The Future 5 of Chicago Tech, Q1 2023

These tech companies are making serious innovations in their industries and might be working on the next big thing in tech.

Written by Abel Rodriguez
Published on Mar. 30, 2023
The Future 5 of Chicago Tech, Q1 2023
Chicago tech founders featured in this quarter’s Built In Future 5 series.
Several Chicago tech founders featured in this quarter’s Built In Future 5 series. | Image: Dibz, Wavlake, Sanarai, Cambio / Built In

Sure the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.

In an effort to highlight up-and-coming tech companies, Built In launched The Future 5 across seven major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five early-stage tech companies, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. Read our round-up of Chicago’s rising companies from last quarter here.

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Chicago is one of the most diverse tech hubs in the country. The city is home to many tech startups and companies across industries. Built In Chicago spoke with five early-stage tech companies across many verticals this quarter to learn about their founding stories and future plans. Read on to learn about the innovative companies featured in the Built In Future 5 series this quarter.

Built In’s Future 5 Up-and-Coming Chicago Tech Companies, Q1 2023

  • Beacon (Healthtech)
  • Cambio (Fintech)
  • Dibz (E-commerce)
  • Sanarai (Healthtech)
  • Wavlake (Blockchain)

 

Chicago-based Beacon developed a wall-mounted device that uses far-UVC light to kill bacteria, viruses, germs and pathogens that make people sick. The company was co-founded by Brian Clark, Susie Spigelman and Andrea Clark during the Covid pandemic when they were looking for methods to keep consumers and the general public safe. 

“We’re very excited about the approach we’ve taken with this; it’s a really clean, simple and high-quality design aesthetic that can fit into your life without being obtrusive,” Brian Clark told Built In. “You don’t have to change behaviors, you don’t have to change decorations, you don’t have to change your decor. It will plug and play into your life and protect people.” 

In February, Beacon opened up pre-orders for its device, which starts at $499 and can be programed and operated through a mobile app. Beacon also said it plans to donate devices to underserved communities. 

More About BeaconBeacon Launches Device Backed by UVC Light to Disinfect Homes, Offices

 

Founded in 2020 by fintech entrepreneur Blesson Abraham, Cambio is credit building platform that uses artificial intelligence to help consumers deal with debt collectors. With a new tool called Co-Pilot, the company is able to listen to calls with debt collectors and provide feedback on how to negotiate their debt. According to Abraham, the feature can also call debt collectors and negotiate on the user’s behalf. 

“The average Cambio member that comes to us has about $1,000 in balances that are in collections. So it’s not really this huge exuberant number,” Abraham told Built In. “A lot of our members want to go and pay off the amount but they’re afraid to go talk to a collector because there’s a stigma and there’s fear. So we help them through that process by leveraging AI and we help them negotiate that debt down.”

Cambio also helps users find damaging items on their credit reports and dispute them with credit bureaus. The platform will soon help people buy homes by providing mortgage services in partnership with mortgage companies. Since launching, Cambio has raised $500,000 in funding and participated in the 2022 Y Combinator accelerator program. 

More About CambioThis Chicago Startup Is Using AI to Help People Improve Their Credit

 

Chicago-founded The Dibz is an e-commerce platform that helps brands sell their excess merchandise. The company was founded by co-founders Autumn Schultz and Brock Jones. It partners with high-quality brands, and after securing inventory, The Dibz notifies users via text about the new items for sale at discounted prices.

“We’ve been able to see monthly sales grow 10x and are ready to continue to grow and build on that momentum,” Jones told Built In. “Hopefully, over the next 12 to 24 months, it means growing the team, working with bigger brands and making a mark here in Chicago.”

The Dibz was launched in 2022 and has helped several clothing brands, such as Thousand Fell and Steven Alan, reduce clothing waste. 

More About The DibzThe Dibz Aims to Combat Clothing Waste With Online Shopping Platform

 

In 2020, Luis Suarez struggled to find mental health services offered in Spanish. This made him realize that other Latinos in the U.S. were experiencing the same problem, so he decided to launch Sanarai. The platform connects with mental health professionals in Latin America to provide non-clinical services in Spanish at affordable rates to Spanish speakers in the U.S. 

“There are a lot of people that are still interested in talking about relationships or improving their mental health, and that is what I see is hard to get access to,” Suarez told Built In. “People are willing to invest in wellness but don’t want to be put on a waitlist because of their language.”

Sanarai is making it easier for people to access mental health services and is combating the negative and cultural stigmas that Latinos often face when seeking mental health care. Since launching, Sanarai has partnered with Google to provide services for participants in the Latino Founders Fund. The company also participated in the One Mind Accelerator program and secured investment from LongJump

More About SanaraiSanarai Helps Latinos Access Virtual Mental Health Services

 

Co-founded by musicians and producers Michael Rhee and Sam Means, Wavlake is shaking up the entertainment industry with its music streaming platform that integrates blockchain technology. With Wavlake, fans can financially support their favorite artists by sending them Bitcoin payments.

Wavlake raise a pre-seed round late last year and said it will use the capital to expand its platform and onboard new creators. The startup will also build out its team to improve the platform’s foundations and its growing user base. 

“We aren’t building any custom blockchain technology or issuing any kind of special token,” Rhee told Built In. “We’re hoping this helps inspire other companies and developers to make new and interesting music applications that are both fairer to artists and more enjoyable for fans.”

More About WavlakeThis Startup Is Bringing Bitcoin Payments to the Music, Podcast Industries

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