'Amazing talent and a fresh perspective' — why 4 startups chose Chicago

by Michael Hines
September 28, 2017

Chicago has become a tech powerhouse. Many strengths have played a part in this, from a deep talent pool to leading local universities. These factors and more have helped make Chicago startups a better return on investment than those in New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

Many founders have noticed Chicago’s ascent to tech prominence and have decided to build their companies here. We asked a few of them why they chose Chicago.

 

Strike Social uses artificial intelligence to help advertisers optimize their YouTube and paid social media campaigns. Launched in 2013, the company used to call Los Angeles home. That changed in 2016 when founder Mark Shore relocated its headquarters to Chicago.

VP and head of client services Andrew Selby credits Strike Social’s move to Chicago for the company’s rapid growth.

Why did you choose Chicago for your headquarters?

We knew it would provide the perfect environment for our growth to really take off. Our city boasts a vibrant tech community and its universities are among the best in the world. We’re also right next door to some of the biggest names in the advertising industry. All these factors have helped us attract top talent, build innovative solutions and secure strong partnerships and clients.

How has being here helped Strike Social thrive?

Chicago’s startup scene is much more collaborative than competitive. The tech community shares knowledge because we know it’s in all of our best interests. When we moved to Chicago from LA, it was immediately apparent that collaboration was at the center of everyone’s work here. The move has paid off big time, too: this year we made it to number 17 on the Inc. 500.

What excites you most about the Chicago tech ecosystem and its future?

I’m inspired by the Midwestern work ethic that’s abundantly clear here. This makes our startup scene not only the most profitable but also the best for investors. Bottom line: Chicagoans work really hard, and it pays off.

 

FourKites is a technology startup that uses big data to change how companies in the logistics industry track freight. It’s also one of Chicago’s fastest-growing tech companies. According to the company, calling the Windy City home has a lot to do with its success.

Why did you choose Chicago for your headquarters?

When it comes to logistics, there’s no better place than Chicago. It has a robust network of large companies with freight to move, and therefore freight to track. It’s important for us to be near our customers, so Chicago just makes sense. It’s also an incredible city, which made the decision even easier.

How has being here helped FourKites thrive?

In addition to being a global logistics hub, Chicago is a world-class city, with all of the benefits that implies for a fast-growing business like ours. We have top-tier universities, robust infrastructure, great public transportation and access to fantastic opportunities for growth and development. This city’s talent, customer base and quality of life all make it ideal.

What excites you most about the Chicago tech ecosystem and its future?

The city’s amazing talent and fresh perspective on industry problems and how to solve them. Chicago has some of the brightest minds in technology, and because there are so many types of industries here, that talent pool has a diverse range of professional experiences. They bring unique approaches and ideas. The future for Chicago tech is very exciting.

 

SpotMe builds mobile apps for conferences and live events that keep attendees both informed and engaged. The company was founded in Lausanne, Switzerland, and has located its U.S. headquarters in Chicago. CEO Pierre Metrailler let us in on what makes the Windy City such a perfect fit for his company.

Why did you choose Chicago for your U.S. headquarters?

Most European tech entrepreneurs would choose Silicon Valley or the East Coast when expanding to the United States, but SpotMe had two requirements. Our team travels 80 percent of the time and a central, well-connected location was key. Second, we wanted at least two overlapping office hours with our European team. Chicago nicely ticked all the boxes.

How has being here helped SpotMe thrive?

Building a team from scratch is no small feat. It takes curious, friendly and open-minded people to take on the challenge. In Chicago, we found the perfect combination of project management and event production talent that propelled our U.S. business to make up 40 percent of our total revenue.

What excites you most about the Chicago tech ecosystem and its future?

The tech ecosystem still has a lot of potential for growth, and we see this as an opportunity. We are looking for a unique blend of technology specialists, engagement and event experts and solution consultants. Also, Chicago is home to leading business schools and we are initiating partnerships for joint projects, internships and further collaborations.

 

Semantify’s AI-powered platform makes it easier for companies to gather insights from their data by allowing them to ask questions in plain English. The startup is one of several companies establishing Chicago as a leader in artificial intelligence. To CEO Ashoke Dutt, choosing Chicago was a no-brainer from a business perspective.

Why did you choose Chicago for your headquarters?

Chicago has been extremely encouraging about creating networks to support tech startups, so it made sense to establish ourselves in the city. Our senior executives were also already based here.

How has being here helped Semantify thrive?

Midwest investors have shown a lot of interest in the application of AI in technology to solve business problems. We actually got our Series A funding from Chicago-based VCs.

What excites you most about the Chicago tech ecosystem and its future?

The tech ecosystem in Chicago is growing, but it's still close-knit and well connected. The ability to tap into the network here is extremely appealing to us. We also look forward to being able to access the wealth of talent here in the city.

 

Images via featured companies and Shutterstock.

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