 Chicago-based startups making unicorn in 2021 along with accelerated seeding and investing, we’re on track to see 2021 named an all-time record-breaking year for venture investing in Chicago,” said Michael Fassnacht, President & CEO, World Business Chicago, Chief Marketing Officer, World Business Chicago. “The Chicago Venture Summit is part of our long-term strategy for economic recovery by driving inclusive, equitable growth for founders, startups, and VCs.”

In line with World Business Chicago’s mission to drive equitable, inclusive growth, the Summit has partnered with Cooley to announce that a portion of the summit’s proceeds will be donated to various non-profits and programs focused on underserved and underrepresented communities within the local tech economy This includes City Colleges of Chicago’s Tech LaunchPad (via the CCC Foundation), Chicago: Blend, Fifth Star Funds, TechRise, The Grey Matter Experience, and Women Tech Founders.

The Summit’s full-day agenda was developed to be aligned with the four high-growth sectors identified by the City of Chicago’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force: healthcare & life sciences; food & ag innovation; transportation, distribution, & logistics (TDL); and manufacturing.  The September 29 speaking program includes the following distinguished keynote addresses:

  • Samara Hernandez – Founding Partner, Chingona Ventures
  • Garry Cooper, PhD – CEO & CoFounder, Rheaply
  • Jeff Aronin – Founder, CEO, & Chairman, Paragon Biosciences
  • Maëlle Gavet – Global CEO, Techstars

Google, JP Morgan, and William Blair returned as presenting sponsors for this year’s Summit:

  • “Google has deep roots in Chicago, especially in our local tech and innovation ecosystem,” said Karen Sauder, President of Global Clients and Agency Solutions for Google, and WBC Board Member. “We’re excited to continue our long-time support of the Chicago Venture Summit program.”
  • “The Chicago Venture Summit brings together the best and brightest of our city’s venture capital and startup community,” said Heather Webster, Managing Director for J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Chicago. J.P. Morgan is also a member of WBC’s Board of Directors. “Now more than ever, we remain focused on supporting the next generation of Chicago entrepreneurs.” 
  • “We’ve been amazed by the recent and rapid growth of our local VC ecosystem,” said Jim O’Connor, Managing Director and Global Head of Venture Capital for William Blair in Chicago. “The Chicago Venture Summit will be one of our best opportunities to showcase our city as one of the best destinations for early-stage investment.” 

The Summit wouldn’t be possible without the active partnership of our sponsors, whose financial contribution directly supports event production needs and help accommodate the participation of local founders (local entrepreneurs who are part of the official Summit portfolio received complimentary tickets). Lead sponsors include Accenture, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), and TSX & TSX Venture Exchange. Innovation sponsors include All Raise, Cooley, EY, GET Cities and Nicor Gas. Startup sponsors include CBRE, Clique Studios, Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) mHUB, and TechNexus. Venture Partners include Hyde Park Venture Partners, Jump Capital, Lofty Ventures, OCA Ventures, Origin Ventures, and Pritzker Group Venture Capital. 

Today’s Summit event will be hosted at 167 Green Street in Fulton Market District, a 645,000 square foot office building, developed by Shapack Partners and Focus and owned in partnership with Walton Street Capital. As a testament to its location and design, CCC Information Services and Foxtrot have announced their headquarters’ relocation to the building, joining Kroll, WeWork, and other innovative companies at 167 Green Street in their move to Fulton Market District. 167 Green Street features one of Chicago’s largest town hall spaces, which doubles as a full-size basketball court on the top floor of the building, in addition to a rooftop terrace, sitting room, game room, and gym. 

“167 N Green St was built for this very exact moment,” said Jeff Shapack, Founder and CEO of Shapack Partners. “This was our special way to show our support for local founders and startups, especially with the opportunity to explore how Chicago’s Fulton Market District is the perfect neighborhood to live, work, play and stay.”

For the full Chicago Venture Summit 2021 agenda and additional information, visit www.chicagoventuresummit.com

About World Business Chicago (WBC):

World Business Chicago is a public-private, non-profit partnership that drives inclusive economic growth and job creation, supports business, and promotes Chicago as a leading global city. Supported by a council of 250+ local leaders, WBC’s Innovation & Venture portfolio drives inclusive growth and opportunity for the city’s tech economy and innovation ecosystem. Flagship programs include the Chicago Venture Engine, Startup Chicago, Venture Engine, and ThinkChicago.

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