Why one entrepreneur moved his startup back to Chicago to help business grow

August 18, 2015

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According to one local entrepreneur, there’s a reason why tech giants like Uber, Luxe, and Sprig choose Chicago as one of the first markets they launch in.

For Mike Preuss (picture right), CEO and co-founder of Visible — an app that makes it easier to share metrics and data between startups and investors — that reason is doubt.

“In the Valley, you get much more of an echo chamber of the hottest companies and trends,” Preuss wrote in an email. “Rightfully so as a lot people on the West Coast by nature are early adopters and will try anything. I think folks from Chicago and the Midwest are a little more skeptical when it comes to technology.”

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Skepticism may limit an ecosystem’s level of innovation, he said, but when it comes to validating and building something sustainable, it’s absolutely key.

Preuss, a Chicagoland native who spent four years embedded within San Francisco’s tech hub, recently brought Visible’s headquarters back home to the Windy City. He’s hoping the professed Midwest mentality will help his company grow.

“San Francisco is a pretty incredible place to be if you love startups and technology,” he said. “However, everywhere you turn it is tech, tech, tech and more tech... which can get exhausting. Chicago is much different. Chicago is still in its infancy as a tech community but even in the year I've been back it only seems to be exponentially growing. It feels like there is a much more diverse group of people you can interact with on a professional level every day from traders to CPG Brand Managers [sic].”

The trip back home seems to have had its effect. Visible just launched the second version of their app, and Preuss said that since the new app release, usage is up 115 percent.

Part of that success might be the company’s Chicago-bred focus on long-term growth rather than innovation for innovation’s sake.

[ibimage==50645==Large==none==self==null]“The biggest thing that I've learned is short-term solutions are great for short-term results but to build something truly valuable you have to see and invest into the future,” he said. “Seems obvious but hard to pull off in practice! The decision to rewrite Visible was a tough one because we knew our roadmap would suffer for the next 4-5 months, but a year from now we knew we would be in a much better place.”

But that doesn’t mean the new version of Visible comes void of innovation.

“We let you customize the hell out of your dashboards/KPIs, [and we have] a more robust cap table, a granular way to manage all of your different stakeholders from employees to potential investors and overall just a much improved way to tell the story around your data,” Preuss said.

The company launched in the spring of 2012 and has secured just under $1 million in funding. With seven full-time employees, Preuss said they’re looking to onboard about one new team member a month.

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