Top companies spun out of The Starter League

by Sam Dewey
May 4, 2016

A few weeks after The Starter League announced it had been acquired by New York-based Fullstack Academy, alumni from across Chicago gathered at a networking event to celebrate the successes (both individual and for the city’s tech scene proper) brought about by the coding school.

Founded in 2011 as Code Academy, The Starter League would grow to become one of the nation’s earliest pioneers of the learn-to-code bootcamp model that has since exploded in popularity. As a result, it’s become something of an institution in Chicago’s tech ecosystem, teaching countless Chicagoans the technical skills they need to pursue the career they'd always wanted. 

The recent acquisition allows Fullstack Academy to set up shop in 1871 in The Starter League’s stead, offering some familiar faces and the offerings we’ve come to expect (in addition to some changes, too). Classes are set to begin sometime in May.

In homage to the work done by The Starter League, here are some of the most notable Chicago companies that can trace their origins to Chicago's original coding bootcamp. 

Acquired in 2015 by San Francisco’s Deliv, WeDeliver launched in 2013 after founders Jimmy Odom, Daniela Bolzmann, and Kirk Lashley landed first place in the November 2012 Startup Weekend. The startup worked with more than 100 Chicagoland merchants to enable same-day delivery for Chicago favorites like Trunk Club and Glazed and Infused.

Founded by Starter League Alumni Daniel Yu in 2012, Reliefwatch has since become one of Chicago’s most up-and-coming tech companies. With the goal of using mobile phones to help health organizations in developing countries better track and manage things like supplies and disease cases, the company has garnered quite a bit of excitement — even landing the young founder a spot on Forbes's 30 entrepreneurs under 30 in 2015.

Know Your Company — a software company that helps employers gain insight into how employees really feel about things like their workload or company culture — wasn’t built by a graduate of the Starter League in the strictest sense. Rather, CEO and founder Claire Lew (who started the company in 2014) helped launch the Starter League as one of its founding team members, leaving after about seven months to pursue other opportunities. Either way, she's a notable alum in our book.

Given the political tumult of the 2016 election season, it’s hard to find a place to gather, read and research candidates — especially if they’re running for a local office. That’s where BallotReady comes in: the platform arms voters with aggregated, unbiased content on every candidate and referendum on their ballots. The company (which was named one of our 50 Startups to Watch in 2016) was founded by Starter League alumna Alex Niemczewski.

LaunchPad Lab is a development shop founded by a trio of Starter League alumni who met at 1871 following their Demo Day, where they agreed to put their heads together (and down) to build what would become LaunchPad. Today, the company has built out an eclectic roster of clients, helping local and national partners build the software products they need to scale their businesses.


Being a landlord is a tough job. Between dealing with troublesome tenants and emergency maintenance requests, just managing a rental property or two alone demands full attention. Luckily, modern landlords have Rentalutions (co-founded by former Starter League student Ryan Coon) as an option. The Chicago-based company develops software to make the life of a landlord a little bit easier.

Images via featured companies. 
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