Chicago’s Techweek Conference kicked off with a speech from Mayor Rahm Emanual. He spoke at length about all the initiatives that are being undertaken to improve the city’s position as the tech hub of the midwest. He was passionate about making Chicago as attractive as possible to startups and tech companies. He ended the talk by encouraging everyone in the room to keep in mind the children of Chicago, and harnessing the local young talent present here.
Civic Data Challenge
Shortly after the mayor, Kristen Cambell the Chief Program Officer at National Conference on Citizenship came on to give a quick talk about the open government movement. She was there to promote The Civic Data Challenge, a contest for turning the raw data of “civic health” into beautiful, useful applications and visualizations.
Chicago: Uniquely Positioned to become the Next Tech Hub?
This panel was all about the current efforts to propel Chicago forward on the startup/tech scene. Chicago is on a great trajectory, with 2 years of massive growth. The arrival of Built in Chicago, 1871, Excelerate Labs, Techweek and startups from Groupon to Grubhub have ushered in a tech renaissance here. According to the panel, talent is the #1 issue. We have great schools, but much of our homegrown talent leaves for the coasts.
Lunch @ Catapult
Next up was lunch at startup incubator Catapult. Techli.com founder Edward Domain gave a nice overview of the Chicago tech ecosystem. Afterward, we toured the Catapult co-working space up on the 25th floor, taking a walk past offices of startups like dabble, shift gig, Styleseek and bucketfeet.
IBM City Forward
Back at the Expo, IBM presented their impressive free platform for visualizing and interacting with city data.
Latest In UX Research
The room was packed for this talk about UX and software/web development. The importance of getting UX and developers involved early in the design process was stressed. A lack of coordination during the design phase of the project leads to problems later in development. Developers help illuminate the realm of the possible and reduce the potential of failure.
My last talk of the day was my favorite. Tyler Spalding is probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever encountered in person. His startup styleseek.com sounds amazing. He talked about creating a product that is exciting in the same way magic tricks and riddles are exciting. He talked about the process he went through in deciding to leave his dream job (literally a NASA rocket scientist) to pursue his newfound passion, small teams tackling big problems (a.k.a. startups). He took a long time in developing the product, spending a full year doing research before writing a single line of code. The amount of passion and thought he and his team put into their company is inspiring. I look forward to trying it out in a couple weeks when it launches.
Some general themes that I noticed:
- Chicago is hungry to be a vibrant tech scene.
- Do not be protective of your ideas.
- The demand for development talent is at an all-time high.
- People are really excited about what is happening in our city.