After joining Techstars Chicago last year, we set out to showcase the power of Chicago as a major technology hub. For months we connected with hundreds of founders across the country, with an emphasis on companies located in the Midwest.
The founders we’ve selected for Techstars Chicago 2020are passionate, embody a #GiveFirst approach in their leadership, are deeply connected to their customers, and are committed to leveraging Chicago’s unique startup ecosystem. They’re fun, hardworking, and incredibly diverse. We couldn’t be more excited for you to meet them.
Over the next 13 weeks, I’ll be posting updates on Twitter and YouTube so you can see (and at times participate in) our journey. Whether these founders choose to bootstrap or raise millions, we need your support to help evolve each of these 10 companies into sustainable businesses we’re all proud to claim as Chicago-made.
Our Demo Day is on April 21st, 2020. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for more information and registration. With no further ceremony, here are the companies we hope you’ll join us in welcoming to the Techstars worldwide network!
Bottlecode blends technology with human expertise to help men discover personal care solutions that best suit their unique goals.
Bottlecode is an online platform that aims to provide personal grooming solutions by curating and selling the best products to each individual man, while focusing on education and expert guidance to help men stick to the healthy habit. Men need a trusted curation source to navigate a crowded ecosystem of brands. Bottlecode is building the solution that addresses the real job to be done: giving guys confidence that they are doing the right things to take care of themselves.
A fast and effective cyber security program for startups.
Havoc Shield is a fast and effective cyber security program specifically for startups, a bit like what Clerky or Gust did for company incorporation. Startups get a professional action plan and are guided, step-by-step, through a prioritized security program, provided with accelerating tools and automation along the way, all of it presented in an experience that’s actionale by non-security types.
Pairi makes it easy for freelancers to get booked through social media and manage their business on-the-go via text messaging.
Pairi helps freelancers build a professional booking website within minutes and get booked for their services directly through social media like Instagram. Pairi’s software saves time and earns more money for freelancers by automating repetitive business logistics many of them face like scheduling, payment, appointment reminders, travel fees, and more so they can focus on their passion and be able to serve more clientele on their own time, anywhere they choose.
A personalized, AI powered, nutrition coach.
NutriSense is an A.I. powered, personalized nutrition coach that helps users select a diet that works with their unique physiology. NutriSense enables users to change their habits and reduce the likelihood of developing metabolic disorders (such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease), shed unwanted pounds and optimize athletic performance. NutriSense leverages Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) technology that provides users with real time biometric data while expert nutritionists teach users how to interpret that data.
Elite Personal Chefs
Mobile App that provides in-home dining and personal chef experiences
Elite Personal Chefs is a revolutionary mobile application platform for high level hospitality industry professionals to provide culinary experiences for an array of clients. Unlike traditional restaurants, EPC allows culinary professionals to choose their own schedule, sell tickets to events, create menus, and set custom pricing.
ReelCrafter is a service to create and share trackable audio demo reels.
Reelcrafter is an online tool for artists to easily create personalized, single web pages to showcase their work to potential employers. Demo reels are shared via custom web links, and artists can track detailed listening activity for each shared link on their ReelCrafter dashboard. Artists can then apply insights from existing listening metrics to continually refine their pitch with each reel sent.
Dynamic ad-campaigns on vacant storefront windows using projection mapping.
Visual Feeder provides a marketplace that connects landlords with an opportunity to monetize their vacant space by projecting branded visual experiences on their windows space. Using projection mapping technology, Visual Feeder offers brands the ability to display dynamic, quality content that engages their consumers while providing key metrics to track performance and ROI.
The easiest way to hire local students to help with outdoor tasks.
ToDoolie is a marketplace where homeowners can hire local students for hourly tasks such as yard work and household maintenance.
Building the future of childcare management, logistics, and safety.
GoNanny is a B2B SaaS Platform revolutionizing the childcare industry. What Mindbody did for the wellness industry, GoNanny is doing for the childcare industry. Currently the platform provides two distinct product offerings: 1. Trademarked Care Rides Platform: A fully automated platform providing safe pickups and drop offs executed by the childcare center’s staff members. 2. GoNanny Safe – the gold standard employee vetting system for childcare professionals.
Making government procurement simpler through design and accessibility.
Contract Cloud’s intelligent, automated workflow and content management platform reduces the time spent on each solicitation by 45%. Contract Cloud streamlines the contracting process through an intuitive, guided user experience. With a concept similar to TurboTax, Contract Cloud’s guided experience will allow users to answer plain english questions and get help from real experts, building their proposal or RFP with the responses as they go. Using AI/ML, Contract Cloud provides intelligent recommendations, suggestions for content using natural language processing, shortcuts, and document generation.
