How Chicago Tech Companies Are Supporting Their Communities

April 6, 2020
#UnitedWeTech
Built In

In a world where lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders restrict physical movement, digital technology is filling the void to keep households connected, supplied, entertained and informed. 

But amid the increased demand for digital products and services — and the logistical challenges associated with a massive work-from-home transition — many Chicago tech companies have not forgotten those who are struggling right now. We asked local tech leaders to describe how they’re giving back to their communities during this uncertain season, and the responses offer a fine example of the city’s wealth of ingenuity.

Know of a team or company that’s going above and beyond right now? Share the love using #UnitedWeTech.

 

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now, and why? 

We decided the best way we could help not only local communities, but cities and states across the United States, was to assemble a group of data superfriends — the COVID-19 Data Response Team — to provide pro bono services for responsible data sharing and essential help to fill gaps in critical digital infrastructure. The Data Response Team is helping cities and states across the country publish real-time updates on thousands of open child care centers for critical care providers. We’re helping states provide real-time information on which industries and occupations are hit the hardest by layoffs and where the out of work can find new work now, and we’re helping medical apps responsibly share COVID-19 treatment data with researchers who are searching for effective treatments.

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

BrightHive staff are devoting a portion of our time and energy during workdays and after hours to serving others in our own nerdy way throughout this crisis. We aren’t charging for this. Government, social service and nonprofit organizations get technical resources and pro bono services to help them create a Data Trust Agreement that allows them to responsibly and effectively share data with one another to better coordinate their efforts. It’s the kind of work we do on a regular basis, but we are focusing our attention on organizations who are responding to COVID-19 and giving the support for free.

 

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

At AMOpportunities, we believe that internationally trained doctors are an answer to the impending physician shortage and, at present, the global pandemic of COVID-19 that is straining the resources and frontline workers of the U.S. healthcare system.

There are 65,000 unlicensed international medical graduates in the country that could lend their support. These are the same doctors that AMOpportunities helps find training at hospitals as their entry point. We are petitioning the U.S. government, healthcare system, and the Federation of State Medical Boards to utilize the knowledge and expertise of these trainees in U.S. hospitals. In just over a week, we have nearly 10,000 signatures, centralizing public opinion. 

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

We are focusing on tangible initiatives to strengthen the U.S. healthcare workforce. As mentioned above, we are fighting to get U.S.-based IMGs to work in any capacity at U.S. hospitals. These 65,000 trained professionals could have a huge impact on this country’s strained healthcare workforce. 

We are also working with our network to import N95 masks to high-density areas in the United States. My co-founder and AMOpportunities’ COO, Ben Bradley, is working with our international partners to source N95 masks and other medical equipment for our hospitals and has already arranged such a delivery to a hospital in Chicago from a distributor in China. 

 

Mallory Nees
Social Media Strategist

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

Based on an idea from one of Reverb’s customer engagement specialists, we created our “Gig From Home” series. We’re working with a diverse lineup of emerging artists, like Chicago’s own FEE LION and Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, to recreate the magic of their concerts from their homes and stream the live performances to Reverb’s 2.1 million social media followers. Fans can tune in and show support by donating directly to the artist or by purchasing merchandise, just like they would at a real show. 

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

As part of our “Gig From Home” series, artists are getting compensated for their work through a combination of fan donations, merch sales and funds from Reverb. We’re also collaborating with other companies, influencers and brands within the music industry to raise money for causes like the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund and the American Red Cross. Outside of these partnerships, Reverb is working to provide more access to free and affordable music-making tools, like software and video lessons, and creating content that keeps our audience entertained and inspired to stay creative during this time. 

 

Dan Van De Voorde
Director of People

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

Strata is on a mission to help heal healthcare. Helping solve food insecurity has always been a cause we care deeply about, as it has a direct impact on the health and wellness of our communities. Our team is rallying around one of our partners, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, with a virtual food drive to bring meals to our neighbors in need during these uncertain times. On a typical day, 1 in 5 people in Chicago do not know where their next meal is coming from. Layer in these extraordinary circumstances, and families across our city are in desperate need of help. 

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

Normally, we would head on over to the GCFD headquarters to repack food or host a drive in our office. Today, we are fortunate enough to take those efforts virtual. Our team can shop online for what they’d like to donate and together, we will deliver 100,000 meals to those who need it most. Additionally, in an effort to support the communities our customers serve across the country, Strata has made a contribution to Feeding America, the national organization that works with local food banks to provide meals to those in need all over the United States.

On the healthcare front, Strata has contributed to the World Health Organization and the American Red Cross to support their response efforts to keep our communities safe around the world.

