Last week, VCs from across the country descended on Google’s new West Loop location. Their mission was to meet, learn and potentially invest with top entrepreneurs at the Chicago Venture Summit.

Clique Studios, being founded by two entrepreneurs, has been involved in the summit since its inception in 2014. In fact Michael Facchinello, who leads Clique’s UX practice, is a member of the core planning team. Since then we’ve been fortunate to be their partner, and were  graciously invited to attend. The day-long event with over 100 attendees was hosted at Google’s stunning west loop office.

 Chicago Venture Summit

Underlying tech gets more complicated, interface simplicity becomes more essential

Synap, physIQ, and Learnmetrics all showed off platforms to display increasing quantities of complex information. Platforms displaying information integrated from multiple sources have allowed teams to quickly discern patterns.

These patterns used to be difficult or impossible to identify. Core to these technology’s success is the execution of thoughtful user interfaces. That means displaying only the relevant information at any given time, and doing so in a way that is compelling and understandable to the user. Sue Janna our head of design wrote a great post on this last year, read it here.

 

Chicago’s talents highlight advantages over the coasts

Mark Tebbe designed this edition of the Chicago Venture Summit to “show off what he sees as Chicago’s strengths: academia, local talent, corporate collaboration and quiet money from sources such as family offices.” This message was reinforced with panels on each. The presidents of UIC, IIT, and U Chicago explored the role of Chicago’s Universities in driving innovation and graduating over 25,00 people each year. Venture leads  Motorola and Caterpillar shared examples of failed and successful startup partnerships, highlighting the need for transparency noting it was easier to come by in the mid-west.

Chicago’s greatest strength — its industry diversity — was the focus of Mayor Rahm Emanuel who commented that “no single industry makes up more than 13% of our employment, making Chicago one of the most industry-diversified cities in the nation”. He went on to discuss the resilience this diversity affords Chicago should an industry fall on hard times, noting New York’s reliance on finance, and Los Angeles on entertainment.

 

Software is king, now that hardware is cheap

Speaking about trends he sees emerging in the next 10 years it was clear VC Steve Jurvetson is bullish on Software. Explaining that innovations in hardware driven by competitive smart phone markets and relentless entrepreneurs like Elon Musk have created this new era. Specifically, “now that hardware is cheap software is king”, he said, highlighting opportunities in deep-learning, wearables, and mobile analytics.

Of the startups presenting and featured on panels throughout the day, hardware innovations continue in the midwest. Companies like Oculus Rift, Rithmio, Ampy, and NuCurrent largely focus on hardware platforms that interface with human activity, paving the way for endless possibilities in wearable tech and virtual reality.

Chicago’s most successful founders are eager to pay it forward

The afternoon featured an all-star panel of Chicago CEO’s Shrada Agrawal, Chris Gladwin, George Bousis, Al Goldstein, and Andrew Sieja. They didn’t disappoint with their wisdom and humility, discussing their willingness to help other entrepreneurs without wondering what they’ll receive in return.

Each member echoed the comments from Cleversafe’s Gladwin that Chicagoans are extremely loyal. At Cleversafe more than ½ their team have been employees for eight years or more.This loyalty has been rewarded! Last year 80 team members became millionaires with their 1.3 billion sale to IBM.

Hopefully they follow the example of Bousis, who actively looks to invest in his employees projects. This trend was also echoed by Agrawal who founded Jumpstart, a private investment group in 2011 to target midwest entrepreneurs; Goldstein, who is on his third successful startup; and Sieja, who originally started kCura as a software consultancy before growing to over 600 employees as an eDiscovery platform.

 

Chicago Venture Summit  Build