50 Chicago Tech Founders Who Came Out of the University of Chicago

Written by Sam Dewey
Published on Jun. 30, 2016
50 Chicago Tech Founders Who Came Out of the University of Chicago

From Chicago tech anchors like Morningstar, Grubhub and Braintree to promising up-and-comers like BallotReady and LuminAID, one thing is certain: the strength of our tech ecosystem has much to thank the University of Chicago for.
This year in particular marks a monumental anniversary for the university — a feat not so easily achieved, given its long history of excellence in entrepreneurialism. 
Earlier this year, the Edward L. Kaplan (‘71) New Venture Challenge celebrated its 20th anniversary. Over the years, NVC has become one of the primary motors driving innovation in Chicago. Today, there are more than 140 companies in operation that have participated in the event, and those companies have collectively garnered more than $430 million in outside funding and more than $3.7 billion in exit mergers and exits.
And those figures don’t even take into account businesses started by a diverse group of alumni from UChicago, Booth School of Business and other programs at the school not associated with NVC.
In honor of all of the entrepreneurial talent that’s been cultivated at the University of Chicago, NVC, Booth and beyond, here are 50 Chicago alumni and entrepreneurs shaping a future for Chicago tech.


Brian Clark, CEO and co-founder

Clark is a current MBA candidate in economics, entrepreneurship and statistics from Booth. He is the co-founder and CEO of Ascent, the provider of a suite of tech tools that help businesses monitor and maintain regulatory compliance in the financial sector.



Bob Gillespie, co-founder

Bob Gillespie (class of 2011) is the co-founder of InContext Solutions, one of Chicago’s leading VR innovators. The Booth alum also co-founded Swift Expos, a SaaS logistics company for tradeshows. Gillespie currently acts as executive director of Elmspring Chicago, an accelerator program designed for tech companies in the real estate industry.



Rachel Kohler, CEO and co-owner

Kohler is the CEO and co-owner of NowPow, an information technology company that helps arm patients with the knowledge they need to best care for themselves. Kohler holds an MBA in operations from Booth.



Bryan Johnson, founder

Johnson is the founder of one of Chicago’s most successful tech stories: Braintree (where he also served for four years as CEO). He picked up his MBA from Booth in 2007. Currently, he sits as founder of OS Fund.



Haibo Lu, founder and CDO

Lu is the founder and Chief Data Officer of CancerIq, a venture he launched in 2013 to deliver digital tools for scalable cancer risk assessments and genetic testing. He graduated from Booth in 2014.



Matt Maloney, CEO and co-founder

Grubhub’s CEO and co-founder Matt Maloney is a two-time University of Chicago grad, having earned his M.S. in computer science in 2000 and an MBA from Booth in 2010. Grubhub’s original business plan took home first place in the New Venture Challenge.



Joe Mansueto, CEO

As the founder, chairman and CEO of Chicago-based investment research firm Morningstar, Mansueto is an established business leader in Chicago. He twice walked the University of Chicago’s campus, earning both a BA and an MBA from the school.



Michael LaVitola, founder

Foxtrot is a venture that marries a curated, on-demand delivery app experience with a chic brick-and-mortar presence. The company was co-founded by CEO Michael LaVitola, a 2014 Booth alum.



CJ Przybl, President

Przybl is the co-founder and president of Snapsheet, a Chicago-based organization using tech to revitalize the insurance claims experience. He graduated in 2011 with his MBA from Booth.




David Rabie, CEO and co-founder

While studying entrepreneurship, strategy and marketing during his MBA program at Booth, Rabie co-founded Tovala, a Y Combinator graduate whose smart oven aims to cook restaurant-quality meals in 10 to 30 minutes.



Rahier Rahman, founder

Rahman founded Pangea Money Transfer, a company dedicated to make money transfers and remittances a more tech-friendly experience. He graduated from Booth in 2005.



Ashish Rangnekar, CEO and co-founder

In 2012, Rangnekar co-founded BenchPrep, a venture-backed tech company that helps testing prep professionals deliver digital exam practice and training. He picked up an MBA in entrepreneurship from Booth in 2011.



David Vinca, founder and CEO

Vinca — a Booth alum who picked up his degree in 2005 — is the founder and CEO of eSpark Learning, a tech company using the Web and iPad to reimagine or PK-8 education looks like.




Dan Wagner, CEO and founder 

Wagner, who served as the Chief Analytics Officer in President Obama’s successful 2012 re-election campaign, founded Civis Analytics in 2013 to apply those same innovative data analytics technologies to enterprise businesses. He studied economics and public policy at University of Chicago. 



Sid Bala, President/CEO

Bala founded Aligatortek in 1993 just two years after picking up his B.S. in applied mathematics from the University of Chicago. Today, the company specializes in website and database software solutions.



Jason Blumberg, CEO & Managing Director

Blumberg oversees Energy Foundry, a Chicago-based venture capital fund dedicated to startups in the energy sector. He earned his MBA from Booth in 2005 and is also an adjunct professor at the school, lecturing on topics like energy and clean technology.


Shegan Campbell, co-founder and CEO

Campbell co-founded Kid Science Labs, which aims to educate kids in the Chicagoland area about the sciences. He earned his MBA in 2005.




Julia Carmona and Lauren Katzberg, co-founders

Julia Carmona and Lauren Katzbeg, both Booth alumni, founded Stylisted in 2013. The company went through the New Venture Challenge and aims to help users book hair and makeup appointments in their own homes. 


Alison Chung, President

In 1998, Chung founded Teamwerks, a Chicago-based IT consulting firm that specializes in e-discovery, computer forensics and litigation support. She graduated with her MBA from the University of Chicago in 1986.




Brian Douglas, co-founder and CEO

Along with his wife, Kelly Douglas, Brian Douglas founded Itzy Ritzy, an e-commerce venture in 2007 to help online shoppers buy clothes and accessories for moms and babies. He earned his MBA from Booth in 2004.



Jennifer Fried, co-founder and COO

Jennifer Fried, co-founder and COO of ExplORer Surgical, attended Booth and graduated with honors with her MBA in finance and entrepreneurship. Her company develops a digital workflow management platform for professionals in the operating room.


David Friedman, founder and CEO

Friedman founded AutonomyWorks, a company whose mission is to empower people with autism by finding, training and managing their unique skill sets in high-tech, process execution roles, in 2012. He received his MBA from Booth in 1989.


Maryellen Giger, co-founder

Giger, who co-founded Quantitative Insights to pair machine learning and image analysis to more accurately diagnose breast cancer, received her Ph.D. in 1985 from the University of Chicago.



Karan Goel, CEO and co-founder

Goel is the CEO and co-founder of GetSet, a platform that partners with schools with the goal of improving graduation rates. An MBA holder since 2006, Goel previously was the founder of PrepMe, which won the New Venture Challenge.



Alexandra Goodwin, CEO 

Goodwin is currently CEO of healthtech company Janus Choice, a company she co-founded in 2014. She graduated from Booth in 2015, having studied management, strategy, entrepreneurship and managerial decision making. She also previously co-founded HeroTechForge.


Sean Harper, co-founder

Harper is currently the co-founder of BrightPolicy, a fledgling startup that launched in January of 2016. Harper picked up his AB in economics from the University of Chicago in 2003 and his MBA from Booth in 2009. Additionally, Harper was the founder and CEO of FeeFighters, which sold to Groupon in 2012.



Asif Khan, founder and CEO

Caremerge raised $4 million at the start of 2015 in pursuit of revolutionizing senior healthcare. At its helm is founder and CEO Asif Khan, who graduated from Booth in 2003 with his MBA in finance, marketing and entrepreneurship.



Rho Kook Song, CEO and co-founder

Launched in 2013, Freenters’ virtual print driver software enables ad buyers to receive full-page ads in campustown printers. The startup’s CEO, Rho Kook Song, is currently studying economics at Booth. 


Lance Larsen, co-founder

A student of Booth’s entrepreneurship and finance programs, Larsen is the co-founder of Markit Medical, a platform that allows physicians to explore in-network options with their patients before they ever leave the office.



Phil Leslie, founder

Leslie founded ProOnGo, an expense management platform that was acquired by Neat in 2013. He received his MBA in 2009 and currently sits as CEO at RIVS.




Jason Li, founder

Li is a current student at University of Chicago studying economics and computer science, but that hasn’t hindered his entrepreneurial ambitions in the slightest. He’s the founder of UProspie, a platform that aims to increase transparency and accessibility in higher-ed for low-income students.


Chin-Chin Lin, CEO and co-founder

As CEO and co-founder of Lumii Health, Chin-Chin Lin is working to build the tools employers need to offer easy-to-use online enrollment platforms for the benefits they offer their employees. She graduated with her MBA from Booth in 2016.



Brian Luerssen

Besides acting as co-founder of Quantitative Insights, Luerssen was also instrumental to running Excelerate Labs. The company would go on to become Techstars Chicago, where he still serves as Managing Director today.



Ryan Mattison, founder and CEO

While studying for his MBA at Booth, Ryan Mattison launched Nomwell, a mobile search and discovery platform to help consumers find, recommend and share restaurants they’ll love. He graduated in 2015.



