Entrepreneurs, money mavens in big debate
January 23, 2006
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Chicago's a town that
likes to debate. We mix it up. This is the city where Kennedy
bested Nixon in the first televised presidential debate. Illinois
is the state where Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated
Chicago's tech community will hold its own conclave to debate
the city's knowledge economy future. Dubbed "The Great Chicago
Tech Debate," the program is expected to attract 200 local
tech leaders who will gather at the offices of Gardner Carton
At issue is whether
Chicago is doing enough to transform its knowledge economy potential
into real entrepreneurial businesses that create jobs and economic
prosperity. The smart money players argue that Chicago doesn't
produce enough bankable entrepreneurs with experience, guts and
chutzpa. The aspiring entrepreneurs claim money managers are too
conservative and won't back the business builders. So the fight
On the money side are:
Ellen Carnahan, managing director of William Blair Capital Partners,
and Tom Churchwell, managing partner at Arch Development Partners.
Both Carnahan and Churchwell are veterans of the local venture
capital community, having backed many local ventures.
Speaking for the entrepreneurs
are: Jerry Mitchell, president of the Midwest Entrepreneurs Forum,
and David Weinstein, president of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial
Center. Mitchell founded 12 companies, eight of which went public
or were sold or merged. As special assistant for technology for
Mayor Daley, Weinstein created the Mayor's Council of Technology
Advisors and gained hands-on entrepreneurial experience as CEO
of Blue Meteor, a failed Internet start-up.
Rounding out the panel
is Jack Lavin, Gov. Blagojevich's point man on economic development
and director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic
The debate is the brainchild
of Adarsh Arora, president of TiE -- The Indus Entrepreneurs --
and CEO of Lisle Technology Partners. Arora is a serial entrepreneur
who seeks more successful local tech start-ups. Tonight's debate
will shed light on techniques and strategies, and who should be
responsible for making it happen.
Makes Fortune list (again)
Does it pay to spend
time and money creating a top flight work environment?
John Edwardson, CEO
of Vernon Hills-based CDW Corp., thinks so. Edwardson is all smiles
because his company is on Fortune magazine's list of the 100 Best
Places to Work. The current issue places CDW at No. 34, the highest
perch of any Illinois company. It's the eighth consecutive year
CDW made the list, and scored in the top 40.
realize what a great recruiting tool this is," says Edwardson,
who meets regularly with new hires. The CEO asks whether new employees
know CDW is on the Fortune list. "Hands go up," says
Edwardson, who concludes CDW's efforts to be a great working environment
help attract talent.
into Chicago tech
Maria Pistone thinks
Chicago tech is pretty accessible. The 28-year-old Boston native
arrived in March 2003 with no contacts, a background in molecular
biology and a desire to learn about start-ups.
"I wanted to transition
from lab work to the business side," says Pistone, an associate
at the Chicago ITEC (Illinois Technology Enterprise Center) located
on the West Side. Today, Pistone is on a first-name basis with
the leaders of the biotech community.
everything I could to get involved," Pistone says. "I
looked at regional Web sites like www.illinois.gov/tech.
I found iBio, the biotech trade organization. I went to meet people,"
she says. Her networking led to meetings with Michael Rosen, a
local entrepreneur, and Nancy Sullivan, executive director of
the Center for Women Entrepreneurs in Technology at Northwestern.
"I went to every
networking event. I volunteered for an iBio committee," Pistone
says. Through her networking Pistone met her current boss, Kathryn
Hyer, executive director of the Chicago ITEC and director of life
sciences at Illinois Ventures, the seed stage venture capital
firm. Under Hyer's guidance, Pistone reviews prospective business
plans and explores the commercial potential of new technology.
She's studying for an MBA at the University of Chicago.
Pistone's advice to
aspiring tech professionals: "Get involved."
Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.