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Panelists celebrate the diversity of Chicago's startup scene at the KIN Global event on Oct. 18.

New Ventures

New Ventures

Kellogg Innovation Network event spotlights Chicago startup scene

By Deborah L. Cohen

10/30/2012 - “There is a real community here that’s developing,” said Robert Wolcott, executive director of the Kellogg Innovation Network and a senior lecturer of entrepreneurship at Kellogg.

Wolcott and other speakers at KIN Global’s Dialogue 2012 event discussed how the city of Chicago — with its ample early-stage funding and a growing network of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and educational supporters — has become an exciting place for startups to grow.

“(KIN) is helping to tell the story of Chicago in ways that it hasn’t before and it’s really exciting,” said Wolcott, whose two-day conference was held inside the Merchandise Mart at the nascent 1871 co-working space for digital startups.

The Oct. 18 event brought together more than 70 entrepreneurs, development officers from multinational corporations, Kellogg alumni and other attendees. It focused on fostering connections between large corporations and early-stage ventures and featured topics such as the startup-big company relationship, the role of the chief technology officer at BP and an overview of Chicago’s technology ecosystem.

Last year in the Chicago area, there was one new digital company created every 48 hours on average, according to Matt Moog, the founder and chairman of Built In Chicago, an online community for entrepreneurs.

Factoring out the deal site Groupon, whose explosive growth has put the city on the map as a hotbed for emerging tech ventures, Chicago raised some $750 million for startups in 2011, said Moog, a serial entrepreneur. His group is collecting data on the city’s startup scene.

“Let’s promote the heck out of the city and community so the rest of the world knows what’s going on here and we can attract more attention and more capital,” he said.

Big companies can find plenty of local startups of interest, Moog added, pointing out that in the food industry alone ventures such as GrubHub, the online restaurant ordering site, and Food Genius, which helps track food industry trends, are likely to be on the radar of multinationals such as Kraft Foods Inc.

A pitching event and panel discussion featuring five tech startups underscored the diversity of Chicago’s emerging ventures. They ranged from Narrative Science, which converts raw data into readable text, to BrightTag, which helps companies manage the data collection on their websites.

The KIN event “allows people in large corporations doing innovation to talk to other people whose job it is to focus on innovation in large corporations — often they’re siloed in their own firms,” said Matthew McCall ’91, a partner at the Chicago-based venture capital firm, New World Ventures. The firm is a KIN sponsor.

“It also gives them an opportunity to talk to both small firms and venture capitalists and others to get other perspectives around innovation,” he said.

Mike Sands ’96 leads BrightTag to the Moxie Awards and industry notoriety
KIN Dialogue 2012 photo gallery
Larry and Carol Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice