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Kellogg faculty and alumni, including (from left) Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative Executive Director Linda Darragh, MATTER Co-founder David Schonthal '09 and Sonali Lamba '12 of Brideside, were honored at the Chicago Inno "50 on Fire" Awards in December.

Kellogg faculty, alumni honored at ChicagoInno’s “50 on Fire” awards

Kellogg faculty, alumni honored at Chicago Inno’s “50 on Fire” Awards

Startups and professors take center stage at ceremony celebrating Chicago innovation

By Glenn Jeffers

12/23/2015 - A number of Kellogg faculty and alumni were honored at the Chicago Inno “50 on Fire” Awards earlier this month.

Three companies started by Kellogg alumni — MATTER, BLUE1647 and Brideside — won in their respective categories. Curiosity.com, an education web portal founded by Kellogg lecturer Gabe Vehovsky, won in the business-to-consumer tech category.

Linda Darragh, clinical professor of entrepreneurial practice and executive director of the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, was honored for her longstanding accomplishments in entrepreneurship education.

The inaugural ceremony for Chicago Inno, a Chicago-based digital media and events company covering the city’s technology, innovation and startup scene, celebrated a collection of companies, CEOs, educators, startups and entrepreneurs driving innovation on Dec 2. There were more than 150 nominations for the first-ever event, with 20 judges paring the list down to the final 50 honorees.

The wins are indicative of Kellogg’s efforts over the past few years to become an integral part of Chicago’s evolving startup scene, Darragh said.

“Kellogg is a vital part of the Chicago entrepreneurial community,” she said. “Our entrepreneurship faculty are VCs, serial entrepreneurs and leaders of accelerators in the community, our students are linked to VCs and active participants in the Chicago ecosystem and I think that’s what being recognized here.”

Kellogg startups grow

As co-founder of med-tech incubator MATTER, which won in the health and medicine category, David Schonthal ’09 echoed that sentiment. Schonthal, a clinical assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship, added that all the Kellogg startups honored had shown tremendous growth over the past year, MATTER included.

An incubator for next-generation medical technology, MATTER connects investors and biopharma companies with entrepreneurs, scientists and physicians to develop the next breakthroughs in medical devices and health-care information technology.

Since opening its doors in February, MATTER has nearly doubled in size from 60 to 115 member companies. Mattermark, a San Francisco-based business-data platform, named MATTER one of Chicago’s fastest growing startups.

“I think it’s validation of our mission and the amount of impact that we’ve had in Chicago in what I’d say is a pretty short amount of time, ” Schonthal said.

Likewise, BLUE1647, the startup incubator founded by Emile Cambry ’08, won in the civics category for its continuing efforts to bring tech entrepreneurship, career training and economic development to underserved communities.

Cambry started BLUE1647 in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and has since expanded into the Englewood neighborhood and St. Louis. Satellites in Compton, California, Minneapolis and Brooklyn, New York, are scheduled to open in 2016.

“Our model is a little different because we go to underserved communities and bring innovation and a lot of people don’t see those two going together,” Cambry said. “And more people are seeing that we can bring the best of both worlds.”

E-commerce bridal shop Brideside, which won in the lifestyle category, recently secured $1.5 million in funding and partnered with designer Kelly Faetanini to develop its first-ever exclusive line of bridesmaid dresses.

“This has definitely been our big growth year,” said Sonali Lamba ’12, who founded Brideside alongside Nicole Staple ’12. “It’s a nice recognition from our peers that we’re making a difference in the startup community, both here and nationally.”

A mainstay in Chicago’s startup scene

Curiosity.com, meanwhile, has grown since moving out of Discovery Communications' internal incubator last November, launching iOS and Android portals to its education platform for the inquisitive and adding a staff of 20 to handle infrastructure.

Just as fulfilling to Vehovsky, though, has been proctoring Kellogg’s New Venture Discovery course, where he teaches students about the early-stage problem solving needed to develop viable startups. “It’s a class I wish I could have had access to when I got my MBA,” Vehovsky said.

It’s that melding of programming, mentoring and networking that Darragh says has helped Kellogg become a mainstay in Chicago’s startup scene, a position she wants reinforced.

“When people think of the Chicago entrepreneurial ecosystem, I want them to think that Kellogg is a part of that,” Darragh said. “Not only are we building within the system, we’re leading some of the thought leadership in how entrepreneurship should be taught.”


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