An inside look at Chicago tech's hottest holiday parties

Sam Dewey

It’s that time of year to tech the halls and celebrate a year’s worth of hard work with your coworkers.

And boy, does Chicago tech know how to put on a celebration. From ugly sweater contests and karaoke to holiday cocktails at the House of Blues, we got an inside look at how more than 20 tech companies celebrate the holidays. They filled us in on all of their year’s end traditions, sharing pictures, stories, and successes before they clock out for the last time in 2015.

Happy holidays, Chicago. Here’s to a 2016 full of happiness, humor, and hope.

Cars.com celebrated their holiday party at the House of Blues. While their company-wide party isn’t scheduled until February, the company strives to maintain a fun, startup-like culture (despite the fact that they’ve blossomed into a well-established tech company). 

 

Drivin celebrated its first (almost) year in business with a holiday party full of friends, family, food, and festive cocktails. The party started in the office with a 2015 recap, employee awards, and preview of the year to come. It then transitioned to its own private party offsite where dinner, cocktails, and dancing commenced.  

 

Signal capped off a successful 2015 during the company's holiday party at Fulton Market Kitchen, a West Loop warehouse space that's equal parts art gallery and restaurant/bar. Signalites were treated to signature cocktails and delicious snacks and treats, and ended the night with an epic karaoke contest.

 

Emmi celebrates its employees’ hard work with an all-day holiday party, starting with a morning hot chocolate bar. Then, the company-wide “Holiday Hunger Games” White Elephant gift exchange started. Employees enjoyed an insane lunch buffet with foods from all over the world, followed by a Casino Night-themed afternoon complete with craps, roulette, blackjack and Texas hold ‘em.

 

Reverb’s party took place at Revolution Brewery on Kedzie, and the company brought all of their our own entertainment to the space. Employees got together weeks in advance to rehearse the songs they performed on the big night. Favorites included CEO David Kalt singing "Last Dance with Mary Jane" by the Beutons and CTO Yan Pritzker rocking out to "Bulls on Parade" by Rage Against the Machine.  

 

During the day, the PowerReviews team was divided into smaller groups that each received a cash budget of $250 and a challenge to go into the community and stretch the budget to make the biggest local impact for those in need. The teams gave back in a variety of ways, from packing cold weather care packages for the homeless to making dog and cat toys at a local animal shelter. In the evening, they headed to Epic for a party full of appetizers, drinks, mingling and a vintage open-air photo booth. 

 

This year, Smokeball’s office tree was decked out with swag in their signature Smokeball orange. They toasted to a successful year using glasses from a champagne flute tower before heading out for a few drinks with the team. 

 

For the last few years, the Legacy.com holiday party has been held in a suite at the United Center for a Blackhawks game. Because they’ve been growing throughout the last year, their party took place in two suites on December 1st. The food and drink were fantastic, but the company is always better. 

 

This year, Pear celebrated its annual holiday party on December 11 at the Matthew Rachman Gallery. The celebrations included mouth-watering food and desserts, and the Pear team jammed out to a live DJ. 

 

ContextMedia's Ugly Sweater Holiday Party is a celebration of achievements, family and charitable giving, all while wearing the ugliest sweaters possible. This is a huge celebration at ContextMedia, with nearly 100 percent of the company competing for the prestigious "Ugliest Sweater Award." The ugly sweater party is paired with a clothing and book drive for Tutoring Chicago, led by ContextMedia's Giving Team. ContextMedia follows up their Ugly Sweater Party with a New Year's party to get the team charged up for what will be the company's biggest year yet. The 2015 New Year's party was held at a speakeasy, complete with a password for entry, a 1920's costume contest and a live band.

 

Every year, Yello’s team rolls out the red carpet and celebrates with a week of its annual “Recsy” awards (a nod to the company’s former name of Recsolu), which took place at the company’s headquarters. The Recsy’s awards are given out to each employee acknowledging individual accomplishments over the year. At the official party at Bull and Bear, the final and most coveted Recsy’s were awarded, such as the MVP, Growth and Rookie of the Year awards. The team enjoyed an evening complete with a photo booth, mini burgers, truffle mac and cheese, sweet potato fries, a s’mores bar, signature cocktails and more!

