The Evolution Of Chicago’s Tech & Startup Scene In An Infographic

chicagoWe travel all across the country and check out startup communities and ecosystems everywhere else. One of the ones that caught our eye early on is Chicago.

Going back to the early 1900’s Chicago has had hustle. Much like many don’t want to succumb to the fact that drug kingpins (the ones that don’t get caught) are the grittiest of hard working entrepreneurs, Chicago has heart, hustle and loyalty that can date back to the seedy underworld that once played home to the most notorious of gangsters Al Caone and later Sam Giancana.

Why in the world did I go there? First off it’s history but secondly the Chicago startup ecosystem is an extremely loyal bunch. They help each other in good and bad and they lift each other up whenever and where ever they can. That’s why, despite the fact that Chicago produces 100 startup events a month, the entire community comes out for Chicago TechWeek.

Staples in industry like United Airlines, Fannie May and Sears grew up in Chicago, with countless others.

And then when technology took off (and despite what PandoDaily once said) BOOM! Chicago’s tech ecosystem and infrastructure skyrocketed which is still what it’s doing today.

Most recently we know the stories of GrubHub and Groupon but back in 1984 (yes 1984 before many startup founders were born), IT mail order powerhouse CDW was founded in Chicago. Millions of people have bought computers, storage, printers and other peripherals from the three letter giant.

Chicago also revolutionized and re-invented the classifieds department across multiple categories starting with CareerBuilder in the mid 90’s. Then in the late 90’s and launched, in Chicago.  Chicago also has one of our favorite regional startup sites to visit,

Let us also not forget that Motorola is based right outside of Chicago.

All of this is why one of Chicago’s other big startups, BigMarker, went ahead and made this trusty infographic highlighting the history of Chicago’s Tech Scene as a celebration of their tech community on TechWeek.

Oh and regardless of size, Chicago holds one mean tech party during TechWeek second only to the VegasTech party at SXSW.



Click here to actually read or print this thing (enlarge)

Here’s more Chicago Techweek startup coverage.


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Praises Chicago Tech & Startups At Chicago TechWeek

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Startup,Chicago TechWeek,For the second year in a row Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed out day two of Chicago TechWeek, congratulating We Deliver, the winner of the TechWeek Launch startup contest.

At the beginning of his remarks Emanuel congratulated TechWeek on improving the attendance and excitement of the conference, now in it’s third year. The mayor also had the chance to recognize the two people in the audience wearing Chicago Blackhawk’s jerseys. It was also “Black Hawk Day” where over 1 million Chicago area residents were in downtown Chicago for a parade to celebrate the Black Hawk’s Stanley Cup victory over the Boston Bruins.

Mayor Emanuel took a minute to recognize the new Google Motorola headquarters. The company is now an anchor tenant at the Merchandise Mart building, which houses TechWeek and over 200 startups in the 1871 co-working, incubation, and acceleration space on the 12th floor. The Google Motorola headquarters is the largest build out in Chicago history since 2005 with a total of 600,000 square feet within the walls of the Merchandise Mart.

When you put together the startups in the neighborhood along with the new Google Motorola headquarters there will be 8,000 employees in what Emanuel calls “the digital alley” which runs alongside the river. “8,000 employees that didn’t exist just four years ago,” Mayor Emanuel told the audience.

“I think the city of Chicago will become the mecca of startups in the midwest,” Mayor Emanuel said. “Just last year, worldwide, we went from 15th to 10th in startups.”

Mayor Emanuel praised 1871, calling it a startup itself because it just turned a year old. The mayor stressed the fact that Chicago has been known for the diversity in its economy, and he feels that the digital economy is becoming a pillar in the Chicago economy.

After his speech Mayor Emanuel toured the exhibit hall and even had time to play defense in a game of beer pong (with cups of water) on a C5 Beer Pong table. C5 is a Chicago startup.

Check out Mayor Emanuel’s remarks in the video.


Even more Chicago TechWeek Startup Coverage here.



