Above image from World Business Chicago.
Welcome back to part two of a three-part series on what the most prominent tech cities in the United States are known for. This week, we are going to be looking at Chicago. If you missed part one, be sure to check out our article on San Francisco where we interviewed two inspiring tech women.
Chicago may not be everyone’s first thought when they think of tech cities; however, in recent years, Chicago’s technology presence has grown substantially. Chicago has 5,422 tech companies to date and is heavy in Fintech, Healthtech, and Big Data tech industries (Built In).
Plenty of big name tech companies have started expanding their offices to Chicago as well, including Google, Uber, Microsoft and Yelp. You may be asking yourself why companies have decided to expand offices and even open headquarters in a city so far from the tech hub of the country, San Francisco.
Mainly, Chicago is significantly cheaper to live in than San Francisco. In a side-by-side comparison, despite the higher wages in San Francisco, due to the lower costs of living, a company or single worker will end up making more money. Additionally, tech companies are drawn to Chicago’s citizens’ strong work ethic, family-friendly areas, and diverse population.
Other than its recent popularity with tech companies, Chicago is known for its incubators and accelerators. Incubators and accelerators assist new start-up companies to get off the ground through investment, mentorship, connections, training and more. Through the help of incubators and accelerators, start-ups, tech start-ups in particular, get the assistance they need to make a name for themselves without the pressure of doing everything alone. A few well-known incubators and accelerators are 1871, TechNexus,and The Chicago Blockchain Center.
1871 is Chicago’s Technology & Entrepreneurship Center and assists start-ups through educational workshops, mentorship, industry experts and accelerator programs. “It has become the hub for the city’s thriving technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Today, 1871 is the home of nearly 500 early-stage, high-growth digital startups” (1871). In the spring of 2018, 1871 was named the #1 educational incubator in the world over well-known ones such as Y Combinator and Techstars.
A significant accelerator program that 1871 co-created is WiSTEM; WiSTEM is a 12-week accelerator program especially for women entrepreneurs. The program connects women to business leaders, gives them access to 1871’s venture capitalists, and gives them local/national exposure. Dresscode was selected to be apart of WiSTEM’s program, and it has played a role in our success, check it out in Forbes.
TechNexus, as the name implies, works to accelerate technology ventures. They bring together start-ups with corporate partners particularly around technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, cloud technology and data analysis. “TechNexus aligns startups and enterprises to drive commercial activity that solves real world problems. We build ecosystems around technologies and industries” (Tech Nexus).
A newly developed accelerator in Chicago is The Chicago Blockchain Center; this accelerator is designed to promote and educate companies on the adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Introducing blockchain technology can prove to be particularly beneficial to a company. Learn about the benefits of blockchain and cryptocurrencies by visiting Blockchain and the Fashion Industry.
Finally, one of the key things that Chicago is known for in regards to technology is its strong women in tech and women entrepreneurship presence. Chicago is the number one city for female tech entrepreneurs in the United States. “Roughly 3,000 startups are located in Chicago. Nearly 34% are run by women — the most of any major city” (Inc). Because of this large concentration of women entrepreneurs, Chicago has many opportunities to support women, those involved in technology in particular. For instance, there are plenty of groups that women in tech can join including Chicago Innovation, FWD Collective and ChickTech: Chicago.
These groups are supportive communities for women in the technology space. Other than groups, there are also plenty of women in tech events as well including the Chicago Women in Technology Conference, The Women in Tech Awards, and The Women in Tech Summit. These events allow women to share ideas, learn from one another, and network amongst each other. Dresscode’s CEO, Kayte Malik, spoke at The Women in Tech Summit and can attest to its benefits. The outlook for women in tech in Chicago is bright, and we are excited to see what the future will bring.
By taking a look into prominent tech cities such as Chicago, we can all learn more about the industry that we care about. Stay tuned for the third and final part of this series where we will look into another great tech city. To find out more about Dresscode and our mission, visit Dresscode Tech.
Written by Emma Kuszynski – Dresscode Email and Blog Content Intern 7/25/2019.