Chicago is one of the most well-known cities in the US with weather is home to giant corporations or championship-winning sports teams, it’s a household name. However, one category the city has been noticeably growing in is the startup tech race.
Gaining recognition as a tech hub is a hard goal when you share the spotlight with Silicon Valley and New York. Chicago is turning its “underdog” status to its advantage, offering talent, connections and lower costs for startups to build, and it’s working!
What makes Chicago a great place to build a startup?
Chicago is already the third largest city in the US behind New York and LA. A vibrant and talent-filled hub that has been the base for many successful companies.
It’s already an attractive place for young professionals with lower prices than other popular cities like Miami or San Francisco, while still offering a diverse and rich cultural landscape. A centre for art, music, sports, technology, and education.
Dubbed the tech capital of the Midwest. Chicago attracts talent from surrounding states and forms some of the best professionals in its own institutions. Home to some of the top universities in the country, like:
- University of Illinois – Chicago
- Loyola University
- Illinois Institute of Technology
In 2020 Illinois graduated 6,945 new professionals in engineering, and 5,228 computer and information sciences1. There is enormous potential within the city, and let’s not forget talent from nearby states that could also consider a move to the windy city.
A commitment to diversity in Chicago tech
The city also has a recognized status as a hub for diversity in startups. Having committed to inclusion and funding for diverse startup founders. Chicago has at least 10 funds and angel investor groups focused on brown and black founders.
While there is still work to be done with only %13.5 of funds going to these groups, Chicago has made the effort evident and committed publicly to funding diversity in its tech.
There is another significant advantage to building in Chicago, and that’s its industry standing. Despite not being California sized, there is an important presence of IT companies and institutions that can positively empower startups.
Leading IT names like ISACA, which provides certification and builds tech communities around the world, or Accenture, Avant, Microsoft and more also have a strong presence in the city.
This allows new startups to engage and get resources from bigger companies while being able to attract possible investment and business from these larger enterprises.
More room to grow
At the bottom line, not being like Silicon Valley or other overpopulated tech hubs works for the startups building there. Less chance of another idea casting a shadow on yours and a smaller competition pool for attention and funds.
Building in Chicago can come with less of a spectacle but if you know how and when to strike you can still take centre stage in the ways that matter.
The numbers tell the story
Last year the city saw around $16 Billion being invested into startups built in-house. A significant number that the city’s tech ecosystem expects to maintain.
This year, as it has happened in other markets, started with a lag in investment and more conservative rounds. It’s an ebb and flow. Just in April Chicago-based startups amassed an impressive $98 Million 2 in investment and the market seems to be picking up speed.
It’ll be hard to predict the numbers this year, as anomaly filled as it has been. Chicago is still aiming for growth and its tech hub is hungry for success.
Already producing unicorns
Tech in Chicago has already graduated a few startups to the unicorn category. Companies born and bred in the city that have surpassed a billion valuations, and become important brands in their niches, as well as household tech names.
Some of the city’s most well-known tech startups are:
- SMS Assist
A city ready to shine: Chi-town becomes a tech hub
All of these details and carefully developed qualities make Chicago a prime example of a tech built with groundwork and determination. There is a lot of potential in the city and its people, and a lot to consider from those looking for a home for their next idea.
Could be that the winds are steering more tech into Chicago!