Another year of SeedCon brought some of Chicago’s best entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, digital startup enthusiasts and students together for two days of sharing ideas and innovative strategies.
Built In Chicago’s very own founder, Matt Moog, was the one who kicked off the 13th annual conference Thursday evening by celebrating the abundance of entrepreneurial talent in Chicago, as well as Built in Chicago’s success in turning that talent into a community.
“What’s amazing about the community here is the rate at which it’s been growing,” Moog said. “When we look at all the data in the community, there are 33,000 people in this market who get up every day and think about creating great new digital experiences.”
SeedCon on welcomed over 300 attendees between the events held Thursday and Friday and brought in leaders such as Sam Yagan, co-founder of OK Cupid, and Mark Suster, a University of Chicago alumnus and a partner at GRP Partners.
Thursday’s keynote speaker Nick Kokonas, an investor and co-owner of Alinea (a.k.a the “Best Restaurant in America,”) shared what he looks for in a pitch. And trust me – Kokonas would know what makes a successful one, as he said he gets 10-15 pitches per week just through email.
“I invest in the person, not the idea,” Kokonas said. “I want to know what makes you the type of person that doesn’t accept failure.”
Completely run by Booth students with the help of Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship, SeedCon connected attendees not only to ideas, but to resources through panel events, a fast-pitch competition and keynote speeches.
Chris Liang and Paul Wu, co-chairs of Booth’s Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Student Group, helped to secure speakers and panelists for SeedCon as well as narrowed entries for the fast-pitch competition from 81 down to 6 finalists.
CEO and founder Antonio Ransom secured the win of the fast-pitch competition Thursday by presenting Intelligent Loop, the SalesForce.com of industrial operations. Second place went to DigitalGroundUp, an interactive digital marketing platform for startups, while Infrared Solutions, a company that provides alternatives to current infrared detection technologies, clinched the third winning spot in the competition.
Fast-pitch competition judge John Pytel, co-founder and CEO of GoSoapBox, said he knows what conferences like SeedCon can mean to budding startups. GoSoapBox, a web platform facilitating communication between audiences and speakers (that, by the way, was used for attendees to ask questions throughout SeedCon), won Lean Startup Challenge last year.
“Giving someone free money and prizes can be really, really helpful,” Pytel said. “We won Lean Startup Challenge last year – I don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t have that. Just for fostering the professional success of companies, events like SeedCon are huge.”