 

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

Over the past two weeks, with help from some of our generous partners, our amazing team has taken time away from their accountable responsibilities to put together a program that will provide a high-level trading education experience. We have packed a lifetime worth of knowledge and skills into a dynamic 30-day free practice trading account, and have made it available to anyone who wishes to take advantage of it. 

All of our educational and training resources have been made readily available and easily accessible. Participants will have the opportunity to learn everything from the intricacies of their trading platform to the basic principles and techniques of technical analysis and chart reading. We have also initiated a campaign promising 30 days of “Bite Size Trading” videos filled with useful tips and tools from some of our most trusted educators to help guide them along the way.

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

Another step we took to do our part was to reimburse Topstep employees once a week for takeout food orders from their local restaurants and favorite establishments. Most of us have friends and relatives in the hospitality industry, and they need our help now more than ever. I’m happy to say that our team members have embraced this policy with open arms!

 

Stacey Kraft
Chief People Officer

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

As a Chicago company, we believe it’s important to support organizations helping with COVID-19 relief efforts where our team members work and live. Enova will contribute a total of $500,000 to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund and the Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund. These funds are doing critical work to help ensure our neighbors most impacted by COVID-19 have the resources they need to get through this crisis.

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

Now, more than ever, we want to help our team members make an impact by supporting causes they care about. That’s why Enova is expanding its “You Decide, Enova Gives” program. Based on nominations from Enova team members and a companywide vote, Enova will make a $10,000 donation to two organizations providing COVID-19 relief.  

We’re also encouraging team members to make use of our charitable match program, which matches employee donations up to $250.

 

Sean Brown
President & CEO

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

When we first learned about the stresses caused by the coronavirus pandemic on our local communities of Chicago and New York City, we started “virtual food drives” for the Greater Chicago Food Depository and The Food Bank for New York City, and set our goal of donating at least 3,000 meals to those in need. Additionally, each employee was given a stipend with part of its intended use being to support local businesses.

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

In addition to our “virtual food drives,” we’ve devised a strategy to provide access to our platform to financial professionals who need investment research and client communications tools while working from home. With many investment firms being forced out of the office, it strains their ability to serve their own clients — the millions of individuals like us with savings or nest-eggs that have been adversely affected. By implementing our “work from home support” strategy, we’ve provided hundreds of financial professionals with the tools they need to keep their clients informed and continue to do their jobs successfully.

 

Garry Cooper
CEO & Co-Founder

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

Rheaply has decided to offer an adaptation of its core technology, called an Emergency Resource Exchange (ERx), to the State of Illinois and all its medical facilities for free use during the COVID-19 crisis. With medical facilities currently experiencing shortages in ventilators and other equipment, Rheaply is providing an efficient system for hospitals to procure much-needed assets, and is doing so at no cost. 

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

Not only has Rheaply created a free version of its platform in light of the COVID-19 crisis, but the platform has been adapted, in collaboration with logistics, academic and public partners, to expedite the process of getting resources where they need to be. The platform also provides the option for medical facilities to donate useful stock to efficiently help in potentially dire circumstances.

 

Greg Fenton
CEO & Co-Founder

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

As the COVID-19 outbreak escalated in recent weeks, countless campuses moved their on-ground courses to an online format and, in many cases, asked students to leave campus altogether. Many of those students couldn’t access previously purchased materials locked in their dorm rooms. 

In response, RedShelf launched RedShelf Responds, an initiative providing students no-cost access to digital textbooks for the rest of the semester, thanks to the generosity of our publishing partners. Students from nonprofit, semester-based colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada are able to access up to seven free ebooks through May 25, 2020, at responds.redshelf.com. 

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

We have always believed in the enormous impact that digital course materials can have on affordability, access and outcomes in higher education. That impact has become even more pronounced as the entire academic community grapples with COVID-19, especially for those institutions working to quickly move many or all of their courses online.

 

Kara Kaplan
Chief Executive Officer

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

Moonrise is taking on the burden for essential businesses in two ways: First, we’re committed to offering the use of our W2 temporary labor pool for free to businesses of any size that are in need of workers. We want to ensure that 100 percent of the cost of the shift goes directly to workers in need. Secondly, we are offering free use of our staffing software to any employer in need of quickly mobilizing a workforce on their own. Our flexible staffing solution includes fully remote onboarding, shift scheduling, touchless and geolocated timekeeping, same-day pay and a proprietary shift matching algorithm — all with one system.

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

In light of recent events, we’ve redeployed our engineering resources to build out free solutions for essential businesses that are needed now more than ever.  

