The Gateway to the West (Loop)

The Gateway to the West (Loop)

Have you seen the Built in Chicago map of Chicago startups lately? It’s exciting to see how many awesome startups are calling Chicago home and being plotted on the map. With an estimated one new company being started every 48 hours in the Windy City, it is likely difficult to keep that map up to date.

I, much like most of you, have come to know River North as the stronghold of Chicago’s startup and tech seen with 1871 being the anchor. Follow the brown line up from the Merchandise Mart and you’ll notice tech company after tech company dotting the River North landscape. San Francisco may have Silicon Valley; New York may have the Silicon Alley; but we in Chicago have the Silicon Railway (the stretch of L tracks from the Mart to the Chicago stop). Many of you know the folks that call that area home: SpotHero, Techweek, Groupon and Trunk Club to name a few. There are dozens upon dozens of companies in this amazing neighborhood of ingenuity and entertainment.

While most of the meetings you may attend and events you may crash are hosted in this area, its important to recognize that that not all that is ‘happening’ in Chicago startups/tech is going down in River North. There are many neighborhoods that startups call home in this great city, but one in particular is the West Loop, or the west extension of the Silicon Railway, and it’s booming.

Many household names like Sandbox Industries (on Racine Av.), Crowdspring (on Lake St.) and Threadless (on Madison St.) make the once meat-packing capital of the Midwest their stronghold.  With numerous office lofts and co-working spaces, the West Loop is becoming a more and more a vibrant part of the Chicago tech and startup community. If the startup migration to this hood wasn’t enough to persuade you, this might: Google is leaving their River North HQ for greener pastures off the Green Line. Once the tech giant has finished building out its new stronghold on Fulton St., the West Loop will be home to their Chicago operations.

A recent CBRE analysis showed that many tech companies are vying for space in the West Loop as prices continue to climb in River North. This is simple supply and demand. 1871 alumni are rapidly moving into spaces in River North and prices are skyrocketing, while space in the West Loop remains competitive.

Events are also becoming more frequent. Earlier this year, Lightbank hosted their Innovation Day with amazing content and speakers in the West Loop at City Winery. UIC holds many startup events at their new Innovation Incubator and will be playing host to Startup Weekend later this year. There’s also the month Inspire Startups Showcase & Pitch that I coordinate at the Inspire Business Center. As you can tell, the West Loop is an important part of Chicago’s booming startup scene.

I created a list of events, work spaces and companies that call that are headquartered in the West Loop. If I missed you, don’t worry; post your company’s name in the comment section and help give the West Loop the recognition it deserves.


Co-Working Spaces:                       


  • 37 Signals
  • AdGooroo
  • Autumn Berry Inspired
  • Bloom Health
  • Braintree
  • BTSocial
  • Central Street Games
  • Concept Feedback
  • CrowdSpring
  • CurbNinja
  • Coupon Doc
  • CookItFor.Us
  • Demibooks
  • Digital Bridge
  • Dine
  • Element Bars
  • Epic Burger
  • FoodJunky
  • Furywing Games
  • GeneXus
  • Give Forward
  • Gorilla (72)
  • Goshi
  • KitchIn
  • Knowledge Shift
  • West Loop Ventures
  • Lasso
  • My Short Track
  • Power2Switch
  • Reppio
  • Sandbox Industries
  • Savvo Solutions
  • Signal HQ
  • Skinny Corp (aka Threadless)
  • Sollywood TV
  • Sprout Social
  • We Gather
Video Impression of Inspire Startups

Video Impression of Inspire Startups

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I have been coordinating the monthly Inspire Startups showcase since February and we are excited to be hosting our fifth showcase and pitch event on Aug. 21. Since the first event, we have had 40 companies, 4 excellent speakers and over 300 attendees come though the IBC doors. With all that excitement, we thought it would be fitting to produce a video that showed off the Inspire Startups format. With thanks to the guys at Brin Hill Media and SollywoodTV, here’s the debut!

See more about the Inspire Startups project on my Projects page.[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwc3JjJTNEJTIyaHR0cHMlM0ElMkYlMkZwbGF5ZXIudmltZW8uY29tJTJGdmlkZW8lMkY3MjE5MTIyOSUyMiUyMHdpZHRoJTNEJTIyNjQwJTIyJTIwaGVpZ2h0JTNEJTIyMzYwJTIyJTIwZnJhbWVib3JkZXIlM0QlMjIwJTIyJTIwYWxsb3dmdWxsc2NyZWVuJTNFJTNDJTJGaWZyYW1lJTNF[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Giving Back With Some Entrepreneurial Passion

Giving Back With Some Entrepreneurial Passion

Many people help the city of Chicago by volunteering. Some people spend time at food banks, soup kitchens and clothing drives. Other people volunteer for our churches or participate in the Big Brother program. While all of those are great and make a HUGE difference in people’s lives, for me, they were unable to fuel my entrepreneurial passion.


This year, I have had the pleasure of volunteering for the Future Founders Foundation, diving into mentoring sessions with some of Chicago’s brightest, under-privileged youth.  Future Founders has been bringing bright entrepreneurs into class rooms to offer them real-world insight into entrepreneurship, while at the same time offering them coaching on their class-assigned business plans. Patrick Smith talked me into volunteering when the program was gaining traction after it had been spun out of the CEC, but I struggled to commit. He and I met again at a BIC Launch, and he convinced me to come and spend some time learning about what these kids were doing in the entrepreneurship classes.

My first experience led me to EPIC Academy, a CPS charter school on the south side of the city. A small group of us mentors gathered for a class to hear groups of students pitch their ideas. We were asked to offer up critiques and advice to help them improve, but I must say, they were further along than I was in my company’s infancy.


We got to spend a little more time with the students in the next period, where we sat down with their teams to discuss and dissect their ideas. The team I sat with was made of two members: a bright young man, the idea guy, and a well-spoken young mother who attends school during the day and works two jobs until 3am only to get up and do it all over again. Their idea was to create a kiosk service at grocery and convenience stores in their neighborhood where consumers could easily pay their bills. We discussed the idea for a while, and I presented them with some interesting findings on how the technology could work and the potential competition.

When the chats were over, the students stood up to tell the class what they took away from each mentor. These kids had scribbled their notes diligently and had a lot to report from each mentor. I just hoped we weren’t too overwhelming.

Since my first session, I have attended classes at many of the city’s high schools, giving one or two mornings a month to Future Founders. I was asked to speak to a class of junior high students about my personal experiences as an entrepreneur, as well as help facilitate discussion within their groups. I also had the privilege of serving as a judge during a preliminary round of the business planning competition.


My experience with the Future Founders was capped off this year with their annual pitch and awards event held at the Hard Rock Café. There, the finalists from the business plan competition wowed the crowd with their pitches and business insight. It was great to cheer for the kids that I helped coach during the year, and they were all amazing. Some pitches were even better than mine (I was taking notes). Future Founders also recognized the amazing volunteers for their work with the students. I was very thankful to receive a Rookie of the Year Award for service to the organization during my first year.

The Future Founders program is truly making a difference by instilling the spirit of entrepreneurship into this group of youngsters. I suggest that all entrepreneurs looking to give back get involved with this organization. It has been one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences I have ever had. And besides, they are training students to be like us when they grow up! Who wouldn’t want to be part of that amazing influence?

To get involved, visit and sign up today!