United States

Chicago #15

In bringing entrepreneurs from around the world to Chicago, we have found that this city has one of the most collaborative and diverse entrepreneurial communities in the world.

Peggy Parfenoff
President of WorldChicago

Highlights

With 35 of the Fortune 500 headquartered in the city and a host of satellite offices for many of the world’s biggest tech companies, Chicago has the bones of a thriving business hub. An infusion of VC cash, government initiatives, and a community of veteran entrepreneurs are building on this foundation to create a thriving startup ecosystem. The Chicago Technology Plan outlines 28 linked initiatives, including digitizing government services, broadband infrastructure, and innovation-friendly regulations, all designed to revitalize the city and transform it into a leading innovation hot spot. Venture Capitalists are investing in Chicago as well. Inflows of VC funds into Illinois grew 90 percent between 2016 and 2020, among the highest rates in the nation. The number of Chicago-based investors has also shot up in recent years. Lightbank, Chicago Ventures, Hyde Park Angels, and 1871, which offers Black entrepreneurs funding and support as they build their businesses, are all based in the city. The success of locally grown startups, including Braintree’s acquisition by PayPal, IBM’s purchase of Cleversafe and Merge Healthcare, and Groupon’s IPO and subsequent strength, have also created a pool of experienced entrepreneurs willing to give back to the ecosystem and help nurture up-and-coming entrepreneurial talent. Chicago hosts a variety of tech industry events, including TECHSPO and ThinkChicago, which connects talent from Chicago’s many universities to opportunities in the tech ecosystem. Chicago Venture Summit brings together investors around the country to explore opportunities in Chicago and the MidWest.

Ecosystem by the numbers

TOTAL EARLY STAGE FUNDING
$1.3 bn
GLOBAL AVG.
$431 m
ECOSYSTEM VALUE
$28.6 bn
GLOBAL AVG.
$10.5 bn
MEDIAN SEED ROUND
$550 k
GLOBAL AVG.
$494 k
MEDIAN SERIES A ROUND
$3.1 m
GLOBAL AVG.
$2.7 m
SOFT. ENGINEER SALARY
$83.9 k
GLOBAL AVG.
$42.1 k

Sub-sector Strengths

AI, Big Data & Analytics

The Center for Applied Artificial Intelligence at The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business brings together MBA students and researchers from across the university to drive AI-powered innovation in sectors from finance to healthcare. Data analytics solutions company Ocient closed a $40 million Series B round in January 2021, bringing total invested capital to $65 million. Tempus Labs, which applies AI to healthcare, raised $450 million in December 2020, putting its valuation at $7.9 billion.

Fintech

Chicago is the second-largest central business district in the United States and home to the Chicago Stock Exchange and eight Fortune 1000 financial services companies. The City’s ChicagoNEXT program includes initiatives like the Blackstone Inclusive Entrepreneurship Challenge, ThinkChicago, and a new Fintech Committee. Success stories include Avant, an online lending platform which is valued close to $2 billion. In 2019, Snapsheet raised $29 million from Tola Capital in Series E round.

Reasons to move your startup to Chicago

World-class Universities

The greater Chicago region is home to some of America’s best MBA and engineering programs, which provide a talent pipeline for local businesses. The University of Chicago, Northwestern, Loyola University, DePaul University and Columbia College all run popular entrepreneurial programs. The program at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, The Garage, is currently incubating more than 60 student-founded startups.

Startup Community

Startup Genome
Partners

1871
Catapult Chicago
Matter Chicago
The Shift Chicago
University of Chicago
WorldChicago
mHUB

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Local Ambassadors

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Are you interested in diving deeper into this ecosystem? Drop us a message. Our Ambassadors and Partners can plug you in.