 

G2 Crowd had their holiday party at the very charming and inviting Firehouse Chicago in North Chicago. The rehabbed firehouse venue set the tone for a warm, lively night for employees and guests of G2 Crowd. The party included a fully stocked bar, delicious appetizers and a DJ to dance the night away. G2 Crowd founders also recognized and awarded prizes to employees. In typical G2 Crowd style, the four hour long event was not long enough and the party continued into the night at a local bar.

 

This year, Persio had a company-wide gift exchange where employees were encouraged to get something funny or quirky to sit on their co-workers’ desks all year. There were some real gems, and afterwards, they team transitioned to the holiday party at Persio CEO Marc Grabowski’s house. 

 

Hosted at Morgan Manufacturing with an after party at CuvĂ©e, kCura’s holiday party was full of mingling and dancing, with a donut bar, casino games, and raffle prizes to spice up the night. Even with high-class food and entertainment, a shared favorite part was getting to meet coworkers’ friends and family.

 

While CGS International likes to have fun at their holiday parties (which typically include an after party), the team also participates in a charity event every year. This year, they worked with Christopher House’s “friends and family” event, where they helped provide three families in need with basic goods and gifts to help make for a better holiday season. 

 

Jellyvision held their holiday party on Dec.11th at their esteemed neighbor, Joe’s on Weed. The highlight of the party is always Ryan and the DiGiorgis, their house band made up of 39 majorly talented Jellyvision employees. (That’s roughly 15 percent of their company, if you’re keeping track.) The night also included a year-in-review presentation from CEO Amanda Lannert, the 10th Annual Jellyvision Awards Show, a cake with Lannert’s glorious mug on it, and the finale of their December fundraising drive for RefugeeOne.

 

Risers are in the holiday spirit throughout the entire month of December. After all, they don’t take their “work hard, play hard” motto lightly. To celebrate a great year and kick off the holiday season, Rise’s founder and CEO Jon Morris played Santa, surprising the 180+ person staff with Beats headphones at an all-company meeting. They had their annual holiday party on Dec. 5., held at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, where they donned their party attire for a fun night of dinner, drinks, dancing, and merriment. The holiday spirit has continued through December with a guided meditation session and chair massages, and an office bloody mary and mimosa bar. 

 

VISANOW headed to Chicago’s House of Blues to celebrate the end of another successful year. In typical VISANOW style, they celebrated with karaoke, cocktails, and mustache props.

 

Although GoHealth’s company-wide party isn’t scheduled until early 2016, individual departments at GoHealth still celebrated the holidays in style — each in their own way. For instance, many of the employees wore festive sweaters for a lunchtime screening of Home Alone, enjoying candy, pizza, and movie theatre popcorn. In the afternoon, they faced off for a holiday version of Family Feud. 

 

dough, Inc., which includes the tastytrade network, decorated their office to stay festive during this holiday season. Our favorite was a tree, adorned with company merchandise and topped with dough founder Tom Sonsnoff’s signature beret. 

 

On Dec. 19, Q  the smart office management company  brought together their Chicago team and family members to the Q Chicago office for its first official holiday party since the company's launch earlier this year. The party featured a team dinner, great drinks, good tunes, several rounds of pool, and a photobooth where they proudly sported their Q Chicago flag as the backdrop.  

 

 

 

It has become a tradition for the UrbanBound team to wish all of their clients, supporters, family and friends a very happy holiday season through unique renditions of holiday songs. This year's greeting involves UrbanBound’s take on Jingle Bell Rock — now titled UrbanBoundRocks. By choosing to make a video, UrbanBound said they’re able to showcase their company's culture and put a smile on our customer's faces. 

Have a tip for us or know of a company that deserves coverage? Email us via tips@builtin.com

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