suntimes
SHARP 
Weather Updates

Festival to showcase Chicago tech scene

From Motorola to Argonne to Groupon, Chicago arguably has as many world class technology institutions as any city on the planet. The key to building a globally respected technology community, however, is to get tech-minded innovators from different sectors in the same room at the same time.

“These people don’t really talk to each other,” said Jon Pasky of midVentures, an organization that aims to remedy that situation by hosting the TechWeek Conference and Expo.

From July 22-29, more than 150 speakers from 10 distinct sub-sectors of the Chicago technology community will participate in TechWeek conference sessions held at the Merchandise Mart. Beyond the standard fare of entrepreneurship, consumer technology and social media, individual tracks will be devoted to areas like biotechnology, energy, finance and advertising. Confirmed speakers include comScore co-founder Gian Fulgani, Viewpoints Network CEO Matt Moog and GrugHub co-founders Mike Evans and Matt Maloney.

Beyond the official TechWeek functions, other organizations including TedXWindyCity, TiE Midwest and Tech Cocktail will host related social and educational events.

“We’re building a brand across many verticals and kind of like what you see with (Austin’s) South by Southwest, (New York’s) Internet Week, and (the Las Vegas) Computer Electronics Show,” said Pasky. “We are inviting the entire nation of tech companies for one week to amplify the signals of Chicago technology.”

While attracting 10,000 people to more than 60 sessions across multiple locations in the middle of a Chicago summer is a pretty ambitious goal (similar efforts have been tried before) three-year-old midVentures has as a good a chance as any organization to pull it off.

The six-employee organization attracted more than 2,000 people to its Launch event at the UIC Forum. Having recently opened a satellite office in San Francisco, midVentures attracted 425 people to its Data 2.0 conference held at the Mission Bay Conference Center last month (more than 4800 people viewed the event online).

“Now it’s about taking our message to the rest of the country,” Pasky said. “There is a lot of power in the middle.”

More information about TechWeek can be found at techweek2011.com.

Ten startups selected for Excelerate 2011

After a hot inaugural year that saw its first class of companies raise a combined $7.2 million, Chicago-based technology business incubator Excelerate Labs recently selected its next class of companies that will participate in a three-month boot camp and entrepreneurship immersion process.

Among the 10 companies selected for the Excelerate 2011 class, which beings June 1, are an energy conservation company called Power2Switch, a “social fresh food-food marketplace” named CookItFor.Us, and Joystickers, which is developing technology to help consumers “physically interact” with their smartphones and tablets.

Excelerate companies receive up to $20,000 in startup capital in addition to three months of training and mentorship. In return, the founders give up a six percent equity stake in their businesses.

For more information about the program and upcoming public events, visit excleratelabs.com.

Sitting on a Series B round of financing

While midVentures and Excelerate are relative newborns, Chicago-based SitterCity.com was a pioneer helping match together families with baby sitters and other types of caretakers. The company recently raised a bit more than sitter money, securing $22.6 million in its second round of financing. The latest round of funding was co-led by Chicago-based firms New World Ventures and Baird Venture Partners, who joined existing investors Apex Venture Partners, Point Judith Capital and the I2A fund.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.