Tech stars to glow at Planetarium gala

March 14, 2005


Chris Rock won't be hosting when the stars of Chicago's technology community gather Tuesday night at the Adler Planetarium. The scene will be the Illinois Information Technology Association's annual City Lights awards program.

Instead of gold statues, Fred Hoch, president of the group that wants to transform Illinois into a tech powerhouse, will be handing out Lighthouse and Rising Star awards. The purpose is to honor successful tech companies that are guiding lights and future luminaries.

Contenders for the Lighthouse award include SEI, John Jasper's Oak Brook-based company that helped launch Chicago-based Navteq and provides managed services and systems integration for clients like McDonald's.

Look for Joe Rickard, CTO of Chicago's Incapital Holdings, to bite his lip as the envelope is opened. Rickard's team is vying for a Lighthouse for its creation of proprietary technology systems offered to more than 400 retail brokerage firms.

Coming down the virtual red carpet you'll find Kent Steffen, CEO of Chicago-based Telution, an operations support software provider to telecommunications and cable television companies. The alum of Andersen Consulting and the University of Illinois wants more than the venture funding he's received from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and MC Venture Partners. He'd like to win.

Joan Rivers and her daughter, Melissa, won't be elbowing Star Jones Reynolds to trade small talk with Rising Star award nominees like Opus Group CEO Michael Callaghan. While Callaghan is a strong contender, Fieldglass CEO Jai Shekhawat is looking pretty fit in this category.

Will they be wearing Armani or denim? The event is black tie optional, and both are in fashion with this crowd.

There's Rolling Meadows- based User Centric Managing Director Gavin Lew. His company launched in 2001 with no capital investment. Last year he boasted sales of $2.6 million. The members of the academy -- I mean the judges at the ITA -- are known to favor Horatio Alger stories.

You say you've never heard of these companies? They're not Boeing -- we've all heard of Boeing -- or Motorola. That's true. But who would have thought watching "Rawhide" years ago that TV western actor Clint Eastwood would become one of America's most accomplished actors and directors?

While Hilary Swank won best actress honors for "Million Dollar Baby," there just might be some real million-dollar babies in the audience Tuesday at the Adler.

Moffit misses Washington

Chicagoan Sean Murdock, executive director of the NanoBusiness Alliance, guided 45 nano-tech CEOs to Washington recently to lobby for continued funding for this red-hot technology.

Bill Moffit, CEO of Northbrook-based Nanosphere, missed the trip. He had a cold. While Moffit's company won't provide a cure for the flu, it will help diagnose serious disease.

Northwestern University nanotech professor Chad Mirkin explains that Nanosphere has an "excellent chance of revolution-izing the field of medical diagnostics. Nanosphere may create tests for cancer, HIV and Alzheimer's where conventional technology fails."

Says Mirkin of Moffit: "Bill is a rare individual with extraordinary business talent and a superb understanding of the technology."

Moffit's a 31-year veteran of the medical device and diagnostics industry. He got his start here at American Hospital Supply and later at Baxter.

Bits & Bytes

A West Coast invasion? Business Marketing Association President Phil Clement welcomes Pat House, co-founder and vice chairwoman of Siebel Systems, a customer-relationship manager, Thursday at Harry Caray's. Watch for House, one of techdom's more powerful and accomplished women, to talk about taking Siebel from a small start-up to a $1.5-billion company in 10 years.

On Friday, Executives' Club President Kaarina Koskenalusta welcomes Intel CEO Craig Barrett to the podium at the Chicago Hilton and Towers to talk about digital transformations. A panel discussion on the role of information technology in Sarbanes-Oxley compliance follows Barrett's presentation.

The MIT Enterprise Forum gathers Wednesday night at Garder, Carton & Douglas to explore when to retain and when to jettison the founder of a tech startup.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.


 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners