How These Chicago Tech Companies Pivoted During the Pandemic

Written by Alton Zenon III
Published on Jun. 30, 2020
How These Chicago Tech Companies Pivoted During the Pandemic
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Though the last few months have seen plenty of bad news across the professional world, there have also been stories of growth. Despite strong headwinds, many companies have finalized fundraising, hired employees, inked partnerships and released new products.

All things considered, such progress is no easy feat. But many tech companies across the Windy City are striving for just that.

In March, for example, logistics company Forager refocused its efforts from sales to product development following the close of a $10 million Series A funding. In other instances, businesses adjusted product roadmaps in response to changing current events. Take health kiosk provider Higi, for example, which partnered with Babylon Health to build a free, digital COVID-19 symptom checker. Another example is health content provider Outcome Health, which accelerated the development and release of a tool to help medical resource providers give better experiences to a growing pool of virtual patients.

Below, we take a deeper look at how these companies adjusted during extraordinary circumstances — and how they’re looking toward the future. 


higi product

During a time when in-person anything was advised against, Higi found itself in an interesting position. The company has more than 10,000 self-service kiosks in grocery stores and pharmacies across the country where users can check their blood pressure, BMI and other health markers for free. 

In April, the company partnered with international health resource provider Babylon Health to create a free online virus symptom checker. The tool helps users understand their level of risk and can connect them with clinical service providers if they’re a part of Babylon’s network. Its relationship with Babylon accelerated a month later when the U.K.-based health firm led Higi’s $30 million Series B funding round

“We are thankful to be able to continue to educate and support the public during this stressful time,” said Jeff Bennett, Higi CEO, in a statement. “During such uncertainty, we rely on digital innovation to move our healthcare system forward. Our partnership with Babylon gives our users more ways to proactively manage their health and wellbeing.”


Outcome Health - telemedicine stock image

A recent survey of almost 300 physicians found that 89 percent of providers now employ some kind of telehealth solution in delivering care. That’s compared to only 17 percent of providers pre-pandemic, according to healthcare data company MedData Group.

Outcome Health CEO Matt McNally said in a statement that the company noticed remote care increasing in popularity during the pandemic. Outcome Health provides educational content to patients and physicians on interactive devices at the point of care. With telehealth solutions rising in adoption, those care spaces have gone digital. 

Earlier in the year, Outcome was already developing a telehealth solution designed to deliver content to patients as they wait virtually to see a provider. The OH Virtual Waiting Room aimed to replace a blank waiting screen and increase patient engagement. COO Nandini Ramani said in a press release that development on the solution was expedited due to recent spikes in digital healthcare. 

“COVID-19 accelerated our journey into the Virtual Waiting Room telehealth solution and is ushering the point of care sector into telemedicine,” Ramani told MM&M. “We want patients to have access to our content whether in their living room, on their computer screen or phone or any device they might be using.”


Forager - company scaling during crisis

Healthtech wasn’t the only industry in which companies found themselves pivoting plans because of rapidly changing market conditions. Logistics company Forager, fresh off the close of a $10 million Series A funding round, was no exception.

The company connects shippers with carriers to facilitate easier international shipping. CEO Matt Silver told Freight Waves that he was anticipating headwinds as trucking slowed down due to changing consumer behavior, shelter at home policies and social distancing restrictions. 

But plans for the company to scale were already in motion. So, after the Series A was finalized, Silver and the Forager team went all in on development for its new instant-pricing tool, SCOUT. The company now plans to hire engineers to assist in the product’s second iteration planned for later this year. 

“Our focus will be tied to building out our product,” said Silver. “We can’t control how much freight our customers ship. We can’t make automotive suppliers ship when people aren’t buying cars. But what we can control is how well and how quickly we build our technology and how well we build up the supply side of our marketplace.”


Images via featured companies.

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