University of Illinois student Tinbit Asfaw has lived on the North Side of Chicago her whole life. And she doesn’t understand why students across the U.S. are reluctant to consider Chi-town when they think of ideal cities to live and work in after they graduate.
“There’s so much opportunity in Chicago,” she says, “it’s ridiculous that it’s overlooked.”
Chicago is home to a burgeoning local tech community, one of the biggest and fastest-growing in the country. According to investment firm CBRE, Chicago is the fifth largest tech market in the U.S. Yet, as Asfaw has observed, opportunities for young tech entrepreneurs and innovators are somehow still underplayed.
This is something we here at ReviewTrackers are hoping to change.
As a company built and based in the heart of the Midwest — we’re as Chicago as jumper cables in your car, the terra cotta of the Wrigley Building, and a slice of dill pickle on the side of a great sandwich — ReviewTrackers is committed to the growth of the local tech ecosystem, and we make it our priority to help the city be recognized as one of America’s most important technology hubs.
ReviewTrackers in the Chicago Tech Community
Built in Chicago: Contributing to the community means actively participating in tech events around town, spending time with people, connecting with them, sharing ideas, supporting activities that help drive jobs and tech innovation. This is why our team is so proud and honored to be members of Built in Chicago, an amazing community that curates exclusive content on local startups, hosts monthly events, and publishes data on the Chicago tech sector.
Built in Chicago has also shown us plenty of love, naming us as one of the finalists for Best B2B Startup at the recent 2016 Moxie Awards.
Illinois Technology Association: Another organization we regularly work with is the Illinois Technology Association (ITA), which exists to help elevate the local tech community and make Illinois the place for tech companies to thrive. ITA runs the CityLIGHTS Awards (now on its 17th year), where our very own head of product is in the running as a finalist for the Prominent Woman in Tech Award.
World Business Chicago: Another organization that we value highly and haven take steps to become involved with time and time again is World Business Chicago (WBC). Chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, WBC aims to put Chicago at the forefront of the global economy by engaging business and community leaders in advancing the city’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs.
WBC has opened up opportunities for us to participate in various tech community initiatives, including ThinkChicago, where top university students meet with Chicago technology leaders, explore companies, and attend various events like the Lollapalooza music festival and Chicago Ideas Week programming. Through ThinkChicago, we have been able to engage and educate students about our company and the way of life working in a growth-stage startup.
ReviewTrackers is also a ChicagoMade Ambassador, recognized by WBC as among the companies that are helping raise the city’s profile as an innovation hub and destination for business. And in light of our relationship with World Business Chicago, we plan to participate in the WBC initiative called ChicagoNEXT, a council of tech leaders representing a dedicated effort to drive growth and opportunity in the areas of science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship for startups and later-stage growth companies in Chicago.
Illinois Department of Commerce: We feel grateful to be able to grow our footprint in the Chicago tech community, especially as we continue to focus on our vision of making ReviewTrackers a prominent contributor to the city’s B2B tech and corporate services heritage. This year, we even qualified for an Illinois Department of Commerce job creation tax credit, making it possible for us to enhance support for current team members and future hires.
“Chicago continues to rise as a center for tech and startup companies, and it’s great to see a homegrown tech company like ReviewTrackers grow their workforce and footprint in Illinois,” said Jim Schultz, director for Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “The State of Illinois is proud to be a partner in ReviewTrackers’ expansion and we look forward to their continued success in Illinois.”
Tomorrow Tour: Early this year, the ReviewTrackers team was also asked to play a role in the Tomorrow Tour series in Chicago. Inspired by Comcast and organized by Technical.ly, the Tomorrow Tour is a tech-focused campaign and multi-city event that connects entrepreneurs, technologists, social enterprises, policymakers, and new thinkers to uncover and amplify the best innovation and technology stories in order to fuel startup growth and help shape cities of the future.
ReviewTrackers got the chance to be a part of the Chicago group and tell our growth story along with a few other hand-picked small businesses. We even took it a step further and extended the reach of the event when our VP of marketing, Emily Pamukov, spoke on a Tomorrow Tour panel at SXSW entitled, “The Impact of Startups on the Future of Cities.”
Genesys Works: One of our more recent learning experiences came from working with Genesys Works, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides meaningful work opportunities, skills training, and internships for underprivileged high school students.
We wrote about Genesys Works and their amazing mission in order to raise awareness among all those who attended the recent Chicago Tech Rocks. More importantly, the ReviewTrackers team also had the chance to learn about the ways companies like Accenture are working with Genesys Works students. We believe in the effort of Genesys Works to help students realize that their future is full of possibilities.
What Students Think
The breeding ground for local talents in tech and innovation is Illinois’ colleges and universities, which are among the highest ranked in the nation. These include Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, and DePaul University.
At the recent ThinkChicago event, our team at ReviewTrackers connected with top university students, from around the country, who were in attendance.
Briana Evans, Stanford University:
“I’m not sure that I want to stay here in Chicago but I would have never considered Chicago at all before this event, and now I definitely would. I’m from Seattle, and I live in the Bay area, which are two really great tech scenes, so Chicago did not pop up on my radar as a place that has tech companies that I would engage with. But I have been really excited by the civic engagement angle that a lot of these companies have brought up.”
Dyamond Joy, University of Illinois at Chicago:
“I like Chicago because it’s a nice diverse city. It has a lot to offer. It’s not too big and it’s not too small. It’s the perfect size to move around in to try new things within what I want to do, which is to help design medical and healthcare devices and services.”
Lorenzo Martinez, University of Illinois at Chicago:
“Chicago is a really great place to start a career and raise a family.”
The city’s natural strengths in tech couldn’t be more perfectly aligned with what we do here at ReviewTrackers. Not only has this enabled us to offer compelling value in such a competitive market; it is also the reason why our team has made a commitment to reach out to and engage with the tech community here — helping entrepreneurs, investing our time and resources, sharing our networks, and giving advice. Chicago is the place we call home, and we want to extend the warmest of welcomes to the rest of the country and the world.