Stars of summer: Meet Techstars Chicago's 2017 cohort

by Michael Hines
July 17, 2017

Techstars Chicago doesn’t believe in lazy summers.

After reviewing over 1,000 applications and conducting some 350 in-person interviews, the accelerator has chosen 10 companies to join its 2017 cohort. The companies will participate in an intense 90-day program driven by mentorship. The three-month program ends with a live demo scheduled for October 12.

Participants will have access to office space, funding and all the resources that come from a network made up of over 150 business executives, entrepreneurs and investors.

“I think the best thing for Chicago tech is not just to focus on tech community development anymore but to put emphasis, energy and resources into creating and building big companies, said Techstars Chicago Managing Director Logan LaHive. “[Our] goal is to try to help one, two or five companies become those companies that can provide local jobs, exits and funding back into the community.”

A co-founder of Belly, LaHive is taking over the Techstars leadership mantle from Troy Henikoff and Brian Luerssen. LaHive said his primary goal for this year is to invest in “non-consensus” ideas.

Of the 10 companies chosen, four are from Chicago, three are from New York, one is from Atlanta and another hails from Washington D.C. This year’s only international company is headed to Chicago all the way from Tel Aviv, Israel. To help you get to know the companies, here is a quick description of what they do.

 

Founded by former Pritzker Group associates Ablorde Ashigbi and David Vandegrift, 4Degrees is building a platform that will help its users build stronger professional networks — and activate those networks when they need to.

 

Abode is a cloud-based platform that guides consumers through the process of buying a home. The platform uses data science to match the user with the right real estate agent, mortgage, attorney and inspector. Once the user has found the right home, Abode also manages critical documents and connects the user with professional moving services.

 

Building a more inclusive company culture is easier said than done. For many employees, inappropriate jokes and interruptions during meetings can make a workplace feel unwelcoming. Allie is a Slack bot that helps companies uncover hidden biases within their organizations and lets employees self-report microaggressions. The startup also helps employers track developments over time, to ensure that issues are handled before it's too late.

 

AraJoy uses autonomous drones to help football coaches capture better practice film. The Atlanta-based startup’s drones are able to track players on the ground and record all the action in crisp 4K video. AraJoy has also created a portal for coaches and players to view and share insights on footage.

 

Elemetric helps digital-native consumer companies better understand their customers. Its platform lets businesses track and segment users with data that’s both historical and gathered in real-time. It also mines data from more traditional outreach initiatives, such as surveys. The data gathered ensures businesses are engaging the right customers at the right time with the right methods.

 

Harbor helps people thinking about retirement outline a personal pension plan backed by a top-rated insurance company. The startup doesn’t sell insurance, but it does provide all the information needed to establish a personal pension plan. This includes a projection of yearly retirement income based on expected monthly contributions.

 

Israeli startup Jobeek connects engineers looking for new opportunities with tech companies looking for talent. Job seekers provide their desired salaries, the kinds of companies they want to join and the distance they’re willing to travel for work. Jobeek’s algorithm then matches them with opportunities that fit those criteria. Job seekers remain anonymous until they are matched with an interested company.

 

Omelas is bringing together data analytics, machine learning, and qualitative analysis to better understand and combat violent extremism. The information gathered is used to create everything from technology to intervention and deradicalization methodologies.

 

Paladin’s goal is to “take the busy work out of pro bono.” The SaaS company has built a portal that allows law firms, law schools and corporate legal teams manage pro bono opportunities and engage employees interested in them. The software is meant to save firms time and money and also to ensure that those who need cost-free legal help get it. Paladin provides analytics that let firms track participation level by city and different types of pro bono opportunities.

 

Swag.com is the most aptly named company in Techstars Chicago’s 2017 class. The e-commerce startup works with companies to create quality pieces of swag that won’t be tossed in the back of the closet or in the trash. Its catalog includes t-shirts, hoodies, hats, water bottles and notebooks.

 

Image via Shutterstock.

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