What A Beer Pong Startup Part Deux [VIDEO]

C5 Beer Pong, Chicago Startup, Chicago Tech Week, Startup Interview

Startups are synonymous with Ping Pong, Beer Pong, and Fooseball right? As a right of passage, many startups that move into a new office, get some kind of funding, or start generating revenue add a table game (or 3) to their office. Heck some startup offices have full arcades.

Back when we were at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 we met New York startup PaddleYou. They make custom affordable custom Ping Pong paddles. They actually made us one as well that you can see in this story.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel stops by to play defense on a C5 beer pong table (photo: C5 Beer Pong/Chicago)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel stops by to play defense on a C5 beer pong table (photo: C5 Beer Pong/Chicago)

So it shouldn’t surprise you that we found a Beer Pong startup at Chicago TechWeek. Actually, we discovered the Beer Pong startup last May when we interviewed them as Chippewa Five. Since then, cofounders Daniel Manriquez and Joe Mollo have shortened the name, improved the tables, and picked up some new customers.

They’ve shortened the name of the company to the much trendier C5 Beer Pong. They had several of their Beer Pong tables on display at Bar TechWeek throughout the three day conference.

The custom made Beer Pong tables aren’t just for frat guys. Zynga was their first customer, and Facebook has purchased a table from them as well. Cab hailing startup Hailo also has a C5 table which was on display at TechWeek.

Last year when we interviewed them we didn’t get to see their tables up close. After seeing them at TechWeek, we may just have to get one in the Nibletz office and for the everywhereelse conference.

Check out our video interiew with Mollo below and for more info visit


A lot more TechWeek startup coverage is here.


Chicago TechWeek Has The Sexiest Startup City In The Country

Most big tech conferences have some kind of startup exhibition area. They go by various names: Startup Village, Startup Alley, Eureka Park, etc. This year, Chicago TechWeek has “Startup City,” and we love it (homage to Patrick Stump).

There are 70 startups in Startup City, and we’ll have a lot of profiles and interviews coming soon. But as we toured the Startup City, we couldn’t help but notice that there’s no shortage of startups on the racier side this year.

Get Lusty is a Chicago startup designed for married couples and couples in long term relationships that want to improve their sex lives. The company founders are a husband and wife team that found the bedroom was getting boring. Their solution? Launch a startup together, of course!

Savvo is the wine aficionado’s resource for all things wine.



F. U I’m Right is the ultimate argument platform, where you can get your social networks to support your argument. Interestingly, though, Boris, the company’s founder, told us he found that he was actually wrong a lot more than he thought.

There are a bunch of other great startups in Chicago TechWeek’s Startup City, but you can imagine why these instantly caught our eye. Stay tuned for more from TechWeek and Startup City.

We’ve got more startup coverage from Chicago TechWeek Here.


Know Who’s Around You At Events With 1871 Startup WeaveThePeople

WeaveThePeople, Chicago startup,startups,startup interview, Paul Caswell

Here are Nibletz we get out into the community and go to a lot (and we mean A LOT) of startup conferences and events. Sure, after spending the last 7 or so years in tech media there are a lot of faces I remember, but there are also a lot that I don’t know. Yes, I would love to know who’s around me at an event that I am at.

This is a problem that several big named startups have been trying to solve. At SXSW 2012 people discovery was the “big thing”: Banjo, Highlight, and several others wanted to help people know who was at SXSW. The problem was they were all GPS, location, and proximity based. The problem manifested itself when people would look for other people they knew who were right on top of them according to the app but could still be in the next building. When you’re in a building or an event with 1000s if not 10s of thousands of people, this is still a daunting task.

WeaveThePeople, a startup incubating at 1871 in Chicago, is solving the problem with a beautifully rich and graphical platform. Using pictures and profiles, you can easily see who’s at the event. It doesn’t drill down to who’s standing next to you, but with the big and bold visual aspect of WeaveThePeople, dusting off your glasses should make it easier to connect.

Paul Caswell, the founder of Weave The People, is from East Chicago where he’s lived for 15 years. (He’s a native of Manchester though; that’s where he gets the cool accent). He grew up coding, developing his first games at age 13. In 2000 Application Development Trends honored him with an Innovator Award. Most of his career he was developing for other people.

WeaveThePeople combines his love of coding and technology with solving a problem that he found first hand in the corporate world, the exact same problem I described above.

Check out our video interview with Caswell below and for more information visit 

We’ve got a lot more startup coverage from Chicago TechWeek here at

CTW-ELEVATELONG Keeps Improving The Conference Experience

Chicago Tech Week,, StartupWe ran into the guys from at last year’s Chicago TechWeek, and this year they’re even better. is an app that improves audience participation during a conference. Say it’s time for a panel or fireside chat. Participants can go onto the platform and type in questions they might have for the speakers. Then, they can vote on their favorite questions, with the most popular ones rising to the top to be asked.

Conference staff can also create polls to gauge audience needs during the conference. For example, running late into lunch? A quick poll can let you know whether the audience would like a shorter lunch or a later afternoon.

Check out our interview with, and stay tuned for more from Chicago TechWeek.

We’ve got more Chicago TechWeek coverage here.


Aereo Founder & CEO Chet Kanojia On Why People Love It [VIDEO]

Aereo,Chet Kanojia, Chicago Techweek, Startup

Chet Kanojia, the founder and CEO of controversial TV startup Aereo, appeared at Chicago Techweek on Thursday in a fireside chat called “TV Broadcasting: Who Is Controlling The Remote.” BTIG Managing Director Rich Greenfield led the discussion on topics pertaining to disrupting the world of TV.

This was a very fitting topic considering that TechWeek kicked off with a screening of the movie Downloaded, a documentary that takes a look at the rise, fall, and influence of Napster, written, produced and directed by Alex Winter of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure fame.

Like music, the TV industry has had a lot of competition in recent years. NetFlix, Hulu, Sling, and several other companies have disrupted the world of watching television with rabbit ears or a simple coaxial cable into the side of your home. Highspeed internet, DVRs, TiVo, and satellite TV have contributed to that disruption as well.

So far most of the startups and new companies in the television space have centered around streaming cataloged content, with Hulu typically having the freshest of catalog content offerings. Some of the networks that have an ownership interest in Hulu can have their newest show episodes on the site the very next day.

Now Kanojia’s company Aereo is disrupting TV by offering broadcast television via the web in a streaming format which users can record and playback. Kanojia explained that it’s based on the fact that every American is entitled to antenna TV service, but “no one specifies what kind of antenna or how long the cord is.” It’s also based on the fact that recording television for private use dates back 30+ years, since the Betamax days.

Aereo has found itself facing some stiff lawsuits, which Kanojia was quick to point out, the startup is winning.

In the video below Kanokia explains the two keys to their success with their customers: simplicity and unbundling. Earlier in the day Kanokia used TechWeek as the venue to announce that Aereo’s next city will be Chicago, and the service will begin in September.

For more on Aereo click here. and watch the video below.

More startup coverage from Chicago TechWeek is here.


We Catch Up With Sam Krichevsky From Cleveland’s LaunchHouse


LaunchHouse is the startup and entrepreneurial Mecca of Cleveland, Ohio. Like many facilities of its kind, LaunchHouse has an incubator, an accelerator, and co-working in their 22,000 square foot space.

We ran into the LaunchHouse team at Chicago TechWeek and got a chance to interview Sam Krichevsky, who’s really excited about the next level for LaunchHouse.

First, they are looking to expand their footprint across Cleveland, across Ohio, and across the region. Their model is working for startups at their earliest stages and continues to work and support ramp-up companies as well. They have touchpoints with every type of entrepreneur in the Cleveland area.

Next, Krichevsky is excited about LaunchHouse’s next batch of startups that will report to the accelerator in August.  This class includes 3 startups from outside the region and a variety of technology spaces.

Another thing that Krichevesky and the LaunchHouse crew are excited about is a “startup neighborhood” concept that they are working on. They are hoping to build a Live/Work/Play space to help attract and cultivate the best startups and entrepreneurs to Cleveland.

Cleveland is bustling with startup and entrepreneurial activity. Jump Start America is based in Cleveland. They also have the BizDom accelerator and a very active startup community.

Check out our video interview with Krichevsky below and for more info visit


This Ohio startup launched a crowdfunding compliance platform.


Jason Fried of 37signals Talks Product Design at Chicago TechWeek

It’s Chicago’s big week, and they have some awesome speakers and panels lined up.

First up, Jason Fried with Designing Products with Purpose. You probably know that 37signals builds collaboration apps for small businesses. Which means you probably know that they know what they’re talking about when it comes to product design. They’ve been in business for more than 10 years, so they’ve been through every change out there.

In the video below, Fried talks defines product design. In his view, product design doesn’t end when the product ships. Instead, designers need to think about the product and its usability years down the road.

He cautions entrepreneurs to focus and not try to do too much.

I’m always a fan of taking a vision that you have and cut it down to a manageable size so that you can actually do something.

Check out the rest of Fried’s video, and stay tuned for more TechWeek coverage.

Picslinger Combines Photo Sharing And Gaming

Remember those scavenger hunt games you played as a kid? In college, my sorority pledge class played them with Polaroid cameras. (Remember those?!) We’d race around campus, taking ridiculously embarrassing pictures and the team that embarrassed themselves the most usually won.

Now, with the ubiquitous smartphone camera, these games can be even more fun. At Chicago TechWeek, Kyle caught up with Picslinger, an app that combines photo sharing with scavenger hunt games. You can even earn real life flair with your pictures.

Check out Kyle’s interview, and stay tuned for more great startups from Chicago TechWeek.

Chicago TechWeek Kicks Off With Screening Of Downloaded

Alex Winter, Downloaded, Chicago Tech Week, Startups

Some consider Napster to be all about stealing music and pirating. Others consider Napster to be the pioneer for music services that are household names today like iTunes and Spotify.

Alex Winter calls it the story of one of Silicon Valley’s biggest failures and what it created. His new movie Downloaded chronicles the rise and fall of the first peer-to-peer file sharing service.

Last night 100 VIP’s, media, presenters, and entrepreneurs kicked off the Chicago Tech Week conference with networking, drinks, hor d’ouvres, and a viewing of Winter’s movie at the AMC theater in Downtown Chicago.

Originally, Winter wanted to do a dramatic movie, but he eventually decided a documentary would be more accurate. The film starts the Napster story when founders Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker were still teenagers. Winters went back several years and re-interviewed everyone that was involved.

Before the movie the audience got a look at the preview for Jobs, the new movie based on the legendary Steve Jobs, with Ashton Kutcher playing the main role. That too got big laughs from the audience of techies.

As for Downloaded, Winter has been showing the film at festivals and events. It was also shown during TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 back in May.

Napster paved the way for music consumption the way we have it today. Throughout the Q&A session Winter reminded the audience that  what the record companies didn’t get was that Napster wasn’t about free, or stealing, as much as it was about convenience. That’s why Winter is an admitted Spotify user and never really caught onto iTunes or the more radio-style streaming services.

During the Q&A Winter talked about Lars Ulrich and his part of the Napster story. Metallica was very upset when one of their newest songs made its way to K-Rock before it was even finished. After some digging they found out that the track had been leaked via Napster. Metallica went through the trouble of identifying over 200,000 Napster users illegally sharing their songs and decided to print out the list and deliver it to Napster.  It was an epic part of the movie.

Winter was asked if it was hard to get Ulrich to agree to the movie. He talked about how Ulrich was so upset about Napster, but for some reason praises Spotify.

Then the discussion turned to the very recent stories about Pandora and the lack of royalties artists are receiving. Earlier this week Pink Floyd and the band Cracker took to blogging about how they were seeing next to nothing in royalties from Pandora. Cracker’s front man David Lowry said publicly that for over 1,000,000 streams of their music, he received a whopping $17.

I asked Winter what he thought the perfect model would be.

“Well if I knew the answer I wouldn’t be here, I’d be on my yacht.”

He went on to explain his real answer. To him the perfect model would be for the labels to get back to cultivating artists like they did nearly 2 decades ago and embracing a model of technology that was convenient, easy, and instant. People would pay for that.

Check out the official Downloaded trailer here.

Chicago Tech Week started on Monday with events for the local tech community. The “TechWeek” conference kicks off this morning at 8am and has plenty of great speakers, startups, pitches, and parties. Stay tuned to Nibletz for up-to-the-minute coverage of all the best happenings.

Find more of our Chicago TechWeek coverage here.


Mike Muhney The Godfather Of CRM & 22 Others To Speak At Chicago TechWeek

Mike Muhney, VIPOrbit, ACT, Chicago TechWeek, Dallas StartupCustomer relationship management, or CRM has been big business since the late 1980’s. Sure these days everyone is very aware of Salesforce the cloud based CRM solution, but before there were clouds, the internet, mobile devices and salesforce there was ACT. ACT was the standard in CRM solutions starting in 1987. There are thousands of companies that still use ACT today.

While the backbone of any CRM software is a robust database, by name and by virtue CRM software is designed to help manage relationships. How do you know somebody, what do you know about somebody, how is one person related to another. These are all things that effective sales people, marketers, managers, and entrepreneurs count on to help reach the bottom line.

Mike Muhney is one of the cofounders of the original ACT software and over the past year he’s been taking over 25 years of experience in customer relationship management and pouring it into VIPOrbit, barnone the best mobile CRM solution out there.

We first met Muhney last year at Chicago TechWeek where he was introducing the world to VIP Orbit. We spent a lot of time with him during techweek and learned so much about not just VIP Orbit but about effectively managing relationships. Stuff that hundreds of books have been written on since the introduction of ACT.

I remember in earlier parts of my worklife reading about CRM and using ACT. ACT and by proxy now, VIPOrbit, allow you to manage the littlest details that can result in so much more when applying that information down the road.

For instance back in the 90’s during my radio career as a Music Director and Program Director I had the chance to use ACT at various stations. I would keep my ACT up to date with little information about record reps that would call on me, what we could get from them, who they could help us out with and even kids names and birthdays. They would keep a lot of the same information on the radio people they called on. It would insure great birthday cards but in one instance I vaguely remember one rep that was courting me on a record who knew I loved Jerry’s Subs and Pizza from Washington DC. I had moved on to a station in North Carolina but that rep brought me down a steak and cheese on a visit. I asked him how he remembered and he said he put it in his ACT.

The same holds true today for me and my VIPOrbit database. It’s easy for me to keep track of who knows who in the startup world and where I met them. I even have notes about various gate keepers. You can charm your way past a gate keeper if you know the right information.

While the application is phenomenal, what Muhney can teach people about relationships and how to apply it them in the entrepreneurial world will really help in the long run. The amount of data you can find on the internet and then apply to your CRM solution can give anyone the cutting edge.

VIPOrbit will be set up in booth 8-9121 near the Bar TechWeek area during the conference. There you’ll be able to find out all about VIPOrtbit and how it can really help you manage your relationships. You can test drive the iPad and iPhone apps. You can also pick up a copy of Muhney’s book, “Who’s In Your Orbit, Beyond Facebook, Creating Relationships That Matter”.

More importantly Muhney is one of 23 top shelf speakers who will be speaking during TechWeek. His talk  “The Business of Meaningful Relationships: Perils & Opportunities” will be presented at 10:30 am on Saturday June 29th. I highly suggest if you’re attending TechWeek you don’t miss it.