Our workers are a part of the frontline workforce that are allowing essential businesses to function. By waiving all costs, we’re assisting these businesses in hopes that they are able to stay open and provide much-needed services for the public as well as jobs for Chicago workers. 

 

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

We are offering complimentary access through April 30, 2020, to our evidence-based research on drugs and devices, including a quick reference list of COVID-19 related supplies with potential shortages. The goal is to help healthcare organizations identify alternate products and suppliers for critical supply categories and extend access to clinical evidence to support supply chains’ ability to source products that meet clinician needs.

Lumere launched a community hub on March 31 to help our customers connect with peers across the country to ask questions, exchange ideas and best practices around the COVID-19 pandemic, and stay on top of the latest developments. Some of the topics include how organizations are keeping track of supply availability and allocations, sourcing substitute products and ordering items outside traditional channels.

 

Len Musielak
Chief of Staff

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

Inspirant Group has offered our services pro bono to a nonprofit which works with low-income young adults ... Specifically, our instructional designers and technologists are helping to transform an in-person networking and fundraising event to a digitally delivered conference.

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

One of our core values is, "Care about the greater good." So, pro bono has always been very important to us. The amount of giving has not changed, but the type of work has based on need. In the past we might have done technology integration, change management, or helped a 501(c)3 develop organizational KPIs. Now, with our extensive experience working remotely and building a strong company culture with geographically distributed personnel — combined with our experience developing and designing virtual training — we are helping with more logistical issues like moving in-person events to engaging virtual conferences. We have moved from using what we do to help nonprofits to assisting them to work how we work. 

 

Travis LaMont
Qlik Practice Lead

 In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

Along with the governmental restrictions that have been put in place, one of the risks many manufacturing and distribution companies face during this time is ensuring that they have the necessary supplies to maintain operations. While many companies will be doing everything they can to maintain operations and employment for their workers, the reality is that layoffs are likely to happen due to the fact that companies will have to shut down production due to a lack of necessary supplies.

Unfortunately, many companies today do not have the visibility into their supply chain to make informed decisions and contingency plans to avoid such layoffs. We’d like to do our part to help companies avoid any unnecessary layoffs by providing them the visibility into their supply chain through a simplified version of our SpendView application that focuses on supply chain. 

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

The Supply Chain Analytics application is being offered completely without charge or obligation. Additionally, we are offering to assist you in setting up and configuring your application based on the data that is available to your organization.  

 

Peter Nachtsheim
Director of Finance

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

We are fortunate to still be operating somewhat normally, but obviously that isn’t true for everyone. Since this pandemic is impacting each of us differently, our leadership team decided to sponsor a $500 donation on behalf of each Milyli employee to an organization or individual impacted by COVID-19.

The idea to open up donations to individuals, not just organizations, came about because we realized everyone has their own giving style and way of responding in a crisis. There are so many people who are impacted by this pandemic, but who may not necessarily be receiving support from any kind of organization right now — public or private. This just felt like an obvious way to broaden our team’s impact immediately.

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

The pandemic wasn’t so much a catalyzer of change; it was more so an obvious choice for this year’s initiative. While each year we do like to decorate a tree for the Brookfield Zoo with our families, we typically rotate our other causes annually – usually two, one in winter, one in summer.

We’re fortunate to have the resources and, more importantly, an employee base who willingly steps up with their generosity each time an opportunity to give back presents itself.

 

Kevin Newman
Systems Team Lead

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

PEAK6 Capital Management is a market liquidity provider. That means we commit our energy, time, talent and capital to provide orderly and transparent stock and option markets. These markets create the liquidity customers and the overall market desperately need, especially now with all the volatility and disruption caused by COVID-19. After our servers finish their day job in the markets, we’re now putting them to work fighting COVID-19 through protein folding. 

[email protected] is a Stanford Medicine project that uses donated compute to discover new protein folding patterns. Protein folding requires a lot of computation, so the [email protected] project distributes the work across many different computers worldwide. Dividing the work allows each computer to do a bit of the computation. After the computation is done, the resulting protein folding patterns give insight to scientists and doctors so they can better treat the virus.

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

We have also streamlined our employee Matching Gifts initiatives so that employees can easily donate to community and national organizations responding to COVID-19.

 

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

We’ve helped our clients with remote workforce technology for years. Because of this history, we have a lot of knowledge and insight that can guide companies that are struggling with this change. To respond to the current situation, we have expanded our current offerings and added new, free education sessions for anyone in Chicago and beyond. 

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

Burwood Group is, in part, a managed services provider, helping clients manage their IT environments. In light of the new challenges many organizations are facing, Burwood is offering to provide 24/7, on-demand support to all of our clients, whether they have a current contract or not. In addition, beginning April 2, Burwood will host a free, educational webinar series on the topic of remote workforce support strategy, technology and scaling best practices. We’re hoping to share our expertise to make this transition a little smoother for other companies in Chicagoland and across the country. 