Daniel McCormick, founder

McCormick is one third of the founding team at Kapow, a tech platform and marketplace designed with the events industry in mind. A former Grouponer, he studied entrepreneurship in Booth’s MBA program.


Coco Meers, founder and CEO

Meers is the founder and CEO of PrettyQuick, a Chicago startup designed to make booking beauty appointments at spas and salons easier. She studied English and French at Princeton, but picked up an MBA in entrepreneurship and finance at Booth.



Jon Morris, CEO

In 2004, Morris founded Rise Interactive, a four-time Moxie award winning digital marketing agency that partners with companies across a variety of industries. He attended Booth from 2003 to 2005, where he earned a MBA in entrepreneurship, economics and finance.


Phil Nevels, co-founder

Phil Nevels founded Power2Switch, a tech company that was acquired by Choose Energy in 2013. He earned his MBA from Booth in 2010 and is currently a managing director at NextGen Venture Partners.



Alex Niemczewski, CEO

In 2015, BallotReady won Booth’s Social New Venture Challenge, taking home a $20,000 prize. Niemczewski, one of the company’s founding members and current CEO, earned a BA in philosophy from the University of Chicago in 2009.



Salil Pande, founder and CEO

Pande (pictured left, class of ‘00 with co-founder Kiran Pande) earned an MBA with honors from Booth in finance and strategy. In 2009, he founded Vmock, an online platform that leans on AI and machine learning to help provide college students with feedback and advice on their career development.


Alex Pedenko, co-founder and CTO

Pedenko co-founded Swingbyte, which analyzes golf swings for golf teachers, professionals and amateurs. He graduated with honors from Booth in 2013, having studied finance, economics and entrepreneurship.



Dhiraj Rajaram, founder

Mu Sigma was Chicago’s very first unicorn — a tech company with a valuation at or above $1 billion. Its founder, Dhiraj Rajaram, graduated from Booth in 2003 with his MBA.



Katlin Smith, founder and CEO

A 2013 Herman Family Fellow and current Booth student, Smith is the founder and CEO of Simple Mills, which produces baking mixes and crackers that are gluten-free, non-GMO and paleo-friendly.



Patrick Spain, CEO and cofounder

Spain is the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of First Stop Health, a provider of telemedicine services based out of Chicago. Previously, Spain also co-founded Austin-based Hoover’s, Inc, which sold to Dun & Bradstreet in 2003. He holds a BA in ancient Roman history from the University of Chicago.


Andrea Sreshta, co-founder

Sreshta is a former Shark Tanker who brought the world LuminAID, an innovative, solar-powered lighting device. While at Chicago Booth studying for her MBA, Sreshta and co-founder Anna Stork's work on the company won the 2012 Social New Venture Challenge.


Liz Tilatti, CEO and co-founder

While studying entrepreneurship and strategic management at Booth, Tilatti launched the tech-driven shopping platform ZipFit Denim, which she today runs as CEO. Tilatti earned her degree in 2013.



Jonathan Weiss, CEO and founder

Dr. Weiss is the founder and CEO of HealthEngine, a company that helps consumers shop for healthcare services. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago joint MD/MBA program, holding degrees from both the Pritzker School of Medicine and Booth School of Business.


Kevin Willer, Partner

Few people have done as much to shape the direction of the Chicago tech ecosystem as Kevin Willer, a co-founder partner at venture capital firm Chicago Ventures and former CEO of 1871. Willer picked up his MBA from Booth in 2010.



Nathan Wojtkiewicz, co-founder and COO/CFO

Wojtkiewicz studied entrepreneurship, finance and marketing at Booth, from which he graduated in 2013 with his MBA. He co-founded Swingbyte in 2011, where he now sits as COO/CFO.



Daniel Yu, founder and CEO

Yu studied International Studies and Near Eastern Languages at UChicago and is currently on leave. He founded Sokuwatch in 2012 and has managed to land a spot of a number of “to-watch” lists, including Crain’s 20 in Their 20s and Forbes 30 Under 30 list.


Note: this list only accounts for entrepreneurs in the digital tech space who have started business in Chicago. There is a catalogue of respected, successful entrepreneurs in industries like healthcare, energy and hardware (like Robert Altman, Collin Anderson, Libby Andrews, Jake Crampton, Ari Levy, Amy Paris, Mike Pintar, and Michael Polsky) who therefore have been left off this list — though their accomplishments are both impressive and important to the city. Likewise, several other professions like professors (UChicago's Brian Coe) and restaurateurs (Hunter Schwartz) who have started their own ventures have been omitted. Graduates who have not founded companies but who fill other leadership positions have also not been considered. 

Images via LinkedIn/Shutterstock.

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