Entrepreneurship puts on a Chicago face

August 29, 2005


Chicago is deep dish pizza. Chicago is the L. Chicago is a Vienna hot dog with mustard, relish and onions. Chicago is Millennium Park. Chicago is Milton Friedman's Chicago School of Economics.

I think it's time we defined the Chicago School of Entrepreneurship. There's something brewing here in entrepreneurship. It begs to be codified and documented.

Is a Chicago School emerging? You bet. Between the academic work at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and the hands-on efforts of Chicago's entrepreneurs, a Chicago School of Entrepreneurship is nearly a reality. It hasn't fully emerged. It will soon.

What will characterize the Chicago School of Entrepreneurship?

"A diverse, gritty style," says David Weinstein, president of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center. "In Chicago, entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. It's down to earth, at street level, taking nothing for granted. It's real. It has substance. It's less about cool ideas and more about doing the hard work to succeed."


Weinstein points to Maven Cosmetics, Maddie Powers, Fieldglass, Neuros Audio, Cleversafe and thinkorswim as Chicago School examples.

With the founding of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago, Professor Steve Kaplan is quietly creating the Chicago School of Entrepreneurship. He may not describe it that way, but Kaplan has assembled a group of top thinkers and practitioners who are conceptualizing the theory and teaching the best practices of entrepreneurship.

"When you think about Chicago, there's a more disciplined approach to launching new enterprises," says Ellen Rudnick, executive director of the Polsky Center. "We haven't had the feverish lemming approach of the Bay Area."

Some might say it's too soon to define a Chicago School. I say let's get on with it. We need to define what works in the Windy City. The sooner we do that, the sooner we'll create successful companies.

The more Morningstars, Archipelagos and Navteqs, the sooner the Chicago School will gain its due. It's just a matter of time.

Ten companies, 10 stories

Promising companies are hard to spot. Tuesday night, Chicago's future stars will be on display when TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) hosts "Ten Great Companies, Ten Great Stories" at the offices of law firm Gardner Carton & Douglass.

The event is the brain child of TiE's executive director, Anjali Gurnani. "We rarely have an opportunity to learn about maturing local companies," says Gurnani, who vetted the presenters. "Outside of venture forums, the community rarely glimpses promising firms."

The presenters are: CompassCare, a healthcare software provider that raised $2.75 million; Go2Call, a global VoIP provider; Informance, a manufacturing analytics firm that raised $6 million; Redsky Technologies, an E-911 solutions provider that's raised nearly $5 million; and Visibility, a collaborative litigation-management solutions provider servicing the insurance industry that's raised nearly $20 million.

These five will be joined by Home Preview Channel, which offers technology to transfer information from desktop computers to cable TV; Akoya, a business-intelligence software provider that raised $800,000; Socrates, which offers low-cost legal and professional services; Intellext, a context based search provider of business-critical knowledge, and Univa, a GRID computing software provider that raised $8 million.

Kudos to Gurnani and TiE for creating this one stop venue for the Who's Who of Chicago entrepreneurship. Each company gets 10 minutes to present. For more information, point your browser to www.tie-midwest.org.

Web lament

Tech Matters reader Garry Jaffe was glad to hear Illinois will have a simplified .gov e-mail address. Jaffe laments, "Will that stop the state from changing its Web site URLs every six months?" Probably not.

State of Illinois spokesman Justin DeJong says the state's official Web site, www.state.il.us, was updated to www.illinois.gov as part of the effort to simplify e-mail and Web addresses.

"We have made changes to streamline and merge government agencies, and improve how Illinois government interacts with residents statewide," adds Jay Carlson, deputy director of the bureau of communications and computer services.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago-area tech writer and consultant.



 ©2005 Marion Consulting Partners