ThinkChicago Roadshow rolls into Siebel and pitches city to student tech talent
Scores of CS and other Illinois students packed Siebel Center Monday afternoon to hear a pitch from successful entrepreneurs and Mayor Rahm Emanuel about the growing tech ecosystem in Chicago. The ThinkChicago Roadshow, which will make additional stops at top universities nationwide, is designed to convince technology graduates to establish their careers and start their businesses in Chicago.
Illinois alumnus Mark Tebbe (BS CS ’83) moderated the discussion between panelists Chris Gladwin, founder of Cleversafe and Ocient; Matt Maloney, CEO of GrubHub; Julie Novack, founder of PartySlate; Rohit Pasam, CEO of Xaptum; and Mayor Emanuel.
“In order for Chicago to become a great entrepreneurship center, we need to have great talent, and that great talent is at UIUC,” said Tebbe, the chairman of ChicagoNEXT, World Business Chicago’s council of technology leaders who promote the city’s economic growth and opportunities.
According to Emanuel, Chicago’s tech scene has grown since his last visit in 2012, with $1.7 billion raised in venture capital funding last year alone, including 99 companies that raised $1 million or more. The city also has the most diverse economy in the country and its not tied to a specific sector like other cities, Emanuel said.
“As you’re making your plans and you’re thinking about where you want to branch out, I want you to see the city of Chicago and what’s happening today as a real opportunity to put your roots down,” he told the students.
Panelist Julie Novack, who started her company after spending 20 years in the digital advertising space, touted the city’s supportive entrepreneurial community. “People go out of their way to help,” she said.
One of the great things about Chicago, according to panelist Chris Gladwin, who is on his fourth start-up company, is the caliber of tech talent. “You can hire a level of talent that’s significantly above what you can get anywhere else, and the talent tends to stay,” Gladwin said. “You can build teams of people that become genuine friends and have a discipline of knowledge that’s second to none.”
Following the presentation and discussion, the students attended a job fair featuring 28 Chicago companies.
CS @ ILLINOIS student and administrative leaders met with Emanuel and the team prior to the event, sharing some education and research highlights like the new virtual reality lab in Siebel Center, run by CS Professor Steve LaValle. Emanuel also toured the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the university’s Research Park, meeting with CS Associate Professor and entrepreneur Brighten Godfrey, whose company Veriflow Systems is the top VC-funded startup at the Park’s EnterpriseWorks.