Chicago tech companies have built up some pretty amazing products over the past few years. Although many call Chicago a B2B town, that doesn't mean there aren't tech products that could save us all a bit of time. Here are seven Chicago-based technologies that busy parents should be taking advantage of right now:
Since 2009, Abe’s Market, an online natural product marketplace, has become known in the growing organic and natural market for its e-commerce services and content. The site had about 300,000 visitors in the month of December 2013 and is growing a few hundred percent every year, co-founder Richard Demb said. Many of those visitors are drawn to Abe’s Market because of its content helps “make sense of the organic world” via DIY articles and recipes. Content series such as “Trash That, Try This” help to surface many trends about natural products and present users with trusted brand recommendations.
Moxie Jean started out as a portfolio company within Chicago’s Excelerate Labs (now Techstars Chicago). The idea for the company focused on the growing pains of buying children new clothes as they quickly outgrow their old ones. So why not offer a Netflix-like rental subscription service for children’s clothes? Since that idea came about, Moxie Jean has pivoted a bit and adopted a simpler e-commerce model: parents can now use Moxie Jean fro one-time purchases of new and lightly used kids clothes.
This online platform sends meal ingredients and instructions to customers, who then prepare the meal at home. Customers sign up online for the meal subscription service, enter in meal preferences, then Home Chef’s software customizes its menu offerings to their tastes. Each customer is offered nine meals per week (a customer must subscribe to two meals at minimum). Much of the service’s appeal is its ability to discover new meals for its users. To keep the meals fresh and interesting, Home Chef employs four full-time chefs that are constantly churning out new recipes.
“First of all, our focus is on security,” founder Dan Roberts said of his home security company, which makes the Scout Alarm. Though many companies are attempting to blend home automation and security together (cough, Google), Scout is remaining focused on its primary goal of keeping homes and families safe.
“We are only interested in home automation when it relates to security. For example, when the alarm goes off, the lights go off for a security purpose. A lot of people are trying to innovate every device under the sun. We are taking security out of the hands of experts, and making it a true DIY user experience. We have an a la carte approach to your home.”
As the team works on adding an HD camera to the alarm, they are also taking orders for their fall shipment of Scout through pre-orders on the site and through Amazon: “We are working hard on making sure the systems are 100 percent and bullet-proof (as security systems should be).”
This list wouldn’t be complete without including GrubHub, Chicago’s own online food ordering service (now a public company). Since GrubHub started back in 2004, it has widely expanded its market reach by merging with New York-based Seamless and by building an effortless mobile experience (like the oh-so-useful Track My Grub option). Throughout its insane growth though, the team has still kept its main goal in mind: to provide food to hungry people. quickly. Last year, it did just that with 3.4 million users ordering $1.3 billion in food sales.
Sittercity, an online marketplace to local babysitters and nannies, has been serving its hometown of Chicago since 2001. Today the platform has a nationwide network, an easy screening process and convenient features like the employer-sponsored SelectPlus initiative, which provides Sittercity’s caregiver-finding services as a benefit to employees. Sittercity has even expanded its marketplace to include senior caretakers, housesitters and tutors to truly make it a one-stop shop for busy parents.
The Skokie-based online grocery delivery service that came about in 1989 has been kicking up its game recently. In order to compete with other delivery services and with big tech companies like Amazon, it has opened a downtown Chicago tech office and has expanded its services to making deliveries to offices. It also has been experimenting with new offerings like grocery pickup stations for customers who can't make their scheduled two-hour delivery window.