Microsoft stepping up Chicago support
February 9, 2004
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Microsoft Corp. recognizes
Chicago's urban teen talent Friday at the Field Museum when Street
Level Youth Media, a Near Northwest Side community technology
center, receives a Microsoft Unlimited Potential Award.
The award carries a
$30,000 grant and brings Microsoft's support for Street Level
over the past five years to $255,000. Friday also marks the opening
of Street Level's year-long exhibit at the Field showcasing the
work of inner city teens.
"We're about youth
enablement and empowerment," says an enthusiastic Anuj Vaidya,
Street Level's development manager. The group provides kids with
training in the latest media arts technology.
those parts of the community that are underserved," says
Michael Gorriaran, general manager for Microsoft Midwest. Street
Level's award is just the tip of the iceberg. With Gorriaran in
charge, look for Microsoft's 303 local employees to be more engaged
in community activities. It's Microsoft's effort to do good while
Since 1997, Microsoft
has given $16.9 million in cash and software to Chicago area organizations.
Expect that number to increase. Welcome news with the loss of
Arthur Andersen and the impending Bank One merger.
to help entrepreneurial companies in Chicago get revenue and funding,"
says David Weinstein, president of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial
Center (CEC), an affiliate of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.
Under Weinstein, the CEC's doing both.
Weinstein helped secure
$4.7 million in funding for 16 Chicago area ventures over the
last half of 2003.
Demand for CEC's services
is growing. This week, Weinstein adds Al Wasserberger, 36, former
CEO of Spirian Technologies Inc., as "entrepreneur in residence,"
an unpaid position. He also names Jason Felger, 28, managing director.
Felger previously was director of marketing.
Weinstein is a consummate
networker. He's the go-to guy if you want introductions to global
companies like Boeing, Motorola or Hyatt. Dubbed the "bridge
program," Weinstein helps established entrepreneurial companies
bridge the gap and gain access to larger firms. The concept was
advocated by former CenterPost CEO Juergen Stark. Stark want-ed
established companies to lend an ear and buy from Chicago's start-ups.
Weinstein, Wasserberger and Felger are making that a reality.
McKinsey alum Jai Shekha-wat,
CEO of local software venture Fieldglass Inc., is a believer.
"Weinstein puts entrepreneurial energy into a job that could
easily be bureaucratic," Shekhawat says. Fieldglass offers
software that helps large companies manage procurement. Through
CEC, Fieldglass recently received an introduction to CNA Insurance.
and CEC board member J.B. Pritzker says, "David's doing great.
There's nothing more important to a start-up than getting a customer."
raises $10 million
be great if your cell phone could switch automatically to your
office or your home Wi-Fi network? Then you could make lower cost
Networks aims to give the world's 1.2 billion cell-phone customers
that flexibility. Merging the traditional cellular network with
the red hot world of Internet telephony is BridgePort's goal.
To do it, company execs have raised $10 million from Polaris Venture
Partners and Catalyst Partners in a series A round.
The deal brings Mike
Mulica, 40, a telecom vet, home to Chicago as CEO. "There's
a talent pool here in mobile telephony," the Kellogg-trained
Mulica explains. "I wanted to get back to Chicago."
Also joining BridgePort as SVP/engineering is Steve Blumenthal,
50, previously CTO at Genuity. Blumenthal's an MIT and Lane Tech
deputy director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic
Opportunity, told a seminar at the Kellogg Digital Frontier Conference
the $200-million Illinois Opportunity Fund will be the top priority
on Gov. Blagojevich's legislative agenda next session.
Sienko later added
that Illinois paid $88.4 billion in federal taxes in 2002, but
the federal government spent only $70.3 billion here. "The
state ranks 45th on the return on the tax dollar," he said.
"We intend to take a very aggressive posture in increasing
the amount we get back from the feds."
Go for it, Dennis.
Michael Krauss is a Chicago based tech writer and consultant,
and senior vice president for Hostway Corp., Chicago.