Some of the other great speakers include: Matthew Bellows ,founder & CEO of Yesware; Robin Chase, founder and CEO of Zipcar and now Buzzcar; Tony Conrad, founder of; serial entrepreneur Adam Goldenberg; PJ Hyett founder of Github; Matt Jacobson VP at Battery Ventures, and many more.

You can still register for Chicago Techweek happening June 27-29th at the Merchandise Mart. Follow this link to registration.

Check out these stories from last year’s Chicago TechWeek!

Muhney will also be keynoting here:


Contest: There’s A New Kid In Town, The TechSlinger And You Can Win One This Summer

At Chicago TechWeek we got to meet the team from Michigan startup TechSlinger. This is a new wearable accessory designed to easily transport your tablet, your phone, your wallet and other small items. You can even hang your keys from it.

At first glance you may not think it’s for you, but it so is. Especially if you carry multiple gadgets with you and one of them is an iPad or Android tablet. You see, when you go out to a meeting or a networking event, or any event for that matter and you bring your tablet you’re putting a device that costs hundreds of dollars at unnecessary risk.

I’ve witnessed first hand people who’ve had their iPads turned conveniently into coasters. I’ve seen people leave them behind and drop them, shattering the screen, trying to hold a beer or other drink. Oh and of course the countless times I’ve seen beer, soda and other liquids poured onto the iPad.

Granted, you want to take your iPad or tablet with you because you undoubtedly have work to do, or you want to show off the latest app you’ve downloaded or pictures and videos of the kids. Well that’s great except most purses can’t fit iPads, no one wants to bring the bulk of a backpack or briefcase out with them, and holding them is risky.

The TechSlinger looks like an under jacket holster and has one pouch designed to hold an iPad or tablet and then the other side has two compartments. One is a secure compartment for your phone the other is a secure compartment for your wallet, credit cards, money, license, etc. I actually hold a 16,000mah portable battery in my extra pocket insuring that not only are my devices with me but backup power is as well.

The TechSlinger fits under any jacket, blazer or suit coat and keeps your gadgets from interfering with important things, like walking.

At the recent TechCrunch meetup in Atlanta over 40 people asked about the TechSlinger. At the airport, TSA folks were asking about the TechSlinger, and of course on three different trips to three different Apple stores, people asked about the TechSlinger.

Well low and behold we’ve got Techslingers to give away.

Here’s how it works. Starting this week at ComiCon 2012 in San Diego, just tweet

“@nibletztweets & @techslinger I need a #techslinger” and if you’re lucky you’ll be randomly selected to win one. We’ll randomly draw winners in San Diego, Washington DC, Memphis, Cincinnati and other places along our sneaker-strapped nationwide startup road trip, and you’ll win. It’s that easy. Then your friends will ask, “where’d you get that”.


Find out more about the TechSlinger here

Here’s more coverage from Chicago’s TechWeek

Oh and we’re on this cool sneaker strapped, nationwide startup roadtrip

Chicago Startup: SocialKaty Is Social Media Marketing For Everyone Else INTERVIEW

 Enthusiastic and Scottish. Katy Lynch took her personality and social media skills from a hobby to creating a thriving venture backed company is less than two years. With a goal of providing result driven social media services for companies, she founded SocialKaty in August 2010.


SocialKaty is a full-service social media marketing firm employing 29 “social media assassins”  who create and manage content for brands (big and small). Simply, they’re a one stop shop for social media who maintain and create content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogs and even develop tabs and apps for Facebook.

Why start SocialKaty?
1) Companies are struggling with creating and managing effective social media campaigns.
2) There are no real pure play social media firms out there.  (There are marketing and PR agencies that offer social media as an “add on” service, but not as their core offering.)

What’s interesting is the diversity of companies and industries they service. To name a few – funded startups, bars, restaurants, retailers, non-profits, and heck even energy companies. It’s no wonder they’ve been profitable since day one, grown to a 29 person team and raised a Series A round from Lightbank.

We caught up with Katy last week during Techweek Chicago:

Links we’ve got em:

SocialKaty Is Here

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