Innovation Ecosystem

GrubHub, Motorola, Gogo, Orbitz, Groupon… all Chicago-made. Now founders from Kickstarter, OpenTable, and Siri are launching their next ventures here. Why? The deep talent pool drawn by an unrivaled quality-of-life to cost-of-living ratio is just the start.

“Chicago’s startup scene is on fire.” – Forbes

A new generation of mentorship and venture capital is pumping through Chicago’s business veins allowing startups to thrive and bringing a new wave of talent. If ever you wondered how big the scene really is these days you needn’t look much farther than, a web-based watering hole for all things digital in the city.

It’s no wonder why tech titans like Google, Microsoft, and IBM employ thousands of people here. There’s a robust talent-pool for them to tap, often coming out of Chicago’s great universities, who then have the ability to cut their teeth in the various corners of Chicago’s innovation ecosystem.

The value of digital company exits increased from $700M to $5.5B between 2012 & 2014


WBC’s council of technology leaders dedicated to driving opportunity in innovation and entrepreneurship is broad in scope with an emphasis on the following industries
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Growting Nexus of Innovation

From the world’s first skyscraper to the invention of improv comedy, Chicago has always been a hothouse of creativity & innovation; a place where ideas are seen as the highest form of currency.


digital startups launched per year on average, 2012 - 2014


Venture capital invested in Chicago area startups between from 2010 to 2014


Built in Chicago lists nearly 300 venture capital and seed stage investment companies operating in the city

Incubators, Accelerators, Funding

Startup incubators and accelerators are feeding the pipeline via 1871, TechStars Chicago, ImpactEngine, Catalyze Chicago, Healthbox, TechNexus, Catapult Chicago, and many more.

And our early stage investment community is on a tear, with vital capital being deployed from experienced venture teams at Pritzker Group, Sandbox Industries, Lightbank, Apex Venture Partners, Chicago Ventures, and many more.

Explore: Incubators | Accelerators | Funding


Open-source Web framework Django, developed by Chicago’s own Adrian Holovaty is the foundation of websites like Instagram and Pinterest. Meanwhile, Ruby on Rails was developed by Chicago company Basecamp, and that framework went on to become the foundation of web-apps like Twitter.

These modern innovations come as no surprise given Chicago’s history of invention: the skyscraper, mail-order retail, the dishwasher, open-heart surgery, the vacuum cleaner, the zipper, the Ferris wheel, the cell phone… all Chicago-made.

Events & Meetups

Chicago is also home to a vibrant tech industry event culture. TECH Cocktail began in Chicago as a periodic mixer where startups and tech enthusiasts would meet. The organization has now grown into a full-fledged media company, hosting events around the world.

A decade later there are multiple events for entrepreneurs, founders, developers, and designers every night. As a direct result of these events, companies have found employees, co-founders, funding, and startups have even been acquired.

Meanwhile events like Chicago Ideas Week, the Chicago Innovation Awards, the Chicagoland Entreprenurial Center’s Momentum Awards, and Illinois Technology Association’s CityLIGHTS Awards, instill a sense of community, while highlighting, and driving the region’s entrepreneurial spirit forward.

Civic Data

Paving the way for open data apps and innovation, Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel has upended the status quo and injected a streamlined policy objective to realease as much publicly available data as possible in a digestable online format through the City of Chicago Data Portal. The developer community has been engaged to assist the city in its effort to draw new efficiencies from the data sets.

The Mayor has also installed a C-suite of digital stewards to ensure the city is in good hands as it moves forward into the next decade with technology at the forefront of Chicago’s economic aspirations.

Explore: City of Chicago Data Portal

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