 

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

Narrative Science is giving back in a few different ways. First, we added extra money to every employee’s paycheck and asked that they spend it on local restaurants for take out. Second, we are taking coronavirus data from the WHO and Johns Hopkins and putting them into our data storytelling products. We are giving access to these products to the public for free. Third, we are giving 60-day free trials of our data storytelling software to help teams communicate their business data as they all work remotely during these turbulent times.

 

 In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

In practicing social distancing, people are becoming dependent on deliveries and pickups. While we help our biggest customers do those things already, there is a huge gap: Senior citizens are left isolated and are sometimes unable to go out and pick up groceries and deliveries. We see communities solving this problem in two ways, and we help with both for free.

The first way is by encouraging local businesses to do deliveries and pickups using technology. We released BringgNOW as a free product for them. We also see more and more groups of volunteers delivering food to those who need help. These are amazing initiatives that we are really excited about, but they are also a logistical nightmare. We created a pro bono plan that helps more than five cities make deliveries using our tools. The last initiative we see is helping small farmers or manufacturers get to their customers directly.

Our team has stepped up, and we are helping everyone who approaches us for as long as we have the capacity to do so.

 

Andrei Utkin
Chief Marketing Officer

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

Pangea Money Transfer has partnered with Cebuana Lhuillier, a major Filipino financial services company, to build Quikz, a money transfer app allowing easy remittances from the U.S. to the Philippines. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, impacting customers in both countries, Pangea and Cebuana decided to help those who are making the largest impact fighting the disease: healthcare workers.

We launched Quikz Heroes, a campaign allowing any healthcare worker in the United States to send money to the Philippines fee-free for a 30-day period between April 13 and May 13. We recognize that a significant share of the the Filipino community in the U.S. is employed in the healthcare industry, and many of these professionals send money back to the Philippines on a regular basis to support their family, so this promotion is especially relevant for Quikz customers.

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

To make the promotion easy and seamless to use, we have omitted the stringent verification process we would normally require for such a campaign. To prove their healthcare worker status, a customer simply needs to email a selfie or photo taken in their work environment —hospital, clinic, long-term care facility — to [email protected] Our customer experience team takes care of the rest, and the fee waiver is automatically applied during the next five transfers.

 

Keith Horton
General Manager and General Counsel

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Camelot Illinois is donating $15,000 to Cradles to Crayons, or C2C, in support of its efforts to provide emergency essential items for children facing barriers to adequate resources throughout Chicagoland. Children from birth through age 12 who are experiencing homelessness or low-income situations depend on Cradles to Crayons year-round for the essential items they need to thrive — at home, at school and at play.

With the economic instability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, families and youth experiencing poverty are relying on Cradles to Crayons’ services and resources now more than ever. In response, C2C has created a COVID-19 emergency essentials fund. Since implementing the fund four weeks ago, Cradles to Crayons has distributed more than 68,000 diapers, 3,300 hygiene kits, 2,000 books, 900 school supply kits and 600 coats to 9,270 children, but the need is still ongoing.

Giving back to our community, especially during a crisis, is of the utmost importance to Camelot Illinois. Cradles to Crayons does amazing work and we are proud to align ourselves with an organization that shares our values.

 

Chelsea Glosser
Social Media and Community Manager

In what ways is your team giving back to the local community right now? 

While we know all industries are feeling the effects of this pandemic, some of those who are hurting the most are our local restaurants. In this time of isolation, reviews are an easy tool to help bolster the success of these establishments for now and the future. We launched a pay-it-forward-focused campaign with the hashtag #SayItForward on social media to encourage individuals to leave three reviews for local restaurants that have made them feel good during this time and to tag three other friends or colleagues to do the same.

Research already shows online reviews influence the dining decisions of 94 percent of U.S. consumers. With every #SayItForward review, our goal is to show continued support to restaurants while encouraging others to do the same. We hope to help our favorite restaurants stay afloat during these turbulent times so that we can visit them again when this crisis is over.

 

How have you adapted, expanded or changed your charitable giving initiatives in light of recent events?

Our tool is really focused on reputation and crisis management — something businesses of all sizes need support with during this pandemic. We’ve created a suite of free resources for both customers as well as other businesses who could use support navigating disruption, which includes everything from webinars and guides to tool kits and checklists.

We know that many businesses don’t have the resources they once did, so part of how we’re giving back is by providing a 60-day trial of our product and offering a month of our service to some of our customers for free.

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