5 Questions with Neal Sáles-Griffin, Managing Director of Techstars Chicago Powered by J.P. Morgan

Mar 28, 2022

Neal Sáles-Griffin is an entrepreneur, teacher, and nonprofit leader. He co-founded the first beginner-focused in-person coding bootcamp, and most recently ran for mayor of Chicago. He's currently the Managing Director of Techstars Chicago Powered by J.P. Morgan and the Techstars Chicago Accelerator, and is an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering where he teaches entrepreneurship.

01. What are you looking for in startups for the Techstars Chicago Powered by J.P. Morgan program?

Passion, persistence, humility, coachability—these are all table stakes for a second conversation. In addition, I look for founders who understand the “jobs” their customers are hiring them to get done. It’s ok if they don’t fully know, but they should be able to demonstrate they’ve put in the effort to build their understanding.

02. What are some of the biggest learnings from your career and entrepreneurial journey that you bring to being a Techstars Managing Director? 

I’ve built businesses to varying degrees of success and failure. I’ve fallen on my face and gotten back up countless times. I have a healthy obsession with supporting as many early-stage, Chicago-based founders that I can. I’m hopeful these experiences will result in success in this role, but we’ll let time and results prove that.

03. What is your favorite thing about the Chicago startup scene?

Generally speaking, founders in Chicago tend to worry less about how they’re broadly perceived and more about serving their customers and stakeholders. While we can do better to share and celebrate good news as a community, I’ve always appreciated the inherent humility from many of us.

04. What does our partner J.P. Morgan bring to the accelerator?

Startups face challenges at every stage. However, financial challenges can abruptly end a startup’s vision for their product, team, or growth. J.P. Morgan has the expertise, financial solutions, and network to support the disruptors of today and leaders of tomorrow. This program represents Techstars and J.P. Morgan’s belief that diversity and inclusion are the catalysts of innovation and growth. In supporting early-stage startups, J.P. Morgan believes it can help build a future with stronger companies led by underrepresented, diverse founders.

For J.P. Morgan, it’s about changing the entire ecosystem because while talent is distributed equally, opportunity is not. Backing diverse founders leads to a reinvestment in their communities and expanding access for others. J.P. Morgan has made longstanding, large-scale investments in cities to support local initiatives, entrepreneurs, and the environment with over $30 billion committed to advancing racial equity in 2020 and $2.5 trillion towards green initiatives by 2030.

J.P. Morgan’s partnership with Techstars shows their commitment to supporting inclusive accelerators that create opportunities for diverse, early-stage founders. As a part of this partnership, J.P. Morgan will offer an integrated suite of services to founders in this accelerator that extend beyond the 13-week program. This includes, but is not limited to, access to banking, wealth management, and advisory solutions accessible through their local and commercial banking specialists.

05. Why is growing diversity in entrepreneurship important to you?

As founders, we’re at the forefront of solving meaningful problems in the world. Intentionality around diversity and inclusion affords us insight and heightened awareness of unique opportunities. When you’re intentional about including people with diverse perspectives and experiences, you learn about problems you wouldn’t otherwise know of. You also uncover innovative solutions you wouldn’t otherwise think of.

Learn more about Techstars Chicago Powered by J.P. Morgan