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A brief history of Chicago’s tech scene
Chicago’s tech scene has evolved over the last decade. It’s hard to say when it really took off. Companies like CDW and Jellyvision were founded in the 1980s, but it didn’t receive much attention until Groupon launched in 2008. Now, this is not to say that Groupon started it all, but it did help bring Chicago’s tech scene into the spotlight as well as become a sort of training ground. Many people branched off to start their own company or a larger role somewhere else. Soon after, there was an explosion of startups and tech companies across the city.
What’s so great about Chicago?
Chicago’s tech scene has really taken off over the past few years and continues to grow at a rapid pace. Groups like Techweek and Built in Chicago are some of Chicago’s biggest tech cheerleaders, helping promote tech and fuel excitement within the community. In addition to the strong support, Chicago also has a large and extremely diverse customer base—there are really no limitations. For instance, if your B2B company focuses on restaurants, you’ve got a million great restaurants to choose from and sell to. Not only do you have a huge customer base, but also less competition than what you would see in an area like San Francisco. Unlike some cities that focus around a specific industry, Chicago is home to variety of industries—from healthcare to education to insurance. Because of this, it’s only natural that a large number of startups cater to those types of industries.
Why the Chicago tech scene is on the up and up
When you look at the venture capital statistics Chicago ranks in the top ten , right behind Boston, San Francisco, Austin, and New York. Considering the city’s dense population, it should theoretically be in the top three or five. So, the tech scene definitely has room to improve and grow.
It’s difficult to know where Chicago’s tech scene is heading due to the tech industry’s ever changing manner. But our sense is that it’s moving in the right direction. What we call a tech company today, however, may not be considered a tech company in five years. Companies won’t necessarily be classified as “tech,” since everything will be either completely dominated by technology or have multiple technical components.
We have to think about the tech scene in terms of specialization and what area of tech Chicago’s going after. As of now, it looks like it could be moving towards B2B specialization thanks to the large influx of B2B companies in the Chicago area. With a large mentor network, surplus of entrepreneurs, and strong venture capital, Chicago’s in a great place and has all the right building blocks for success.