Remember the names: Techstars Chicago announces 2018 class

by Michael Hines
July 16, 2018
Techstars Chicago 2018 class
Photo via techstars chicago

It’s that time of year again.

On Monday, Techstars Chicago announced its 2018 cohort, after the accelerator searched far and wide to fill out its latest class. Managing director Logan LaHive said in a Medium post that the focus this year was on recruiting locally. The team made stops at 15 Midwest cities and universities in a tour that stretched from Minneapolis to Pittsburgh. After screening 2,243 applications and conducting interviews with 408 founders and teams, Techstars Chicago invited 10 companies to join the 2018 cohort.

Of the 10 companies that made the cut, six are from Chicago, one is from South Bend and another is based in Cincinnati. New York is the only non-Midwestern U.S city represented in the class, and Toronto delivered this year’s international entry. That Midwestern representation is a sizable increase from Techstars Chicago’s 2017 class, which featured four companies from the Midwest, all of which were based in Chicago.

Techstars Chicago’s 2018 class will participate in a 90-day program that kicks off July 16th and ends October 4th, with a live demo day held in 1871’s auditorium. During the three-month program, founders will be provided with working space, $120,000 in funding and direct access to a mentor network made up of Chicago tech investors, executives and entrepreneurs. This mentor network includes Jellyvision CEO Amanda Lannert, Uptake and Lightbank co-founder Brad Keywell, and Starter League co-founder and Chicago mayoral candidate Neal Sales-Griffin.

Without further ado, meet the 10 companies in 2018 Techstar Chicago’s class.


Founded in 2017, 2ndKitchen enables businesses without kitchens to serve food to their customers by connecting them to nearby restaurants. The company takes a Fooda-like approach, offering custom menus featuring items from a variety of nearby eateries. The company is currently testing its tech with bars, and plans to expand to hotels next.


New York-based Clyde is out to make it easier for e-commerce companies to offer extended warranties and service contracts to customers. Its tech takes the form of a plugin, which the company said can be up and running in less than three minutes. Once the plugin is installed, Clyde takes care of the rest via its API, which connects businesses to an insurance provider that underwrites the protection and administers the plan. Clyde charges a service fee, baked into the premium, on each contract sold.


Representing South Bend, Hurry Home is a startup that aims to turn renters into homeowners through shared ownership. The company targets properties that banks are reluctant to issue mortgages for; according to the South Bend Tribune, these are homes with a list price of $50,000 or less. When a buyer finds a home they like, Hurry Home’s network of real estate investors purchases the property. The buyer is charged a monthly fee — similar to what rent on the property would be — and earns equity with each payment.


Cincinnati’s Kai takes a new approach to helping people hit their health and fitness goals. The company connects users with a network of coaches who communicate via text message. These coaches are available to provide everything from workout advice to dietary suggestions, and even emotional support.


Neopenda is helping fight infant mortality with a line of wearables that measure four vital signs: pulse rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation and temperature. With the devices, nurses can monitor a ward full of infants using a tablet, which sets off alerts when a baby’s vital signs are outside of a healthy range. The wearable itself features a red LED warning light that blinks as well.


Optivolt Labs is developing technology to make solar-powered commercial and military drones more efficient. The company’s secret sauce is a power management algorithm that optimizes the energy transfer between a solar panel and lithium ion battery. According to Optivolt, its tech can increase the flight time of drones by up to four times.


Rheaply’s platform helps scientists cut costs by making it easier for them to share, trade and sell unused equipment to other scientists. In addition to supply sharing, the startup’s tech also provides ways for teams to track inventory and collaborate on research. Fun fact: Rheaply was named one of our 2018 50 Chicago Startups to Watch.


Speeko is developing an app that uses artificial intelligence and automated voice analytics to create better public speakers. Its tech analyzes live or recorded presentations and provides users with feedback, insights and development tools to enhance their speaking abilities. Speeko is currently in beta.


Trala is a Julliard-approved app that teaches beginners learn to play the violin. In addition to daily lessons and instant feedback, users can watch video tutorials and live chat with a teacher. Trala also features a portal for teachers that keeps them updated on their students’ practice progress.


Vacations as a benefit sounds too good to be true, right? Toronto’s Vacation Fund is working to make it a reality. Its tech allows employees to direct a portion of their paychecks into a Vacation Fund account. In turn, employers can match a portion of the contribution, which enables workers to save for their dream vacation faster.


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