Here are 5 of the biggest launches we saw in 2015

Written by Sam Dewey
Published on Dec. 28, 2015
Here are 5 of the biggest launches we saw in 2015

Throughout the year, Chicago has welcomed launch after launch of newly minted startups and tech-minded programs designed to bolster the city’s already thriving tech scene. But sometimes, companies emerge onto the scene with a little more fanfare than others.

Chalk it up to celebrated founders or the alluring pull of a company in stealth mode, but some high-profile launches piqued our interest more than others throughout the year.

Here’s a look back at five of them:

Although Uptake, a predictive analytics company for big-machine learning, was technically founded in 2014, the reclusive startup operated in stealth mode until quietly unveiling itself in March of this year. Still, the startup (helmed by serial entrepreneur Brad Keywell) didn’t really land on anyone’s radar until it exploded onto the scene in October with a $45 million round of funding (and a sky-high, billion-dollar valuation). But Uptake saved its most arrestive turn for the end of the year, beating out Uber and Slack as Forbes’ hottest startup of 2015.


Whenever Chicago A-listers Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky team up on a new project, ears citywide are bound to perk up. That was the case this July for Drivin, the duo’s newest undertaking that aims to bring the used car industry up to technological speed by providing dealers with a way to quickly buy and sell used cars. In tandem with Drivin’s launch, Keywell and Lefkofsky also announced the close of $10 million in venture funding already backing Drivin.


Also in July, Paul Lee debuted his nine-month old brainchild, Roniin, a startup factory that quickly creates and spins off startups by pairing the informed opinions of veteran entrepreneurs (who sometimes lack the time or desire to work on a new idea) with the enthusiasm and ambition of younger entrepreneurs (who in turn are short on experience and capital). With $3 million in funding and several developing startups waiting in the wings, Roniin has our attention.

Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute
After winning a $70 million grant from the Department of Defense in February of 2014, Chicago got to work building UI Lab’s Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute — a Goose Island facility built as the answer to an Obama initiative to bolster industrial innovation across the US. DMDII opened its doors in May, bringing together digital manufacturers large and small to make Chicago an epicenter for digital manufacturing innovation. 

Modest, the brainchild of tech gurus Harper Reed and Dylan Richard, very quietly left stealth mode in February of this year, following two years of under-the-radar operations. The company’s official debut was highly anticipated, due in large part to Reed and Richard’s ties to Obama’s successful 2012 re-election campaign (Reed was Obama’s CTO; Richard, a lead engineer). And that hype paid off early: by August, Modest had already been bought out by PayPal for an undisclosed sum.

Have a tip for us or know of a company that deserves coverage? Email us via [email protected]
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