Mayor Lightfoot announces ThinkChicago Exchange 2021


Mayor Lightfoot announces ThinkChicago Advanced Degree Exchange 2021 led by World Business Chicago and P33, with the University of Illinois System, Discovery Partners Institute, and GET Cities

ThinkChicago’s first exclusive event for grad students and PhD talent connects top-tier talent with rapidly-growing Chicago companies & startups 

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot joined World Business Chicago and P33 to announce the launch of ThinkChicago Advanced Degree Exchange 2021, the first-ever flagship event exclusive for graduate students and PhD talent. This three-day, virtual event from June 8-10 will provide a behind-the-scenes tour of Chicago’s thriving tech & innovation sector for nearly 200 top-tier university students and professionals. Selected participants will gain access to a series of keynote speakers, panels, and networking sessions with local companies and startups. 

“From new tech unicorns like ActiveCampaign and Amount to record-breaking VC funding in the first five months of 2021, Chicago’s startup and innovation ecosystem has seen incredible momentum,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “With many fast-growing, local companies in need of top-tier talent, our ThinkChicago efforts have never been more critical, allowing us to continue accelerating our post-pandemic recovery and expand job opportunities for our students.” 

ThinkChicago Exchange 2021 is led by World Business Chicago (WBC) and P33, in partnership with the University of Illinois System, Discovery Partners Institute, and GET Cities. As WBC’s national STEM talent attraction and retention program, ThinkChicago connects diverse, top-tier university talent with the city’s leading innovative companies and startups. 

“Our ThinkChicago program has proven to be an effective and innovative approach to help companies scale in Chicago,” said Michael Fassnacht, President & CEO of World Business Chicago, Chief Marketing Officer, City of Chicago. “We’re driving truly equitable and inclusive economic growth when we connect our local talent with local companies.”

“We launched ThinkChicago Exchange in direct response to the needs of the many startup CEOs and corporate executives we consistently work with,” said Mark Tebbe, Chair of WBC’s ChicagoNEXT Council of 250+ local tech and innovation leaders, and WBC Executive Committee Member. “In collaboration with our many university partners, collective talent efforts like this are core to our mission at WBC.”

The first-ever ThinkChicago Exchange event was actively supported by P33, a privately funded non-profit focused on driving inclusive, global tech and innovation leadership for Chicagoland.

“Chicago is home to world-class research institutions and STEM talent. Our collaboration with WBC and partners is part of our long-term vision to champion Chicago as a leading destination for diverse PhDs,” said Brad Henderson, CEO of P33. “Through the ThinkChicago Exchange, we can match cutting edge job opportunities at some of our most exciting deep tech companies to some of our most skilled and diverse STEM talent in the Midwest.”

In addition to its Advanced Degree Exchange event, ThinkChicago’s flagship programs include its annual summer and fall events with long-time partner the University of Illinois System. 

Led by the University of Illinois System in partnership with top research universities, the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) empowers people to jumpstart their tech careers or companies in Chicago. DPI’s three priorities include: training people for high-demand tech jobs; conducting applied R&D; and supporting Chicago’s tech community. 

“ThinkChicago Exchange is a hand-in-glove fit with our push to make sure students know that exciting careers are waiting for them right here in Chicago and across Illinois,” said Tim Killeen, President of the University of Illinois System. “Chicago’s tech and innovation ecosystem is thriving and we are delighted to join World Business Chicago and partners to help fuel its continued growth by supplying the world-class talent that our universities produce.”

“Under Mayor Loghtfoot’s leadership, Chicago is putting together a really strong offense in the global competition for exceptional talent.” said Discovery Partners Institute Executive Director Bill Jackson. “This program is another key play in our playbook.”

ThinkChicago Exchange 2021 is also supported by GET Cities Chicago. Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities is an initiative designed to accelerate the representation and leadership of women in tech to meet the demands of the industry’s future.

“GET Cities is proud to work in Chicago – a city with a growing tech sector, strong academic institutions, and a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Leslie Smith, National Director of GET Cities. “Our partnership with ThinkChicago is part of many robust efforts toward gender and racial equity in tech.”

ThinkChicago is made possible through the generous support of presenting sponsor tastyrade. Based out of Chicago and founded in 2011, tastytrade is a unique and fast-growing platform advocating for and empowering the individual investor. A disruptive force in the U.S. derivatives market, tastytrade provides differentiated financial content, retail trader education and brokerage services. tastytrade is one of the most-watched online financial networks, engaging investors and traders across 190 countries with 8 hours of daily, live, cost-free and commercial free programming with over 100 million hours viewed and programming 7 days a week.

“We have been longtime partners of both ThinkChicago and World Business Chicago, and we’re proud to be a leader and champion of our local tech and startup community,” said Kristi Ross, Co-Founder, Co-CEO, & President of tastytrade. “ThinkChicago remains one of our best efforts to recruit and retain diverse talent to help companies like ours scale right here in Chicago.”

ThinkChicago has an alumni base of more than 3,000 talented students and professionals, many of whom now work in Chicago’s tech economy. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ThinkChicago has successfully pivoted to lead a series of virtual events to ensure accessibility for all students to participate.

The three-day, all-virtual immersion event includes:

  • Keynote remarks by:
    • Deputy Mayor Samir Mayekar – City of Chicago
    • Garry Cooper, PhD – CEO & CoFounder, Rheaply
    • Brian Coe – CEO & CoFounder, Talis
    • Amanda Schalk, PhD – COO, Enzyme By Design
    • Aidan Mouat, PhD – CEO & CoFounder, Hazel Technologies
  • A series of panel discussions and networking sessions with various leaders of Chicago’s tech and innovation ecosystem. 
  • Career exploration opportunities with partners like: startups from 1871, MATTER, and mHUB, BiomeSense, CancerIQ, Dimension Inx, Enzyme by Design, Evozyne, Hazel Technologies, Innovate, LanzaTech, Monopar Therapeutics, Narrative Science, NuMAT Technologies, Partum Health, Portal Innovations, Rheaply, RichardsonRFPD, SchoolCare, Talis, tastytrade, Temprian Therapeutics, WeeBID, Xeris Pharmaceuticals, and many other leading Chicago innovative companies/startups.

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 the ChicagoNEXT Council of 250+ local leaders, WBC Innovation & Venture manages a portfolio of programs driving inclusive growth and opportunity for the city’s tech economy and innovation ecosystem. Flagship programs include Startup Chicago, the Chicago Venture Summit, and ThinkChicago. 

About P33: 

P33 is a privately funded non-profit focused on driving inclusive, global tech and innovation leadership for Chicagoland. P33’s work is anchored in deep research and driven by a need to unlock the potential of the digital age to solve some of the toughest problems facing Chicago, such as equitable access to digital careers, talent retention, deep science commercialization and gaps in our growth stage startup ecosystem. Officially launched in 2019, P33 is co-chaired by Penny Pritzker, former Secretary of Commerce and founder and chairman of PSP Partners; Chris Gladwin, CEO and Co-founder of Ocient and Cleversafe; and Kelly Welsh, President of the Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago.

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