Today, I couldn’t be more excited to announce that I’m officially joining Techstars as the Managing Director for Techstars Chicago. The Chicago accelerator program has played a part in my life dating back to my undergraduate days at Northwestern University. There, I met Troy Henikoff – Techstars Chicago’s first managing director – who taught knowledge-hungry students about the world of entrepreneurship.
Troy was more than just a professor – he was my first true mentor – who pushed me into the world of tech and eventually turned me into a mentor myself. I was so inspired that I took on a teaching assistant role for his entrepreneurship course and eventually saw my close friends start a successful business under his wing. Their company, Next Big Sound, joined Techstars Boulder in 2009, and went on to have great success. Seeing the impact of mentorship, both in my personal network and through Techstars, inspired me to carve my own path in the tech startup world.
With the impact of Techstars and mentorship in my early college days, I jumped into the startup world as soon as I could, co-founding my first company, a healthcare media startup, during my freshman year in college. I caught the entrepreneurship bug and went on to open a few barbershops in my local Chicago neighborhood, and eventually went on to work in the world of venture capital. Through my work co-founding The Starter League, the first coding bootcamp in the country, I helped galvanize the Chicago startup ecosystem and pushed my local community to learn the skills they needed to succeed in the technology space.
Before Techstars was in Chicago, we had Excelerate Labs, which eventually was acquired by Techstars (be sure to listen to this episode of the #GiveFirst podcast on the inception of Techstars Chicago for more details). I was the official photographer for the first-ever Excelerate Labs Demo Day where I got a sense of what an accelerator program looked like first hand. When Techstars officially came to town in 2013, I linked up with Troy to become an official mentor and have held roles within the accelerator ever since.
I have to give thanks to Logan LaHive for his work as Managing Director. Logan and I have been friends since 2010, around the same time that Excelerate was getting started. We’ve shared a similar entrepreneurial journey. We’ve been in the trenches together and learned a lot from our friendship. Logan called on me as mentor #1 during the 2018 program. I even had the honor to address the class and audience as keynote speaker for Demo Day this past year. Logan will still have a part to play within the Chicago program and will be stopping by in a mentorship capacity to help continue to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem in our great city.
Most recently, I hit the campaign trail to run for mayor of Chicago. Many had noticed that I ran my campaign like a tech startup, building and implementing software for efficiency. Throughout this experience, I learned that most people need one simple thing – a good, well-paying job that provides them with meaning and purpose in their work. As Managing Director of Techstars Chicago, I’m excited to help foster innovation within the city to create successful companies that drive more jobs to our community, and hopefully, help more people find meaning and purpose in their work.
My mission is to showcase the power of Chicago as a major technology hub by fostering even more innovation within the city limits. There are a few components that will be very important to applicants for this program:
- We want founders who are beyond passionate about their work and about the community their business thrives in. At Techstars, it’s all about the founding team. We prioritize finding the right people over the right ideas.
- We have a #GiveFirst mentality at Techstars. We’ll be investing in founders who embody this approach in their work.
- We’re looking for founders who have a deep and intimate understanding of who their customers are, what they need, and how to reach them. At Techstars Chicago, you’ll get intensive training on customer acquisition and sales.
- We’re also interested in companies committed to leaning into the uniqueness of the Chicago technology community. We have a special blend of mentorship, camaraderie, and investment culture that will be a competitive advantage our founders.
Chicago’s culture has a unique level of #givefirst mentality. We’re not boisterous, or braggadocious, and our hard, disciplined work ethic coupled with good work-life balance allows our culture to be more collaborative than competitive. The Chicago tech ecosystem is also one of diversity, an important differentiator in today’s world. The Chicago tech and entrepreneur community has welcomed me with open arms since I was just a kid. Most people from the community didn’t look like me or come from where I’m from. Being a black and latino man growing up on the South Side of Chicago with no real understanding of what it means to start a business, I was welcomed and enabled to flourish as an entrepreneur and investor.
Whether you’re from Chicago, or see these qualities in yourself and business partners, I invite you to apply to the next Techstars Chicago program. As a non-profit founder teaching kids how to code, a Techstars mentor since day one and following in Troy’s footsteps as both a professor at Northwestern University and now, Managing Director of Techstars Chicago, I’m ready to push Chicago’s innovation even further by bringing the best of the best to our city. Techstars Chicago will be opening applications for our 2020 program on July 22nd and will be accepting applications through October 13th. The program begins on January 27th, please visit the Techstars Chicago page on the 22nd to apply.